The dawning of Easter brings a dawning, for most people, of spring time.
Spring typically signals warmth, new life, and sunshine. There is even an adage, “April showers bring May flowers.”
In the Church, it is a time of celebration because Jesus has risen, Jesus ascends into Heaven, and the apostles receive their mission to evangelize and spread Christianity. It is a season of new life in the Church!
During this time, it is fitting that we should be nearing May, which is known anecdotally as “The Month of Mary” in the Church. This is a fantastic time to do something to honor the Mother of God, with the seasons changing both literally, and liturgically.
Is there any Marian devotion you have ever done on your own? How about as a group?
Last year, I was excited to try a personal devotion to Mary, of wearing skirts every day for the entire month of May. While it was a wonderful devotion, I don’t feel that it really helped pull my relationship closer to Mary – instead, logistical challenges popped up (i.e. I learned how to wear a skirt while chasing a toddler and picking him up, without flashing everyone). It did get me to wear more skirts, and in extension, act more feminine at times. However, I didn’t find the devotion as fulfilling as I had hoped.
It has been a frigidly long winter. My family PCS’d from Hawaii to the DC area this past summer, and as most of us know from experience, the first winters are always rough when you move to a new area; I feel this winter has been worse than ever, and have been “reassured” by well-meaning friends that what I am experiencing this year is par for the course. As I write this post, I am looking forward to warmer weather, and being outside – both for the sanity of myself as my toddler bounces off the walls of the home, but also because outside just makes me happy.
Therefore, this year, I am looking forward to possibly trying a new devotion to Mary. It is one that I have thought a lot about in the past, but have never devoted the time or money to putting to fruition. This year, I am considering, with my “black thumb” and all, constructing a Mary Garden.
The history of building a Mary Garden dates back to the Middle Ages. It is a garden constructed with the flowers, herbs, and more that are most used to represent Mary. Since I still have a couple months before flowers will start to bloom again, I am just beginning my research on Mary Gardens. It is a small, tangible way for me to spend time in prayer, and devote some extra time to building that relationship, honoring Mary, and her contribution to our world – both past and present.
When I got married, I eschewed the traditional roses because “everyone has roses,” and my favorite flower is a carnation. So, I know for sure that both roses and carnations will be in my Mary Garden. Roses have long been affiliated with Mary – just think of the signs she has given throughout history with roses (Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most obvious examples). According to fisheaters.com, legend has it that carnations bloomed at Jesus’ birth – even if they didn’t, carnations will be included in my Mary Garden anyway.
The other flower I know that will make it into my Mary Garden are bleeding hearts, to symbolize the Blessed Mother’s heart, her tears that she sheds for us, and her love for us. I have always been drawn to bleeding heart plants, and look forward to trying to help nurture those along, and grow them, this year.
Mary Gardens can be as simple and small as a planter box, filled with a flower of your choice, to an elaborate backyard oasis. Traditionally, there will be a focal point of Mary – be it a prayer card, or a statue. There is something that denotes it to be a sacred space for you, a place that is quiet and for reflection. Because of the transient lifestyle that us military families lead, I am leaning less toward a statue this year, as I don’t know where we will be in another move. However, we lucked into landlords who happen to be Catholic as well, so I am also considering leaving a statue of Mary, in the Mary Garden, when we leave.
Thankfully I have some time to fully conceptualize the idea growing in my brain, and heart, about my Mary Garden. Unfortunately, my husband will have the task of helping me actualize my ideas when he gets home from his deployment. I fully intend that his readjustment period back to home life will include a not-inconsequential amount of time in the yard with me, as we figure out the best places and ways to make this Mary Garden come to fruition. Part of me thinks that it would be a great surprise to give him when he gets off the airplane, one of those, “hi, honey, you’re home! Let’s plan!” moments; another part of me figures I should probably clue him in before he gets home.
Have you ever constructed a Mary Garden? If so, what did you use? Were you limited on space, and subsequently used a small garden, or did you make it a large scale project, with your own little place to sit, relax, and pray?
If you are interested in finding out more about Mary Gardens, you can use the “all powerful Google,” and I know Pinterest has several ideas. Some of the rudimentary websites I have used are: http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/May2000/feature2.asp; http://www.fisheaters.com/marygardens.html; http://www.ehow.com/how_2325276_create-mary-garden-honor-blessed.html.
I am using the thoughts of a Mary Garden to get me through these very chilly days this winter. And, about the time my husband comes home, I fully anticipate we will be ready and able to begin digging in the earth and planting some beautiful flowers as a tribute to Our Blessed Mother.
Do you have any devotions to Mary that you like to do during the spring time? If so, I would love to hear about them!
“The Hope of a Garden” contributed by Anni Harry.