Spanish missionaries named the stunningly unique bloom we know as the passionflower.
These missionaries traveled far from their homes, far from everything they knew, to bring the Light of Christ to the pagan peoples of the Americas. They met with every kind of hardship—from hunger to death to hardened hearts—but little by little, their work bore fruit and the Faith spread upon the new continents.
One of the things which encouraged the missionaries in their work was an elaborate, medium-sized flower they encountered. The flower clambered about on long, leafy vines, spreading a sweet fragrance in the air. It was primarily purple, with spiky filaments standing up about a little crown of anthers and stigma; its leaves unfurled into three points.
The missionaries, seeing the flower, took heart: it reminded them of Christ’s Passion and the compelling reason they were toiling about in moist jungles, looking for souls. This is what they saw in the physical aspects of the flower and its plant:
Purple: the color of penance and sacrifice
Five sepals and five petals: the ten Apostles who neither betrayed Our Lord like Judas nor publicly denied Him like Peter (note that the missionaries weren’t trying to slur Peter—who, unlike Judas, repented and became a great saint!)
Three stigma: the nails piercing Jesus’ hands and feet
Five anthers: His five wounds
Circlet of corona filaments: the crown of the thorns
Three-pointed leaves: the Holy Trinity
Vine: God’s attachment to the earth
The missionaries used this flower to teach people about the Passion. They sent descriptions of this miraculous plant back home. The Spanish people came to know it as “The Flower of the Five Wounds.” Since then, the flower’s name in almost every language has reflected its beautiful representation of the Passion.
There are many other kinds of flowers which have helped missionaries over the centuries. One of these flowers was the Carmelite sister we know as the Little Flower—St. Thérèse of Lisieux, patroness of the missions! Carmelites have always helped spread the Faith with their ceaseless prayers. The Little Flower Prayer Book: A Carmelite Manual of Prayer combines these loving prayers with St. Thérèse’s profound meditations. The perfect prayer book for all those who love the “Little Way.” Get your copy today at The Catholic Company!