September 8 is one of the four special days when the Church honours the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our mediaeval ancestors had no pictures, no books, no newspapers and no television. Instead, they used their imagination far more than we do and found, for example, signs of their faith in the flowers andtrees of the countryside. They made a whole wardrobe of flowers for St. Mary, such as lady’s mantle, lady’s slipper and lady’s gloves. Another was meadowsweet, or lady-of-the-meadows, whose leaves were strewn on church floors to counter unpleasant smells in days gone by. They even thought about the hay in the crib at Bethlehem and called it holy hay, and imagined what plants made up the
hay. One of those plants they called lady’s bedstraw, i.e. Our Lady’s bedstraw – a beautiful wild flower with golden flowers.
Often in a church you will find a Lady Chapel, a special corner or room furnished in honour of Our Lady. Our ancestors regarded the church as God’s house or home, and so what was more natural than to have a special room for Mary. In my father’s house, said Jesus, there are many rooms. Ideally a church should include different spaces or rooms for different people and purposes. Similarly ,churchyards should have room for wildflowers, including Lady’s Bedstraw, where animals and birds may find food and shelter.
Jesus’ first most important relationship was with his mother and Joseph. It was at her knee that he must first have learned about the Commandments. He would have begun to see the relationship between law and love – one of St. Paul’s great themes. Stories, poems, songs and prayers are an essential birth right of every child. It must surely have been from Mary and Joseph that Jesus first heard stories and learnt the art of story-telling himself.