Monday, December 9, 2013

Crèche Exhibits

Mary and the Holy Family are in the spotlight at the University of Dayton Libraries again this year. More than 2,500 visitors are expected: they will come to see the 300 or so crèches on display between now and January 26, 2014.  The crèches are part of the Marian Library’s collection of more than 2,500 crèches and nativity-related ornaments.

The theme this year, At the Manger: And Animals Were There, will delight and intrigue adults and children as they view world nativity traditions at the “manger.” Creative children’s activities, light refreshments, live entertainment by the Dayton International Festival Singers and a Stable Store provide something for everyone.

The idea for the crèche displays started when the late Constance Breen saw two crèche scenes on the top shelf of a bookcase at the Marian Library. She asked about them, talked with Father Johan Roten, and suggested to several friends that they might see about displaying them. Ginny Whalen and other close friends agreed, and an annual tradition began.

Since 1995, the collection has grown to include thousands of nativities from around the world that reflect a variety of customs and traditions.  The crèches are expressions of how Christianity has shaped the culture and faith of people all over the world; 96 cultures and countries are represented.

From 15 to 19 volunteers donate time each week during the year, repairing, organizing and building new settings for the collection. The volunteers donate more than 5,500 hours each year! The cost to preserve, create and repair the crèches and present the collection is from $10,000 to $15,000 each year. Donations to the Crèche Collection are welcome.

The crèches are shown on three floors of UD’s Roesch library and change each year. Crèches are on loan to offices at the University and venues in other cities and states, mostly in the East, during the Christmas season. The displays can be seen during University Library hours.

Meanwhile, Africa Meets Asia, an exhibit at Gallery St. John, at 4400 Shakertown Road in Beavercreek, features more than 25 crèches from UD’s Marian Library collection. This exhibit tells the Christmas story from the viewpoint of various African cultures. The clothes, animals and participants are presented in African settings; the various woods, fabrics and decorations complete the African theme. The show runs to January 5 with special holiday hours. Call the gallery at 937-320-5405 for more information.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving thanks

As the year winds down now, winter on its way, it seems a perfect time to think of the past year and to give thanks for God’s blessings.
Mary’s Magnificat, her prayer of praise and thanksgiving, details his mercy, his strength and his many blessings.

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations,
to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant,
being mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

On November 21 we celebrate the presentation of Mary in the Temple. The Protoevengelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old, fulfilling a promise made to God when Anna was still childless. She was dedicated to God in preparation for her unique role in God’s saving work.

On November 28, in the U.S., we will celebrate Thanksgiving, a time when we give thanks for all our blessings.

It seems a fitting time to give thanks to God for the life and accomplishments of John Stokes, whose vision of flower gardens honoring Mary led to the establishment of Mary Gardens in the U.S. and many other countries.

As we peruse John ‘s legacy, the Mary’s Gardens website,‎ 
we are grateful for his vision, his inspiration.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Indoor Mary Gardens
The legacy of John Stokes continues to amaze me. Winter is upon us and those of us in the northern part of the U.S. have put our gardens to bed for the winter.  But a quick search of the Mary Gardens web site brought information about “indoor dish Mary Gardens” as well as “windowsill dish Mary Gardens,” two options for those of us who want to continue to honor Mary with her flowers throughout the year.

Stokes recommends indoor Mary Gardens for the home bound and those living in climates which cannot sustain a year-round Mary Garden.  The example below appears on his web site.

Four or five of the plants listed below are suitable for a beginning indoor dish Mary Garden:

Religious Name         Botanical Name              Common Name
"Fair Olive Tree"      Olea Europea                Olive Tree
Trinity                Oxalis braziliensis         "Shamrock"
Star of Bethlehem      Begonia, rhizomatic hybrid  Star of Bethlm
Mary's Sword of Sorrow Iris gen.                   Iris
Crown of Thorns        Euphorbia splendens         Crown of Thorns
Tears of Mary          Cymbalaria muralis          Kenilworth Ivy
Mother-of-Thousands    Menthe Requine              Spanish Moss
Herb of Grace          Ruta graveolens             Rue
Mary's Heart           Begonia fuchsoides          Begonia
Our Lady's Mantle      Alchemilla vulgaris         Ladies Mantle
Rosary Vine            Ceropegia woodii            Heart Vine
Prayer Plant           Moranta Leuonerri Kerchon.  Prayer Plant

Plants are available from mail order greenhouses and some local house plant suppliers and can be ordered by common or botanical names.  Check out local greenhouses for availability. Two of the three that I contacted had herbs and indoor house plants in stock at this time.
Stokes writes that “Mary Gardens Associate, Bonnie Roberson, who assumed primary responsibility for carrying forward the work of Mary’s Gardens from 1968 to 1983, introduced  indoor dish Mary Gardens in order to extend the direct experience of the symbolical Flowers of Our Lady during northern latitude winters.”

First time Mary Gardeners are further encouraged to “plant an Indoor Windowsill Dish Mary Garden with one each of 4 to 6 House Plants of Our Lady, placed around a ceramic or plaster figurine of Mary or of Mary and the Christ Child in a deep dish of drained soil material.”

He writes:
Among the most inspiring Mary Gardens are windowsill Mary Gardens, in which a series of potted single plants are movably arranged around a figurine of Our Lady. The number of plants which can be grouped in a dish Mary Garden is limited, and the plants must be small….But in a windowsill Mary Garden the plants can be larger…and those plants in fullest bloom at any given season can be moved to positions next to the figurine.
The movability of plants also permits their grouping, variously, either in general artistic composition by their forms and colors….or in tableaus of composition by related symbolism, such as the Herbs of Our Lady” shown in the illustration below:  

Rosemary - Rose of Mary, Mary’s Nosegay
Sage - Mary’s Shawl
Lavender - Mary’s Drying Plant
Thyme - Mary’s Bedstraw

During the early darkness and gray of winter, a tiny bit of growth and green surrounding Mary and her Divine Child in our little garden remind us of the beginning of creation when, out of the depths and darkness, life spread over the earth. Maybe our day needs a reminder now and then of the birth of the greatest Light and Love of all, our little Lord Jesus who rests in the arms of his loving mother.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mary Gardens and More . . .

John Stokes must have been at my shoulder, encouraging me on, as I surfed the web the other day looking for Mary Gardens! There must be more than we know of, I thought, as I clicked here and there. And sure enough, I found two (there may be more, yet to be discovered) as well as a Hospitallers’ garden and a saint’s garden.

First are the medieval gardens at the Church of St. Mary de Haura, Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, England. They include the Mary Garden, planted for the 900th anniversary celebrations in May, 2003, and the Hospitallers’ Garden, established as part of the anniversary celebrations in June, 2003. The web site describes the Mary Garden:
In medieval times, a garden could have a symbolic and spiritual dimension. The hortus conclusus or 'enclosed garden' was a sacred area which might represent the Christian soul, enclosed in the body, or the Church, formed of the body of the faithful. It was also, in the late Middle Ages, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, identified with the bride in the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. In the 15th century, depictions of the Virgin in a Paradise Garden were frequent, in particular in Flemish and German painting. In these images, the flowers all have a symbolic meaning, representing Mary's virtues. By growing these flowers in a bed outside our own church dedicated to St Mary, we have created an area of colour and interest, and also linked ourselves with the medieval inhabitants of Shoreham, who would have understood very well the spiritual significance of these lovely plants.
The Hospitallers’ Garden offered treatment for the sick, the aged and the poor of the area, but, above all, it provided a caring environment for weary and under-nourished pilgrims and gave them the opportunity to recover their strength and to continue their journey. The use of herbal remedies was very important and the Hospitallers relied on the abundance of healing herbs growing in the garden. 

The saint’s garden is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. It is in Boston, on the grounds of the historic Old North Church, also known as Christ Church, built in 1723. It is Boston’s oldest church building. On the steeple of the church, the tallest in Boston, Robert Newman used lanterns to signal the approach of the British regulars: “One if by land, and two, if by sea.” Paul Revere was one of the neighborhood bell ringers.

The Chapel of St. Francis at Christ Church was built in 1918 to meet the needs of Italian immigrants who belonged to the Waldensian Reform movement. When the small community moved on, the building found new use as the Old North Church Museum and Gift Shop. In the 1970’s the St. Francis of Assisi Garden was established, to remember the Waldensian presence and commemorate the links between the 1723 church and the 1918 chapel. 

The present garden began in 1995 as a volunteer project of the Old North Church Gardeners – members of the church’s congregation and their North End neighbors. The plants and shrubs are similar to the ones used in the late 18th century and are suitable for the partial shade and clay soil of the setting. 

Finally, my search took me to the web site for the Mary’s Garden of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in North Huntingdon, PA. The Christian Mothers and Ladies Guild began the planning for the Mary’s Garden in the fall of 1999. The new officers, looking for a project for the church and also a way to honor Mary, decided to pursue the idea of a Mary Garden after two of its members, who had attended a horticultural class, got the idea for the garden. The garden was dedicated on May 19, 2002. I know there are more Mary Gardens out there, and I urge you to send information about them to me – either as a comment at the end of this blog, or in an e-mail to - so they may be included on the Mary’s Gardens web site.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Our Lady of the Rosary

The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was established by Pope St. Pius V to honor and thank Mary for the Christian victory over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The Pope and all Christians had prayed the Rosary for victory, a victory which saved Europe from being overrun by the forces of Islam. In her 1955 memoir, Around the Year with the Trapp Family, Maria Von Trapp wrote:
Two months in the year are especially dedicated to the Blessed Mother – the month of May and the month of October – October is the month dedicated to the Rosary, since the feast of the Most Holy Rosary is celebrated on October 7th. In these months the Blessed Mother’s statue or her picture in the living room are daily decorated with fresh flowers and candles. The family adds one or the other prayer, mornings and nights, such as the Salve Regina or the Memorare or the Magnificat. It is traditional throughout the Catholic world to sing hymns in honor of Mary the Mother of God…We love especially the round by Mozart. It is composed only on the two words with which the Angel greeted Our Lady the first time and which countless millions of lips have repeated since: Ave Maria.
The Rosary, or the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is considered one of the best prayers to Mary, the Mother of God. My Rosary is always at my bedside, and I go to sleep praying the Rosary. I like to alternate the language, in English, Italian and French; somehow it seems more meaningful to do that, and I have to concentrate more – I can’t just rattle off the words. “Ave Maria, piena di grazia…” and “Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grace…” As I say the words I focus on the meaning of each word and phrase. In The Garden Way of the Rosary, on the Mary’s Gardens web site, John Stokes explains that the name Rosary, meaning a garland or bouquet of roses, was given to the Psalter of Our Lady because of an early legend which connected this name with a story of Our Lady, who was seen taking rosebuds from the lips of a young monk when he was reciting Hail Marys, and to weave them into a garland which she placed upon her head. In October, 2002, Pope John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, he said,
Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way ‘mysteries of light.’ Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the ‘light of the world.’ Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom.
The five Luminous Mysteries (the Mysteries of Light), are the Baptism in the Jordan, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist. In the foreword to her book, The Rosary of Jesus & Mary, published in 2003, Sister Jean Frisk writes:
The rosary is like a journey that begins and ends at home. To pray the Rosary means to look at Jesus through Mary’s eyes, through Mary’s heart, for none can be found who loved Him more faithfully. She journeys with him from the moment of his Conception, through his death, resurrection, and ascension until she one day joins him in that eternal home called heaven. When we take the Rosary in hand and let the beads slip through our fingers, we walk full circle with Mary as our loving mother, who will contemplate the face of her beloved and divine Son with us until our lives, too, like hers, will mirror Christ’s being and actions here on earth.
In the Midwest flowers to honor Mary at this time can include such traditional fall flowers as asters and chrysanthemums but other climates have their own favorites. An online search revealed the existence of Crassula rupestris, known as the Rosary vine, listed under cactus and succulents!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ade Bethune

This sculpture by Ade Bethune now graces the entrance to my home. A beautiful rendition of the Madonna and Child, this and a figure of Joseph by the liturgical artist were commissioned by John Stokes and several copies are part of the collection of his work that was left to the Marian Library. Each statue is stamped “Copyright Mary Gardens.”

This sculpture of the Madonna and Child is a treasured gift from the Marian Library.

Ade’s life is a litany of good works.  Born in Belgium in 1914, Ade immigrated to New York with her parents in 1928.  From 1933 to 1938 she was closely associated with Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker movement. She designed the masthead and provided the illustrations for the Catholic Worker.

She established herself as a liturgical artist and consultant in church architecture in the 1940s and from the 1960s until her death was art director of the Terra Sancta Guild of Broomall, Pa., which produced church furnishings, liturgical objects, memorial cards and religious objects for home use.

The gifted and skilled artist was a sculptor, painter, mosaic artist, wood carver, and jewelry and metal worker.

She was also a social activist. Ade was a founder of the Church Community Housing Corporation in Newport, R.I., in1969. She designed the prototype house for the corporation’s building program and directed the construction of many such units throughout Newport County.

In 1991 she founded a nonprofit corporation, Star of the Sea, to provide living quarters for the elderly. In conjunction with the Housing Corporation, Star of the Sea acquired the unused property of Cenacle Convent, and Ade oversaw the refurbishing of the site’s structures into a state-of-the-art facility to house the elderly.

Ade Bethune died May 1, 2002, at her home in Newport, R.I. She was an oblate of Portsmouth Abbey in Rhode Island and is buried there.

 Like “every artisan and master artisan” (Sirach 38:27), she “labored by night as well as by day,” set her heart on making a “lifelike image” and was “diligent in making a great variety” of work.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

September 8 – Our Lady’s Birthday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Our Lady.

Mary's birth has been celebrated by the Church since at least the sixth century. The Church of Jerusalem is said to be the first to honor the memory of the Nativity; Rome began to celebrate her birthday toward the end of the seventh century when Pope Sergius I endowed it with a special procession.

In Milan, Italy, devotion to Mary, known as Maria Bambina (since Vatican II called “Little Immaculate Mary”) can be traced back to 1007, the year in which the church of Santa Maria Fulcorina was dedicated to “the mystery of the Nativity of Mary.” The church became the Cathedral of Milan, and in 1251 Pope Innocent IV granted a plenary indulgence in perpetuity to those who visit the Cathedral on the feast day of Mary’s  nativity. (A new church was built and in 1572 dedicated to the Birth of Mary.) Over the main entrance, in bronze letters, are the words: Mariae Nascenti, meaning to the Infant Mary.

The Mary Garden behind St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis, Maryland, was dedicated on Mary’s birthday in 1988. It is located in the quadrangle formed by the church, the rectory and the historic John Carroll house. More than 60 plants named after Mary are in the garden. They include Virgin’s Bower (clematis), Ave Maria (hydrangea), Her Virginity (crepe myrtle), Our Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla speciosa), Mary’s Rose (peony and rose), Madonna Lily (Lilium speciosum) and Mary’s Sword (German iris).

A recent video of the Mary Garden, which shows the progress of the garden in recent years, can be found at

Mary, Our Mother, has always been special for me. Mary is my confirmation name and over the years my devotion to her has grown. I pray to her each night with my Rosary. I’m reminded of the “Hail Mary” pass in football when I ask for her help during the day. She has never failed me; her help has come in unexpected ways but it has come.

Mary is honored with several other feast days this month. On September 12 we celebrate the Most Holy Name of Mary; on September 15 we remember the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on September 24 we honor Our Lady of Ransom.

The story of Our Lady of Ransom is that of Saint Peter Nolasco, born in Languedoc about 1189. He proposed to establish a religious order for the rescue of captives seized by the Moors on the seas and in Spain who were being tortured to make them deny their faith. Our Lady appeared to Saint Peter, his confessor and to King James I on August 1, 1218, and through these men established a plan for the redemption of the captives. Their goal was to rescue the Christian captives, offering themselves, if necessary, as payment.  The order, established in Spain, was approved by Pope Gregory IX under the name of Our Lady of Mercy. In more recent times devotion to Our Lady of Ransom was revived to obtain the rescue of England as Our Lady’s Dowry.

We can honor Mary on her feast day with asters (Aster amellus). The Italian aster is so named because it blooms around the time of the feast of her Nativity.