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John Stokes and Mary's Gardens

Montfort Consecration and Gardens

Garden Devotion to Mary: Union with Mary Through Her Flowers

– John S. Stokes Jr.

We love and venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary because she is the Mother of Jesus, whom we believe to be God incarnate, true God and true man, the second person of the Blessed Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Believing Mary to be the worthy, immaculate, holy, Mother of God, the Church Fathers turned to the scriptures for words adequate to describe her, which they found in the accounts of the revered women of Jewish history, seen as types of Mary; and in Isaiah's prophecy of th.e Virgin Mother of the Messiah as the Blossoming Rod of Jesse, which they saw as mirrored in the flower symbolism of the Wisdom Books. The faithful of the medieval period extended this flower symbolism to hundreds of flowers in nature, the Flowers of Our Lady, which we grow today in Mary Gardens devoted to Mary.

We love and venerate Mary, further, because of the divine favors and answers to prayer we have received through her, whom Jesus, on the Cross, gave to us as our spiritual Mother - interceding with him for us in heaven as she interceded at the Marriage Feast in Cana, and spiritually mediating for us as she did for the Apostles at the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

For guidance in our devotion to Mary, and in our reflection on her through her flower symbols in Mary Gardens, we turn to the Marian teaching and dogmatic definitions of the Church; to the writings of the saints and mystics; and especially to St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary*, and to Father Emil Neubert's Life of Union With Mary.

St. Louis de Montfort teaches that true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is first of all interior - of the heart and mind - then finding expression in our exterior devotional practices.

Mary Garden devotion has a special interior quality in that it is first a picturing in our imagination of the symbolic Flowers of Our Lady, envisaged as blooming spiritually in our interior life. Then, with our stewardship, foliage, buds and blooms come of God's creatures the seeds and plants of our gardens, in due season and according to his established order - serving further to quicken our interior devotion.

De Montfort speaks, further, of true devotion as tender. Care for a Mary Garden provides ready opportunities for expressing the tenderness, gentleness, and delicacy of our devotion through the offering at Mary's statue or shrine the flowers traditionally seen as representing her spiritual purity, holiness, sweetness and mercy. These flower offerings in the garden in turn move us to raise our prayers to Mary in heaven.

The illuminative symbolism of Our Lady's flowers likewise provides for the poetic expression of our tender devotion to her, as in the "Salute to Mary", in Sr. Josepha Mendenez' The Way of Divine Love:

"O incomparable Virgin! Immaculate Virgin! Delight of the Blessed Trinity, admiration of all angels and saints, you are the joy of heaven: Morning Star, Rose blossoming in springtime, Immaculate Lily, tall and graceful Iris, sweet-smelling Violet, Garden Enclosed kept for the delight of the King of Heaven . . . I salute you and rejoice at the sight of the gifts bestowed upon you by the Almighty and of the prerogatives with which he has crowned you."

It was in verses praising the Blessed Virgin that flower imagery was first introduced into English poetry, as in Chaucer who spoke of her as the "Flower of flowers."

Through our interior, tender love for Mary we come to commune with her spiritually - sharing our feelings and thoughts with her as our spiritual mother, and entering into her feelings and thoughts for her divine Son, for her heavenly Father, for her overshadowing and indwelling spouse, the Holy Spirit, and for us her spiritual children.

As we tend the garden, flower symbols of Mary's motherly care, and of her cooking, sewing, cleaning, washing and other household work, evoke our tender reflection on her love for the child Jesus in the Nazareth home of the Holy Family. Flowers of "Mary's Sword", and "Our Lady's Tears", which by legend sprang up at the foot of the Cross from her fallen teardrops, evoke in us compassion for her co-redemptive participation, through the sword of sorrow piercing her heart and soul, in the crucifixion of her divine Son and Lord.

De Montfort next speaks of true devotion to Mary as holy:

"True devotion to Mary leads the soul to avoid sin and to imitate the virtues of the Blessed Virgin, particularly her profound humility, her lively faith, her total obedience, her divine purity, her ardent charity, her heroic patience, her angelic sweetness and her divine wisdom - the principle virtues of the most holy Virgin."

Instructed by St. Bernard's veneration of Mary as the "Rose of charity, Lily of chastity and Violet of humility" - we ponder these and other illuminative flower symbols of her virtues in the garden, that through our active imagining of them their formation may be quickened in our souls.

In medieval times meditation on Mary's virtues, and their emulation through spiritual self-examination and spiritual exercises, and recourse to confession and to the graces of the sacrament of penance, to root out imperfections and attachments of the flesh, mind and world, were seen as a "ladder to heaven" whereby souls became conformed to Mary, as model, mold and motherly nurturer, to whom they turned for sanctification, mindful of the words of scripture, "Strike the roots of all your virtues in my chosen ones" (Gal. 4:19).

Mindful of Mary's "intimate union and unique cooperation with Christ" (Vatican 2 Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, par. 4), we turn with her to Christ the Gardener for the cultivation in us of her virtues - again in the beautiful flower imagery of Sr. Josepha's private revelations:

"Lord, Thou knowest both the flowers and the fruits of my garden . . . Come and teach me that I grow what will please you most."
Christ: "To one who speaks in this way and has a genuine desire of showing love, I answer: Beloved, if such is your desire, suffer me to grow them for you . . . let me delve and dig in your garden . . . Let me clear the ground of those sinewy roots that obstruct it and which you have not the strength to pull on . . . Maybe I shall ask you to give up certain tastes, or sacrifice something in your character . . . do some act of charity, of patience, or self-denial . . . or maybe prove your love by zeal, obedience or abnegation: all such deeds help to fertilize the soil of your soul, which will then be able to produce the flowers and fruits I look for."

The flowering of Mary's virtues in our soul serves to strengthen our virtue of fortitude, giving constancy to our devotion, which St. Louis de Montfort sees as the fourth attribute of true devotion to Mary: "True devotion to Our Lady is constant. It confirms the soul in good . . . It makes it courageous in opposing the world in its fashions and maxims, the flesh in its weaknesses and passions, and the devil in his temptations."

While we at first love Mary for her person and for the divine help we receive through her prayers, we now rise, through our love for the holiness and beauty of her virtues, and through the constancy of our devotion, to union with her soul, and in this union, to union also with God, who is sublimely present with her - "The Lord is with thee" - as his chosen spiritual vessel in which he has chosen to reside by virtue of her love, her immaculate purity, her hearing of the word of God and keeping it, her attentive doing of the will of her Heavenly Father, and her humble assent - "Be it done to me according to your word."

In particular, we come to commune with Mary in her union with Christ, to whom, as St. Augustine observes, she gave birth in her heart before giving birth to him in the flesh. Of our entry into union with God through devotion to Mary, St. Louis de Montfort observes:

"[True devotion to Mary] is a smooth, short, perfect and sure way of attaining union with our Lord, in which Christian perfection consists.

"This devotion is a smooth way. It is the path which Jesus Christ opened up in coming to us and in which there is no obstruction to prevent us reaching him. It is quite true that we can attain to divine union by other roads, but these involve many more crosses and exceptional setbacks and many difficulties that we cannot easily overcome. We would have to pass through spiritual darkness, engage in struggles for which we are not prepared, endure bitter agonies, scale precipitous mountains, tread upon painful thorns, and cross frightful deserts. But when we take the path of Mary, we walk smoothly and calmly. It is true that on our way we have hard battles to fight and serious obstacles to overcome, but Mary, our Mother and Queen, stays close to her faithful servants. She is always at hand to brighten their darkness, clear away their doubts, strengthen them in their fears, sustain them in their combats and trials.

"Truly, in comparison with other ways, this virgin road to Jesus is a path of roses and sweet delights. There have been some saints, not very many, such as St. Ephrem, St. John Damascene, St. Bernard, St. Bernardine, St. Bonaventure, and St. Francis de Sales, who have taken this smooth path to Jesus Christ, because the Holy Spirit, the faithful Spouse of Mary, made it known to them by a special grace. The other saints, who are the greater number, while having a devotion to Mary, either did not enter or did not go very far along this path. That is why they had to undergo harder and more dangerous trials."

Through her intimate union and close cooperation with Christ, on which we have meditated in praying the mysteries of the Rosary, we come to understand that the Blessed Virgin's divinely endowed prerogatives for us of co-redemption, advocacy, intercession, universal mediation, distribution, motherhood of the Church and queenship of heaven and earth are all a sharing of the divine action with her by Christ, her divine Son, Lord and King.

We understand further that this sharing is a sublime, exemplary, particular fulfillment in Mary of God's general will for the Creation of the world: the showing forth and sharing, in love, of the divine goodness, interior relationships, and action with us humans - created to this end in the divine image and likeness; and in particular, with her, of the sharing of his redemptive action by the Son for the world for the Father, in the union of the Holy Spirit. Each time Mary freely responds to our prayers in advocacy, intercession and mediation, or gives protection or distributes graces in her motherly love and mercy and desire for the building of God's eternal Kingdom of truth, justice, love, freedom and peace, there is a new sharing of the divine goodness and action with and through her in ever greater fulfillment of the divine purpose of Creation.

In this we rejoice in the fullness of God's showing forth and sharing with us of his divine goodness and action through the virtues, excellences, and divine prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin - through her immaculate purity, spiritual motherhood, perpetual virginity, co-redemption with Christ, and Assumption body and soul into heaven; through her motherly spiritual mercy, nurturing, protection, advocacy, intercession and mediation for us; and through her queenly spiritual governance of heaven and earth with Christ the King. Through our union with Mary, and through her with God, we now see directly and clearly what in faith we previously have accepted of Mary through dogma and doctrine.

As Mary's flowers have assisted us in expressing the tenderness of our devotion to her, and in emulating her holiness, we are now quickened by others of these flowers to reflection on, and prayerful recourse to, her now more fully appreciated divine privileges and prerogatives:

  • Immaculate Conception - Madonna Lily
  • Doing God's Will - Obedient Plant
  • Hearing God's Word - Our Lady's Eardrops
  • Divine Maternity - Lady-Lords (symbolizing the Virgin and Child)
  • Perpetual Virginity - Strawberry (still in flower while in fruit)
  • Spiritual Overshadowing - Our Lady in-the-Shade
  • Co-Redemption - Our Lady's Tears; Mary's Sword (of Sorrow)
  • Heavenly Assumption - Assumption Lily
  • Heavenly Glory - Mary's Gold
  • Mercy - Eyes of Mary
  • Advocacy - Prayer Plant
  • Intercession - Mary's Heart
  • Mediation - Our Lady's Keys (to the heavenly storehouses of grace, light, wisdom and power)
  • Distribution of Graces - Mary's Hands
  • Protection - Our Lady's Mantle
  • Motherhood of the Church - Mother-of-Thousands
  • Queenship - Mary's Crown

For our veneration, and our quickening to reflection and prayer, Mary Garden plantings of the Flowers of Our Lady can be composed according to various arrangements. The most varied Mary Gardens have been those of "the medieval countryside in a garden" - gardens composed of favorite Flowers of Our Lady, or those more readily available commercially, in harmonious horticultural design around her focal sculpture - with bloom sequence left to the "Mary Calendar" of seasonal blooming. Others have been composed with groupings of flowers according to their symbolism of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the Rosary. Still others have been composed as "Rosary Walks" with flower plantings composed around a garden Crucifix, with round flagstones for the Ave "beads" and square flagstone for the Pater "stations" of the day's 5 Joyful, Sorrowful or Glorious Mysteries.

On our very entering of the Mary Garden, before viewing any of its flower symbols, we are disposed to such reflection from our immediate sense that it is a holy place: from its focal Marian sculpture, from the harmonious planting of flowers around it, and from the effects of its priestly sacramental blessing, serving to quicken the "excitation of pious emotions and affections of the heart" (Catholc Encyclopedia). (See article, "The Blessing of Mary Gardens as Holy Places.")

Through our spiritual communion with Mary in love, we also come to experience her presence in the garden, through her mediating action, as symbolized by various flowers seen in popular religious traditions to recall her person, such as Our Lady by the gate, Our Lady of the Meadow, Our Lady in the corn, Mary and The Virgin.

With our heightened sense, through our union with Mary, of her queenly concern for the coming of the divine kingdom on earth, and of her prerogatived sharing in the mediation and distribution of the divine grace, light, wisdom and power for it's coming, we are ever more awed by her continued tender, motherly presence with us in concern for our own immediate needs. However, with the mortification of our worldly desires in the course of our ascent of the "ladder to heaven" of emulating Mary's virtues, we are now moved to offer our prayers to her not for our own self-interest, but for her further spiritual mediation for the building of the earthly Peaceable Kingdom.

In this our devotion attains the fifth characteristic of true devotion to Mary, as taught by de Montfort, that is to be "disinterested" - without self-interest, or selfless:

"The soul does not love Mary just because she obtains favors for it, or because it hopes she will .. . it inspires the soul to seek not itself but God alone, and God in his holy Mother".

Further, from our devotion to Mary, and our understanding of her divinely endowed privileges and prerogatives for the carrying forward of the divine plan of showing forth and sharing God's goodness and action with us in Creation, we are now moved, to this end, to make the total consecration, of St. Louis de Montfort, of our lives to Jesus through Mary:

"In the presence of the heavenly court, I choose you this day as my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to you . . . my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present and future; leaving to you the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me without exception, according to your good pleasure, for the greater glory of God, in time and in eternity."

We consecrate to Jesus through Mary all the immediate secular and moral effects of our actions, in accordance with the divine will for Creation, and, especially, all the merited spiritual fruits of our earthly works in grace, which, as described by de Montfort, magnify the grace, light, wisdom and power divinely bestowed on us through Mary's mediation - with their consequent rising return, through her, in augmentative filling of the heavenly storehouses, to which she has the keys, for distribution through her further mediation, to where they are most needed for the furtherance of the Divine Plan for the world of creation, redemption, sanctification and kingdom.

However, with our fuller understanding that God's will for Creation is for us to carry forward the development of the world, its redemption, and the culminative building of God's Kingdom in a sharing in the divine attributes and action; and that true sharing and cooperation, in love, between persons requires that they be in freedom; we see that while our devotion and consecration to Mary and Jesus are indeed to be "disinterested" as far as our own separate self-interest is concerned, they are at the same time to be freely, creatively, offered in union with the divine will for Peace on Earth - always, in view of our necessarily limited discernment of the particular needs for peace at any given moment, with the disinterested reservation of "not my will but yours be done."

In this we thus come to understand, however, that our prayers are to be not just a dependent petitioning of divine blessing and assistance, but, with their fruits, to be our own freely elected fulfillment of our call, as humans, to share, participate in and show forth, in emulation of and cooperation with Mary, the divine action in the world - as members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Relevance to the Modern World

On hearing it said that the alienation and violence in the world since the time of Christ have shown that "Christianity has failed", G. K. Chesterton replied, "Christianity hasn't failed; it's never been tried." With a similar faith, Pope John Paul II has affirmed "God did not create the world to be a graveyard."

For our part, we remain confirmed in our faith, from the viewpoint of "Creation Theology," that through a fullness of human cooperation in the goodness of the divine creative, redemptive, and renewing action, God's will for the showing forth and sharing of the divine goodness in Creation will indeed be accomplished in the building of the earthly Peaceable Kingdom.

Through the centuries of Christianity it is coming to be understood, with doctrinal clarification and dogmatic definition, that the divinely willed fullness of sharing of God's goodness and action with humans is exemplified, for our emulation, in and by Mary - in her immaculate purity, fullness of grace, divine maternity, perpetual virginity, co-redemptive participation in Christ's redemptive sacrifice, and Assumption body and soul into heaven; and in her protection, advocacy, intercession, universal mediation and distribution of grace, spiritual motherhood, and queenship of heaven and earth.

Through our increased understanding of Mary's exemplification of the potential of our human nature - created in the divine image and likeness - for this sharing in the divine action, we have a heightened appreciation of how with "prayer and fasting" we, too, can - through our purification, our emulation of her, and the graces mediated through her - advocate, intercede and mediate; and can cooperatively magnify bestowed grace, light, wisdom and power, the merited "value of all (our) good actions" consecrated to Mary, for distribution, in incorporation in her mediation, to those areas where needed for the movement of the world towards Kingdom.

In the present world it is compellingly evident that to carry forward the "peace process" for the divinely willed building of God's Kingdom, we are in need of graces for quickening:

  • Respect and love which reach across alienations of racial, religious, ethnic, national, class, cultural and individual differences;
  • Expiation of accumulated historical anger between groups into nothingness, through effective union with Christ's redemptive sacrifice and death as divine scapegoat.
  • Conciliatory compromise on issues between warring, rebellious and terrorist factions, and
  • Cooperative building of God's Kingdom of truth, justice, love and freedom.

Pope John Paul II has said, "Christianity is the religion of human peace. Christianity's mission is to unite people in Christ, making them aware of being brothers and sisters to each other, because, to him, they are the adopted children of the one Father who is in heaven."

For our times, the divine call for our increasing prayerful participation in the divine action for the Peaceable Kingdom is being made by Mary herself - assumed body and soul into heaven - in her many appearances to us on earth, in our era, at Guadalupe, La Salette, Lourdes, Paris, Knock and Fatima, etc., and in various private revelations, subject to Church approval.

At Fatima in 1917, she specifically called for the consecration, in reparation - of the prayers, acts, works and lives of all the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through her Immaculate Heart, for the intention of world peace:

"God desires to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and these souls will be loved by God, like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God."

"Tell everybody that God gives graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask graces from her, and that the Heart of Jesus wishes to be venerated together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ask them to plead for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Lord has confided the peace of the world to Her."

Thus, in Mary's call for the consecration of our lives, prayers and actions in reparation to her Immaculate Heart and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the selfless "disinterestedness" of our de Montfort devotion and consecration to Mary is culminated with our embrace of the intention for all our prayers, acts, works and immolations of world peace - of the Peaceable Kingdom.

To this end we continue with our garden devotion to Mary, and, pray, with the Legion of Mary:

"Confer, O Lord, on us who serve beneath the standard of Mary that fullness of faith in you and trust in her to which it is given to conquer the world. Grant us a lively faith, animated by charity, which will enable us to perform all our actions from the motive of a pure love of you, and ever to see you and serve you in our neighbor; a faith firm and immovable as a rock through which we shall remain tranquil and steadfast mid the crosses, toils and disappointments of life; a courageous faith which will inspire us to undertake and carry out without hesitation great things for God and the salvation of souls; a faith which will be our Legion's pillar of fire, to lead us forth united, to kindle everywhere the fires of divine love, to enlighten those who are in darkness and the shadow of death, to inflame those who are lukewarm, to bring back to life those who are dead to sin, and which will guide our feet in the way of peace, so that the battle of life over, our Legion may reassemble in the Kingdom of your love and glory."
- Legion of Mary Handbook

* St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, available on the Internet at: (

Copyright Mary's Gardens 1999

The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in early 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.


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