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Maternity of a Pro-Life Garden


Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB - published on 03/13/16

A place to pray for the mother, as well as the unborn

Catholics are pro-life, and that is to our core. We protect the unborn; we advocate for the sick and the “inconvenient” because we understand that human life is not disposable. We do not throw people away.

It’s a curiosity to me, however, that when it comes to abortion, our prayers are usually directed for the protection of the unborn. Don’t get me wrong; all prayer is good, and praying for the welfare of a child in utero is an absolute good. Yet it is the woman who desperately needs the prayers. She has the knowledge of the one she carries in her womb, but — perhaps through fear — she lacks the wisdom to recognize the evil one working his persuasion toward a fatal decision. There is nothing left after the sin is done, but the reality that she (and the father) has for the rest of life become post-abortive parents.

When we pray for the unborn, do we see the maternity of the woman in unity with her fetus — the whole person, two bodies in one? There’s a time and a place for the graphic images portraying the loss of a baby. What I am considering is how we might pray for these women in a way to protect their maternity.

I’m all about finding areas of peace in which to pray, especially in outdoor settings. I am suggesting here a pro-life/anti-abortion garden on Catholic grounds — one whose whole theme and purpose is to encompass both mother and child and will direct our prayers toward the maternity as a whole — not just on the baby, separated from the woman. It can be a place where the father can come too, if he is inclined, that he too can pray for the protection of the woman, for the sake of her and their unborn baby.

To create such a garden, the plants used, and what they symbolize, are of great importance. Choose those that represent maternity, protection and truth. Here are a few recommended options:


Cardamine symbolizes paternal error. This genus of plants has more than 150 species, so you are sure to find one suited to grow in your USDA Hardiness Zone.

mums white public domain
Public Domain

Chrysanthemums, white ones, represent truth. This plant is diverse, either an annual or perennial that grows from Florida to Minnesota.


Cinquefoil is a compact shrub with bright flowers; it designates maternal affection because it holds close its flowers.


Clematis virginiana or Virgin’s Bower is a vigorous wild vine and a dramatic addition to the landscape in cooler Zones. Its flowers are small and abundant, and the vine houses birds, nourishes pollinators and is a host to other beneficial insects. It represents filial love.

cotton plant
Public Domain

Cotton (Lintplant) symbolizes the recognition of obligation … true for both mother and father.

Jennifer C-cc

Moss has a sweet representation for maternal love, indicative of a blanket of understanding.


Oxalis or wood sorrel is known as the shamrock. It is the Trinitarian plant associated with St. Patrick, and the Virgin Mary’s Alleluia plant because it flowers near Easter. It represents the joy of maternal tenderness.

Anna reg-cc

Roses, thornless, symbolize early attachment, and isn’t this something we pray for all mothers? Visit Heirloom Roses for an extensive list of thornless varieties.

red tulips

Tulips, specifically red, are a declaration of love — of a spouse or a child. Tulips are an easy to grow bulb to plant in the autumn for spring color.

Creating a prayer garden not only helps us focus our prayer, it also gives us the opportunity to share with others what our gardens mean in relation to our faith. God created us for gardens, that in them we may find the love for all his creation.

For more liturgical garden information, see A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, published by Ave Maria Press.

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB, is a Benedictine oblate, lay hermit and author. Her works include The Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. She blogs atMorning Rose Prayer Gardens.

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