Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Matthiola Incana ~ AKA Stock



A VIGNETTE IS A FROZEN and held life-moment - a tiny scene that begs attention so to find meaning, a little window into history, sensitive observation or some inner place.

In 1965, but before the liturgical changes, I was a helper to the sacristan of my parish. I'd replenish the candles in the blue and red votive glasses, lay out vestments for the next Mass, polish the brass followers which were placed on the tops of altar candles to keep the melted wax from dripping and making a mess.

Holy Thursday came at  the end of Lent as a hopeful and happy note: the Church commemorating Jesus' self-gift in the Holy Eucharist. But while there was a theme of joy there was also the start of a long, quiet prayer time around what was called the Altar of Repose - a highly decorated and candle-lit space where the parish "Kept Jesus company in the Garden of Olives" and through his long night in prison and  his trial, until three o'clock or so on Good Friday.

That Thursday afternoon the church flowers were delivered from a wholesale greenhouse. They arrived in large, flat cardboard boxes which were placed closed on the floor until parish ladies arrived later in the day to arrange them in vases for the altar. 

My parish was was a rather minimalist place, only once or twice a year was there any expression of high style or extravagance. But I remember, bending over and when opening one box there was the suction sound of air rushing in which seemed to me to be a great spicy-fragrant breath, and dozens of extraordinarily fresh white flowers with gray-green leaves were revealed, all laid out in rows, cold and moist from having been kept in the florist's refrigerator.

I don't remember who told me what the flowers were called, perhaps my mother who knew the names of flowers. I've only this week discovered that Stock's botanical name is Matthiola Incana. Of even greater interest is the discovery that the flowers and leaves of the lovely plant have (when mixed with wine) been used as medicine - able to heal wounds and as an antidote against poisonous bites!

The symbolism-of-flowers book says that Matthiola Incana is also a symbol of contentment and the promise of a happy life. So I have that fourteen year old sacristy-scene frozen in my mind and now in hindsight see what I was opening up and uncovering. Fifty years ago, God promising the healing of the wounds and poisonous bites of my youth: sex abuse and the disintegration of home life, parental depression and alcoholism, school failure and loneliness, but beyond all of that, a very happy life, filled with deep healing, good people and faith, Jesus and Mary, saints and angels, beauty and learning, animals and plants, experience and gift. Indeed! "How can I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me."  Psalm 116:12 

I found Matthiola Incana in the florist shop of an upscale supermarket the other day. The reminding-scent is filling my home.

13 comments:

  1. Father, this is so touching. You remind us that the Lord has done good things for all of us. Sometimes it is hard to get past all the awful things that have happened in our lives. I look for that healing still. I know it will come one day. Thank you.

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  2. I find your healing to be an inspiration. To recover from such events and find happiness in life is remarkable. Was this your childhood? Any one of these situations could lead to a lifetime of therapy and unfulfilled dreams. Amen Father. You are blessed. Keep spreading your encouraging words of faith.

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    1. "Was this your childhood?" It sure was! And yes, I am blessed.

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  3. I pray for us all to remember a little time held moment which will bring us a sense of peace.

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  4. I read this and feel compelled. It is true that those vignettes, happy memories can pull you through. I was sexually abused as a boy. It was a heavy burden which I carried for years. I am ashamed to say that it ruined my life and I found that drugs were the way to numb the feelings. But with the right help, I finally found the strength to confront this. The good memories of my earlier childhood played an important part. They were good, I was good, I was worth it. I was approaching 50 years old, but I was healing. I found this post in a community I follow online. It was totally random that I chose to read it today. And I knew it was meant that I see it. A little reminder that we all carry burdens that no one knows about and we can all support each other with kind words and expressions. Your words gave me encouragement today. God Bless!

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    1. We all need to pay attention to everything that is beautiful, true and good. I'm so glad you found the post today - God's hand, heh? God be with you and your online community! fr stephen

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  5. Its hard to understand why God permits wounds but He does perform miracles. He gives us His mother and with that comes much love. Love conquers all. Your sharing with us and all the tools you have used over time bring hope. God Bless!

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  6. In your ministry, you have made a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for you. You have touched lives near and far. Your readers should know that you are even better in person. Warm, attentive, personal and inspirational. It was a pleasure to know you in person and I am happy to be able to benefit from your faith direction via your blog posts. Peace to you Father Stephen

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  7. You are also, "The Wounded Healer" with your consecrated life as a priest and inner transformed and healing life from childhood joys and sufferings. Thank you for sharing your experiences and passing on the light that shines through you. Bless you, bless you!

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  8. You have helped raise awareness for so many things over time. Not only do you instruct us on how to use our Catholicism to be better faith filled people, you have brought to our attention the need to help the less fortunate and you have told us it is alright to struggle with the thoughts that plague our lives. I appreciate that you are not afraid to share your own struggles. It offers hope.

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  9. Poignant recount of a childhood memory. You bring us back in time with you. Your use of beautiful floral images and their symbolism paints a perfect picture for us. I have battled with depression and the feeling of loneliness. Ever grateful for the reassuring words Father.

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    1. I have a personal understanding of depression. I know what it feels like, how it claims and incapacitates. I send a blessing, prayers and all good wishes.

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  10. I have read all these comments and they have made as much as an impact as the initial post above. I am saddened that we many of us are so emotionally destroyed at different times in our lives, but also, I feel a gladness in that many have risen above it all despite what life has put as a burden to hold us down. Just sharing in your story may bring someone to an understanding that they can do it too.

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