Wreaths of Flowers — Funeral Homily for Janice Bleskacek, 87

While Janice lived at her home she kept two notable items on the night table beside her bed, both reflective of her deep faith: a wooden cross and a particular book. At first glance this small, black book might be taken for a Bible, but its cover bore the title “The Catholic Girl’s Guide.” A hand-written inscription within indicates that this book was given to her as a gift way back in 1947 when she was fourteen years old. I suspect that Janice regularly turned to the latter parts of this book, with its compendium of Catholic prayers and devotions, but she would have been familiar with the earlier parts of the book as well. Its author, Fr. Francis Lasance, writes about nine virtues a young lady must cultivate, likening each one to a flower which form together “the Maiden’s Wreath.” (This book was written for girls but in a book written for boys these same essential virtues would have their places, perhaps within a holy young man’s toolbox.)

The nine flowers of the wreath include:

The Sunflower of Faith, which is turned upward towards the glorious Sun.
The Ivy of Hope, which clings and climbs despite adversity.
The Peony of Love of God, which lifts up its heart as an offering.
The Rose of Love of Our Neighbor, which is a kindly gift to others.
The Carnation of Obedience, which is how Christ incarnate came as a noble servant.
The Forget-me-not of Piety, which remembers and keeps the practice of religion.
The Violet of Humility, which thrives and blossoms most beautifully in the shade.
The Daffodil of Industry, which hastens to blossom as soon as possible.
And the Narcissus of Truthfulness, which holds truth as a golden treasure never to be betrayed.

In addition to this “Maiden’s Wreath,” the book’s author next speaks of a second crown, “The Wreath of Lilies,” comprised of The Lily of Purity, which is untarnished in its splendor. The lily has long symbolized the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose own femininity is fulfilled to its fullest, holy perfection.

Young Janice gathered and cultivated the nine flowers of her maiden’s wreath into her adulthood. She carried her virtues into her marriages, first with husband Kenneth and then, after being widowed at age thirty-eight, with her husband Gerald. And through these unions, Janice gathered and nurtured eight young ladies, eight flowers: Nancy, Susan, Cindy, Carla, Dawn, and Jacquelyn, Deb and Terri. The nine of these ladies together formed a beautiful wreath of love; along with family and friends; grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren as well. Today we pray for Janice’s soul so that in addition to her life’s virtues she may be crowned with the second wreath of purest glory; that purified from any fault or imperfection, she may rejoice before God with Jesus Christ and Blessed Mary and all the saints and angels. Like Jesus Christ says in our Gospel, Janice’s prayer shall be: ‘Father, those whom you gave me are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me one day. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and we all may be together again forever.

Scripture says of this life,

“All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like the flower of the field;
the grass withers, and the flower wilts;
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

Every dear one’s death reminds us that we will not live this present life forever. But even though the flower fades and dies away we can beautifully blossom anew. If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too may live in newness of life. So let us renew our faith and renew our lives in the Lord, Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who desires to reunite his whole flock on his holy mountain, where sin and death will be no more, where every tear will be wiped away by God, and where we can hope to be together with Janice and Kenneth and Gerald and Carla forever.

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