14. Christ’s Bouquet
The Flowers of Virtue
From far away Angela's joyful voice could be heard, as she came home from school. Sophia saw her little daughter from the kitchen window and a wave of joy flooded her heart. She was always touched by her kind-hearted character and her great love for God. She was an adorable child who everyone wanted to spend time with because of the joy she was spreading around her.
As soon as she entered the house she ran quickly to her mother, embraced her and gave her a sweet kiss. Then she looked in the other rooms to find her little brother Joseph, to embrace him and kiss him. They were devoted siblings and they tried not to embitter each other. If a disagreement tried to spoil the harmony of their fraternal love and create complaints and turmoil, easily, they humbly apologized to each other and serenity was coming immediately.
To withdraw first in a quarrel for the sake of peace, was one of mum Sophia's basic lessons taught to all her three children from an early age. Both the older daughter, Christina and the second, Angela, competed many times to see who would withdraw first with humility for the sake of their beloved Jesus and ask for forgiveness. They had learned from their mother that our bad egos don't easily let us humble ourselves for the mistake we made and to ask for forgiveness, but wants us to always put the blame on others for the mistake which happened and for ourselves to find all the excuses in the world. For this reason, if we want to always conquer our bad egos and the demons which tempt us, we must first and without excuses ask for forgiveness for the mistake. Then we shame the demons and make our Christ so happy that He gives us even more blessings.
Christina and Angela, as older children, were trying to carry out their mother's advice and leave no room for selfishness and Satan who was feeding this selfishness to tempt them. Even little Joseph had started to imitate his sisters and asked for forgiveness whenever he did something bad and upset someone.
Sophia knew by experience that this spiritual struggle isn't easy. It is very difficult for man to be humiliated in order to confess his mistake and ask for "forgiveness". On the one hand, is the selfishness and self-love of man and on the other, the war of Satan who wants to make man like him with cursed pride that makes this spiritual struggle for the acquisition of humiliation a very difficult thing.
Humiliation is the greatest virtue that can easily destroy Satan's insidious plans and drives him away from every humble soul. Whoever manages to obtain this, wins the most important battle against the devil. That's why Satan doesn't easily allow any soul who made a mistake to be humiliated and confess their mistake and ask for "forgiveness", because in that way his satanic net, which he has made with so much effort around the soul, is broken.
Sophia wanted to help her children to love the queen of virtues, which is humiliation, in order to learn how to bravely fight their personal selfishness and not allow it to be fed with silly excuses. For that reason, even since the children were very young, with true wisdom of God she used a clever trick. She made her children's spiritual struggle, for the accumulation of virtues, into a daily game of happiness and blessings for them. She told them that every virtue that they would put into practice but also for every bad habit they would give up is like a flower, so every time they did something good or they avoided something bad, they would gather a flower. If they gathered lots of flowers they would be able to make a beautiful bouquet of flowers which, at the end of the day, they would offer to their sweet God Jesus Christ, as proof of their love and adoration for Him!
The children, excited by this nice proposal, immediately started this beautiful, blessed game. You were glad to see them struggling to give up some of their bad habits and becoming even better and kinder children. Every time they succeeded they felt so happy because in this way they had the opportunity to collect these wonderful spiritual flowers of Christ. The more flowers they gathered, the bigger and nicer their bouquet would be. They even gave it a cute name. They named it: "Christ's Bouquet".
So every night, after the evening prayer and before going to sleep, the children gathered around their mother to tell her what flowers each one had collected in order altogether to make the beautiful bouquet for Christ. Every time she heard their childish efforts to become good, kind and blessed children, their mother could not hide her joy and happiness.
However, since Christina went to university and had to live far away from them, only Angela with her little brother Joseph were left to tell their mother every night what flowers they had collected in order to make "Christ's Bouquet". But Christina, even if she had grown up and maybe from habit, or because she believed that this pleased her beloved God very much, she hadn't yet stopped this nice game of happiness even now when she is at the university.
-Mum, today I gathered many flowers for "Christ's Bouquet"!
-Well done, my Angela, I'm so happy about this! Every time you tell me about the flowers of virtue you have gathered for our beloved God, my heart is flooding with so much joy and happiness. You make me feel as our Christ feels for you, very happy! My sweet little girl, there is nothing more beautiful than for our heavenly Father to see us living according to His Will and gathering many fragrant flowers for His sake. He takes them with joy into His divine hands to rejoice with their fragrance and then He blesses us with many graces from the Holy Spirit. So don't you ever stop gathering many flowers for "Christ's Bouquet". However, I would like you now to tell me what beautiful flowers you have gathered today for our beloved King Jesus.
-Today, mummy, the flowers were more beautiful and more fragrant, because I had to hold back my anger many times in order not to hurt our good God.
-What happened at school today, my child? asked Sophia with some anxiety.
-Today, a child stole my classmate's pen and she was crying with sadness. When our teacher asked who stole the pen, no one answered. I had seen who did it, but I didn't want to tell on him and humiliate him. During the break I wanted to tell him that what he had done was not right and he should give back the pen, but he started making excuses for what he did and he lied saying he didn't steal it. At that moment I was so angry with his lie and wanted to tell the truth to the other children and our teacher. But, if I did this, the teacher would punish him so hard and the other children would call him a thief.
-So what did you do, my little girl?
-I prayed to Christ to enlighten me how I should handle the situation correctly and not lose the serenity of my heart, but also to enlighten the child to understand that theft is a great sin. Then I took my own pen, which was the same as my friend's and when no one was looking, I put in deep inside her bag.
-What did your friend do then?
-She was happy that her pen was found and apologized for making the whole class upset with her carelessness. But I was happy too as it was not necessary for me to reveal who had taken it. You know, mum, I didn't want this child to be blamed because he is very poor and his parents are divorced. He lives with his grandmother and maybe he didn't have money to buy a nice pen like the one me and my classmate had.
-What did the child who stole the pen do then?
-When he saw that I didn't tell our teacher about it, but gave my own pen to my friend, he was ashamed for his bad deed and before we left school, he came and apologized to me for his mistake. He even gave me back the pen he had stolen. He was ashamed to give it to my friend.
-Did you take the pen back, my Angela?
-No mum, I told him to keep it for himself, because I had already given mine to my friend. I only begged him not to ever steal anything again that didn't belong to him because in this way we hurt our good God a lot.
-How did he react to the things you said, my daughter?
-He thanked me and told me that I will be his best friend. You cannot imagine, mum, how very happy I was!
-I am happy too with your correct behaviour. But I would like to tell you what I liked the most about the way you acted that made our heavenly Father very happy for you.
-What did you like the most mum?
-I liked that you started with a prayer in order to face this problem. Only with the help of our good God are we able to correctly solve our problems. Without His holy enlightenment we won't know what is right and what is wrong. Man's life is full of problems, worries and sorrows and in order for someone to face them correctly he should have our good God's help and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. So every time we have to solve a problem or face some kind of sorrow or sadness, we must run first like children into the embrace of our beloved heavenly Father and ask Him to flood us with the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that whatever we do or say will be in accordance with His Holy Will. When He sees us taking refuge with absolute trust in His fatherly heart, He enlightens our mind to act as correctly as possible in each situation. So, what you did, praying to your heavenly Father before doing anything, is the most beautiful and most fragrant smelling flower. It is the rose for "Christ's Bouquet".
The fragrant rose
-Mum, each time, that I will pray before doing something, will I be adding a rose to my bouquet?
-Of course, my Angela! Every prayer we say to our beloved God is a beautiful and fragrant rose. As the rose is the king of flowers, so prayer is the queen of virtues.
-Mum, why is prayer the queen of virtues?
-Because if all virtues are the decorations of the soul, prayer is the life of the soul. With prayer every man is able to speak with his heavenly Father, as you are now talking to me and as I am glad to hear my little girl, so our God is also very happy to hear us talking to Him in our prayers.
-Really, mum, is our good God so happy when we pray?
-Yes, my little girl, He is very happy because through prayer He is able, like a father, to hear the sweet voices of his children. He is glad to hear our love and gratitude for the various blessings which He gives us every day. But He also wants to hear the various problems which we have as humans so he can help us, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, to face them correctly and even benefit from them. However, there is a small secret which makes our prayer an opportunity for peace and joy and to feel secure under the protective power of our heavenly Father.
-What is this secret, mum?
-Speak to Him, my Angela, with childish simplicity, love and with absolute trust. Only then will our good God, as a sweet and affectionate Father that He is, listen carefully to what we will tell Him and with wisdom decide the new blessings that he wants to give us. Some of these wonderful blessings that he gives us, when we speak to Him like little children with our prayers, are joy, peace and security which we feel near Him.
-That's what I feel when I am by your side and you are speaking to me.
-Every soul feels exactly the same way, my Angela, when it is near its heavenly Father and speaks to Him! And while we speak to Him, telling Him what troubles us, He answers us with the serenity He puts into our soul and the confidence of His love which floods our heart. However, I would like also to tell you about another wonderful secret of prayer because of the childish simplicity it uses, the blessings that it will receive and the happiness which will flood His heart will be wonderfully fantastic.
-What is this great secret, mum?
-I will help you to discover it by yourself with a small example that I will tell you. Do you remember what you tell me every time you come home from school?
-I tell you all my news from school. My joy when I know my lesson well and I do well in the tests, but also the sadness when I have some problems. I tell you about my games, my friends but also news about the rest of my school.
-That's right. What do I do when I hear all those things you tell me? Do I listen to them indifferently or do I show by my attitude that I hear them with great interest since they concern my little girl?
-You listen to them all with a great interest, because they concern me, who you love. You should know that I am very happy every time I tell you what is happening at my school and you listen to me carefully and with interest, because in that way I share with you every joy and every event which takes place there.
-Exactly the same thing, my child, happens with our heavenly Father. With much joy and interest He wants to hear from our own mouths, when we are praying, what has happened to us during the day. To hear the good things we did and be happy, but also the problems we faced in order to help us. But when is His joy so great, that He wants to take us into His arms and cover us with His divine kisses?
-I want you to tell me, when do I take you in my arms to cover you with my sweet kisses?
-You do it many times, but mostly when I tell you how much I love you!
-You spoke correctly, my little girl. Every time you tell you me how much you love me, I want to embrace you tightly and sweetly, and to cover you with my kisses.
-Now, I understand, mum, what you want to tell me. I imagine that this will be the greatest secret of prayer. Our good God wants us not only to tell Him all those things that concern us, but also to tell Him how much we love and trust Him. Did I find the secret of prayer, my mum?
-You found it, my treasure! This was also the secret of all the saints. Those who wholeheartedly loved our good God, didn't neglect to tell Him continuously through their prayers how much they adored and loved Him and that He was the only king of their hearts. And our good God, seeing their souls burning with divine love for Him, like lava in the volcano of their hearts, was sending the grace of His Holy Spirit to cover their souls and lead them to the paths of holiness. That's why prayer is considered by all our saints as the path of holiness.
-Mum, during prayer can we ask our God for whatever we want?
-Yes, my child. But we shouldn't ask Him, like silly children, that our will and desires be done, but His own Will. That's what is always wanted by those who really love Him like His own children and trust Him absolutely as the Father of their souls. Our saints, my sweet little girl, had only one desire in their hearts. They wanted to always do only His Will and to adore Him with the whole power of their souls. The only fear they had in their lives was not to ever do something that would hurt their heavenly Father. They only allowed themselves to have one desire and with that desire they lived like angels on earth.
-What was the desire they had, mum?
-To live every moment and every minute of their lives only for their much beloved God. They didn't want to do anything that would sadden Him. Many times they gave up their will or their desires if they realized that these wouldn't help them to live according to His Holy Will. Therefore, every time you will also give up your will in order to do your beloved Jesus' Will, you will be adding one beautiful fragrant flower to "Christ's Bouquet".
-What does it mean, mum, to give up my will?
-It means to allow everything with absolute trust in the hands of your beloved God and in your life to do that which He likes and not what you like.
-Can you tell me some examples so I can understand it?
-Yes, my child. We give up our will and gather many flowers of virtue when we forgive someone who has been unjust to us. When we don't reciprocate the evil to someone who has harmed us. When we behave with spiritual kindness to those who are rude to us. When we don't judge someone who made a mistake. When we are careful not to say bad words. When we avoid seeing things that would pollute our souls, and so many other things that our God would inform us through our conscience.
-So, mum, when a child at school without any right is insulting and mocking me and I don't want for the sake of our Christ to reciprocate with bad words and taunts, then am I giving up my will?
-Yes, my Angela. Then, you give up your will but also add one more beautiful flower to the bouquet for our Christ. Many times a day you will have such opportunities to give up your will and gather many flowers for Christ's Bouquet.
-Finally, mum, our good God gives us many opportunities every day to prove to Him how much we love and trust Him! Every day all of us His children are able to show Him with our lives that we are His princes and princesses. We can make Him very happy every day, so He will be proud of us in front of His saints and angels. Every time you will be giving up your will to do His own Will, His joy will very great, because with this simple way of obedience to His Will, you will show Him how much you trust Him. Because, my child, giving up our will for the sake of our beloved God the Father is the greatest proof that we love and trust Him. From now on, mum, I will struggle every day to give up my will and to live with spiritual kindness as my beloved Jesus wants. I want every day to fill the vase of my heart with the most beautiful flowers that will give Him much joy.
-I'm sure, my Angela, that you will make Him very happy, like me who feels so happy that you are my little girl!
The Pure White Lily
-Mum, except for a rose which is prayer, which of all the virtues is the most beautiful flower which our heavenly Father likes the most?
-It is the pure white lily which you gathered today at school and made our beloved God flood you with the grace of His Holy Spirit.
-What is the pure white lily I gathered which gave Him so much joy?
-The pure white lily you added to Christ's Bouquet is because you did not condemn the child who stole the pen and instead with love and kindness hid his mistake from your teacher and classmates so he wouldn't be punished or shamed. By doing this you charmed the heart of our beloved Christ, because you did what He did while He lived amongst us on earth, who loved all people and never judged anyone. Even those who crucified Him, He did not condemn them, but instead begged His heavenly Father to forgive them. He wants us His children to have this love and compassion towards all people, even those who hurt us with their words and actions.
-But this, mum, is not easy for everyone. That's right isn't it?
-Yes, my Angela, it is not easy for all people. For the children of Christ, though, who only care about giving up their own will and doing only what He did while He lived amongst us on earth, it is not at all difficult. On the contrary, it is a spiritual challenge to be holy as He is holy. Our God, my little girl, is nothing more than Love and Compassion and whoever lives his life with love and compassion, lives in God and God lives in him. That's why our holy Church teaches us that the secret of holiness is found precisely in the virtues of love and compassion. This is the essence of Christian life. Our beloved Jesus when He came to earth to tell us about the heavenly Father, He told us how much love and compassion He has for all His children here on earth, even the most sinful. Therefore, from those who believe in Him and want to live according to His Will, He is asking us not to criticize anyone but to be merciful to all. From the love and compassion that we show to all our fellow men, even our enemies, it will show who will be His own children.
-Is that why in the lives of the saintly martyrs that we read, no saintly martyr ever said anything bad against his torturers, despite the many ways they were tortured?
-Yes, my child. The saintly martyrs were simple people like us. Many of them were even small children. All of them, despite the many ways they were tortured by the pagans, never condemned them but begged God to forgive them and enlighten them to see the truth. And we are, my little girl, descendants of the saintly martyrs and we must have them as an example to follow.
-Today, though, we don't have pagans to torture us and to suffer like them!
-I agree, that today we enjoy all the Christian peace in our Christian countries. Also, we must admit that all people have heard the word of God, which means that everyone should live according to the Will of God, like Christians that we are. But do we live, my child, according to the Will of our heavenly Father or according to the evil desires that Satan puts in our hearts? See how many people, who call themselves Christians, refuse to live according to "the spirit of love" which Christ taught us. The lips of menkind don't speak words of honey any more but the bitter poison of condemnation and many times slander. You should know how much these bad actions hurt our God!
-I will try, mummy, not to ever hurt my good God with the poison of condemnation and slander.
-I hope so, my child, with all my heart. Every time that you will not condemn any person and don't put bad thoughts about him into your mind, you will add to our "Christ's Bouquet" a beautiful pure white lily. I want you to know, my Angela, that the children who don't criticize any person are dearly loved by our good God and He keeps them deep inside His divine heart like the most precious gems in His treasury!
-I also want to be such a precious gem in His heart!
-Then, my Angela, you must live all your life according to "the spirit of love" which is taught to us in the Holy Bible by our much beloved Jesus. Live with spiritual gentleness, kindness and love as befits children of God. Then you will gather many fragrant flowers for "Christ's Bouquet"!
The Imitation of Christ
Mum, I want to live as our good God wants, but sometimes I don't know if I am doing it correctly. I can imitate you because I can see you but how can I imitate our good God who is invisible?
-It's true, my little girl, that our heavenly Father is invisible. But He sent His only begotten Son to earth to become human like us, to live among us and to show us through His personal life how we should live, according to His Will. In this way, the invisible God became, in the person of our Lord Jesus, visible to all people. Now, all people can live according to the Will of our heavenly Father, if they decide to imitate the holy life of His only begotten Son.
-Can we, mum, perfectly imitate Christ's life, since He is God?
-Christ, my little girl, is not only God, he is also human. By being born as a man, He became, as well as the Son of God, the Son of man too. As a man, He lived on this earth, to show us how we should live according to the Will of God the Father. He showed us the true path which those who want to become holy, as He is, should walk. When this happened, that is when the Son of God became man, the greatest mystery of the divine mercy of our good God towards us humans, was revealed. So, whoever wants to live according to the Will of God, is able to see through the Holy Gospel how our beloved Jesus Christ lived as a man here on earth and imitate him! Christian life is nothing more than the imitation of Christ. And the imitation of Christ is nothing more than the true life according to the Will of our Holy God. Many pious people lived this life of spiritual struggle and became saints. They also gathered every day many beautiful flowers of virtues for Christ's Bouquet and with them adorned their holy souls. And we, if we want to be like them and be sanctified, should imitate their holy lives and the beautiful spiritual struggle they did. It's up to us to gather flowers for Christ every day.
-Mummy, like our saints, I want to live as our beloved king Jesus lived on earth and gather every day more and more flowers of virtue to make our "Christ's Bouquet".
-My wish, my sweet girl, will always be with you so that you succeed in the most beautiful struggle you chose for your soul! I'm sure that you will gather every day the most beautiful and fragrant flowers for our Christ's Bouquet.