Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday of Bright Week ~ The Legend of the Dogwood

THE DOGWOOD GROWS in many parts of Europe, China and East Asia and throughout North America. Virginia and South Carolina claim it as their state flower. There is a legend about the dogwood perhaps originating in the Middle Ages when just about everything somehow pointed symbolically to the Mysteries of the Christian Faith. 

At the time of Jesus' Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used this way for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree.
In His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering Jesus said to the tree: "Because of your regret and pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. From now on it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossom shall be in the form of a cross - two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember."

I like that line, "...and all who see it will remember" especially in view of the mental clutter most of us suffer and the daily temptations to distraction and forgetfulness. 

It's noteworthy too that the dogwood has served medicinally as well over time. It has been used to curb the spread of malaria. Confederate soldiers made bark tea from the dogwood to cure colds and fevers and a leaf-paste to cover battle wounds. Of course, the remedy or medicine we need is a spiritual one. Praise Christ Risen in the Springtime!


  1. Somewhere along the line I remember learning this legend of the dogwood. It is so lovely, but I hadn't thought of it in years. These little stories are a wonderful way to teach our kids about the mysteries of God and make them wonder about the symbolism that can be found all around them in the natural world. God is everywhere. And I will remember this when I pass the next blooming dogwood tree.

    1. Christ is Risen! Yes indeed! And before the Protestant Reformation seemingly all the flowers of Europe had Marian connotations, names and symbolism: Lady Slipper and Marigold are survivors. There is a great deal online about planting Mary Gardens in our yards or parish property. Children would love to care for a Mary Garden.

    2. Wonderful suggestion Father. I will look into doing this type of project with my religion class. Then we can tend the garden after Church on Sunday. Maybe it will keep them coming to Mass all summer long.

    3. The people in the parish will take an interest. There's all kinds of information available online about Mary Gardens and lists of every kind indicating plants named after aspect of Our Lady's life and St. Joseph and the mysteries of the Infant Christ - e.g. Star of Bethlehem! I'm so happy for you - God bless your efforts.