St. Francis de Sales is the author of Introduction to the Devout Life, sort of a how-to guide to applying the scriptures to every day life.
In Chapter 9″, the first of ten preparatory meditations, this Doctor of the Church writes, “At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.” This was a new idea to me, and it has helped to create a marked improvement in my prayer life.
What is a Spiritual Bouquet?
From what I have seen and read, there are three different kinds of spiritual bouquets: the doctrinal bouquets, given to us through the saints; prayer bouquets, made up of the standard prayers of the church; and there are personal bouquets, as described in the first quote of this article.
Spiritual Bouquets from the Saints
In the Preface to this wonderful book, St. Francis de Sales describes a girl who arranges common flowers into beautiful bouquets.
“The flower-girl Glycera was so skilled in varying the arrangement and combination of her flowers, that out of the same kinds she produced a great variety of bouquets; so that the painter Pausias, who sought to rival the diversity of her art, was brought to a standstill, for he could not vary his painting so endlessly as Glycera varied her bouquets.”
He goes on to compare this flower girl to the Holy Spirit, working through the Saints in the various ways the describe God’s revelation:
“Even so the Holy Spirit of God disposes and arranges the devout teaching which He imparts through the lips and pen of His servants with such endless variety, that, although the doctrine is ever one and the same, their treatment of it is different, according to the varying minds whence that treatment flows.”
So we see that although we have one set of flowers, the doctrine provided to us through scriptures and Holy Mother Church, these flowers can be arranged into a vast variety of bouquets. St. Francis de Sales has arranged one for us. Other bouquets – very different – are from St. John of the Cross, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and a host of others who put their spiritual thoughts on paper. Other Saints arranged their bouquets through the actions of their lives – Mother Theresa, though not canonized yet, is a modern example. Still others give us devotions such as the Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As fallible and sinful men, we need these bouquets so that we can come to a more full understanding of God’s plan of salvation, and His very real love for us. What a blessing that the Holy Spirit has provided so many different ways to learn and grow in the faith!
An apologist on Catholic Answers forums describes spiritual bouquets this way:
“A “spiritual bouquet” is a group of prayers gathered together for a particular intention. The idea is that each prayer is like a flower and that the group is like a bouquet mystically offered as a gift to God for a particular intention. That is why, for example, you’ll sometimes see Catholics organize “spiritual bouquets” for particular purposes, such as for the intentions of the Pope in honor of his birthday. Those who participate promise a certain amount of prayers and devotions for the intention and then the list is compiled and given to the person whose intentions are being remembered in prayer.”
A good example here are the rosary campaigns we do for Forty Days for Life, where a basket is kept in the church, collecting markers for the number of rosaries prayed for the campaign. It is a beautiful way to compound the power of prayer for very specific intentions.
Personal Spiritual Bouquets
But what did St. Francis say in Chapter 9?
“At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.”
In this case, at the end our prayers and meditations, we think back over our prayer time, searching for those nuggets that we want to remember and contemplate over the course of the day. I find as I do this now, that the benefits of my prayer time are greatly enhanced. My prayers stay with me over the course of the day, and I am more likely to learn something.
The richness of our faith is truly inspiring! St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!