Mary Garden at St. John's: An Academic Service - Learning Program for Mariology Students
Andrea Oliva Florendo, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Theology and Religious Studies
Are you Listening to Flowers?
Have you ever been for a walk and caught the soft fragrance of a flower? That flower has greeted you. Have you ever made a comment on the color of a flower? That flower has caught your attention. Do you have a favorite flower? That flower has something to share with you.
Much of the imagery that surrounds gardens is religious – from the Garden of Eden to the enclosed garden of the Song of Songs, and the garden of the heavenly Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation. Healing gardens acquired yet another layer of meaning when medieval monks and nuns introduced the cultivation of a Mary Garden to spread the Gospels, and symbolized it in Renaissance religious art.
Mary Garden at St. John’s in conjunction with the Academic Service-Learning for the course THEO 3215: “Theology of Mary and the Saints” is currently providing students with the possibilities of an evolving tradition in which art, stewardship and gardening are used as concrete vehicles and language for theological reflections, and as forms of devotional and liturgical inculturation. The book: The Liturgy of Flowers In A Mary Garden (Florendo, 2004) and video films of the same title produced in partnership with the NET Channel 97 and EWTN Channel 146 remain sources of reference. The program is located behind Donovan Hall adjacent to the Earth Club’s Organic Community Garden.
Whereas Mary’s florilegium of the 13th century was created to portray its beauty and Christian symbolism, the modern-day florilegium may be seen as a conservation tool instrumental in recording for posterity “Our Lady” and “Mary“ flowers and herbs within a Mary Garden at St. John’s, and in the preservation of bio-diversity. Artistic projects which include “From Plant to Print,” (Pressed Flower Herbarium); “God’s Pencil Drawing and Signature in Every Flower,” (Botanical Illustration); “Love- Blooming Flower” (Flower-painting) aim to encourage participants in evoking the plenitude of God, and in the garden’s abundance the flowering of virtues.