By Tanya Connor
The Catholic Free Press
The Year of Mercy has inspired a variety of endeavors – including flower arranging.
But Marie Lucien’s story starts long before the jubilee year. It stems from her devotion to St. Anne, which used to take her to a shrine out of the country – and now seems to be keeping her home. And it has more than one connection to Divine Mercy.
Mrs. Lucien, a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster, said that in 1988 she and her husband, Fils, and their family started going to the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupré in Quebec, Canada, for the July 26 feast of SS. Anne and Joachim, Jesus’ grandparents.
Each year she would choose flowers at a florist’s shop near the shrine and the florist would make her a couple arrangements, one to take with her to leave at the shrine, and one to be sent to the shrine. (Mrs. Lucien had heard that priests blessed the bouquets that were sent in before displaying them.)
Some time after they started these trips, Mrs. Lucien began getting sick. When doctors addressed one ailment, another popped up, she said; “I call it the litany of diseases.”
In about 2005 she received her first healing, through a priest from the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, who came to Our Lady of Jasna Gora Parish in Clinton for a Divine Mercy celebration, she said. (The parish was later merged with other parishes to form St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish.)
In 2008, Mrs. Lucien said, she started bleeding profusely, and doctors couldn’t figure out why. She turned to prayer.
“Who better to get God to move a little faster but his grandmother or his mother,” she said of St. Anne and the Blessed Mother. Grandchildren get results when they turn to their grandparents, she figured.
On her visit to the shrine in 2009, Mrs. Lucien said, she climbed the Holy Stairs on her knees – despite her severe ailments. When she finished, she saw someone she didn’t know wearing white and gold, like a priest’s vestments. He told her she would receive what she was asking for.
But, she said, she hadn’t asked for anything in particular; she’d left it up to God to do his will.
Some weeks after that, a doctor discovered the cause of the bleeding and she had surgery that helped, she said. She said her healing came in stages, and she believes the intercession of the Blessed Mother and her mother, St. Anne, played a role.
“I felt like there was a divine hand guiding the doctors,” she said.
Several years ago, when plans for the trip to Quebec fell through, some of the Lucien family went to the St. Anne Novena at St. Anne Shrine in Sturbridge for the first time. (The novena is held annually from July 18 to 26.)
Mrs. Lucien said she noticed an absence of flowers and asked if she could bring a small vaseful from her garden. Instead, she was handed three containers to fill with flowers for the feast day, which was a couple days away, she said.
“What did I get myself into?” she wondered. She also wondered what type of flowers to use. The “bird of paradise” came to mind, though she’d never seen a real one. She contacted a florist, and made the bouquets with those striking orange flowers, and other flowers.
After the novena was over, “I thought I was done,” Mrs. Lucien said. But the next year she was asked to make novena bouquets again.
“I’m not sure I can do it,” she responded. “We’re going to St. Anne de Beaupré.”
But, she said, the plans she and her husband made to go to the shrine in Quebec did not work out – that year nor any year since. So each year they have been going to the shrine in Sturbridge instead. And each year she has been making bouquets.
In this Year of Mercy she made three bouquets and a live-plant arrangement for the beginning of the novena, and four more bouquets for the feast day, for different places at the shrine, she said. The theme of this year’s novena was “Experience God’s Mercy with St. Anne.”
“To me the first floral arrangements were the journey towards mercy, during the novena,” Mrs. Lucien said. “I chose different colors of flowers, different heights, because to me mercy is a kaleidoscope of feelings and thoughts and blessings.”
For the feast day she chose “subdued colors,” particularly, “white roses that mean peace, love and purity,” she said. She explained that she hoped that by the end of the novena people had “reached mercy.” To her the color white signifies that people have received mercy from God so they can show mercy to others.
The brilliant birds of paradise were there again too, because of their uniqueness, she said.
“I love it,” she now says of making the bouquets. “I love that I have the grace and the blessings to do it. I never had any training as a florist.”