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  • Sonia-Maria Szymanski

Behold, your mother: Our Lady of the Flowering Thorn

This is part of our 2023 “Behold, your mother” series, which will feature a different personage of Mary each month. Search the “Mary” filter on the blog to find the whole series. Read to the end of this blog post for a gift from us to you this year!

In a mountainous eastern part of France, known as Jura, lived a widow. Her husband went away to fight in the Crusades and, unfortunately, never came back. This widow held a devotion to Our Lady. She made sure her image of Our Lady was adorned with fresh flowers no matter the season. While looking for flowers to replenish her bouquet, she came across a flowering thorn. She picked the flowers and went home. A few days later, she went back and saw light emanating from the thorny tree. She proceeded with caution, fearing robbers might be in the vicinity. Brushing aside the branches, she noticed that the light came from a statue of Our Lady with Jesus in her arms. This lady became known as Our Lady of the Flowering Thorn.

In the depths of my infertility, I felt like a thorny tree. I was a dry, spiky piece of wood that never blossomed; I only produced these stick-tights that stuck to my entire being as a reminder of my infertility. Choosing to focus on the thorns, I was left unable to accept the possibility that I could ever flower.

But the thorn tree in the story is a different type of thorn. Not only did it flower but it did so in the dead of winter. In the midst of all that cold and snow, this thorn tree bloomed; it produced life. It was a clear demonstration that out of death, life can still be created. My fertility was dead, just like that thorn tree. Yet, if this tree could flower, then so could I. I am not the sum of my thorns. My fertility may have grown dry and been rendered useless, but just like the flowering thorn, I can still blossom. However, in order to do so, I had to forego seeing myself as just a dead thorn.

In accepting that I was not just a dead tree, I could now use my infertility as a gift to others. Now, wait - I can already hear you saying: “How can infertility ever be a gift? How can something so awfully crushing and overwhelming serve others?” I hear you. It’s not something that I came to accept overnight. It took many tears, a lot of prayer and God’s grace. In any moment of despair and barrenness, I have a choice. I can either choose to shrivel into despair or I can shift gears and see myself as multi-faceted. You are, my dear friend, more than a thorn. You may be a wife, a sister, a friend. You are strong, you are brave and you are a woman of faith that can flower. The thorn is not about you. The thorn is about how you will allow God to work through you through infertility.

Our thorn protects us by steering us away from feeling entitled to having a baby. It serves as that inner reminder that everything is a gift from God. We are not entitled to anything in this world unless willed by Him. If we become stuck in the vicious cycle of only desiring that baby, we get stuck in a journey of despair and disappointment. In addition, our thorn protects our relationship with God. Isn’t it true that we hold on to God in our darkest parts of our infertility journey? That pain we feel from our thorn is what keeps us united to the pain Jesus faced when He was put on the Cross. If we let the thorn take over and dry us up, we fail to see it as what it can be: a flowering of blessings.

So, my dear friend, I challenge you to take up your thorn and make it flower. It may not be the flower you hoped and prayed for, but it’s the one intended for you by God.

Our Lady of the Flowering Thorn, we entrust you with our "barren" wombs.

We ask that, through your intercession, we may not only accept our infertility but also come to see it as a gift and use it as a way to serve others.

Help us to flower in the way God intended for us.

Our Lady of the Flowering Thorn, pray for us.


“Behold, your mother” prayer cards

“Behold, your mother” is a series of blog posts throughout 2023 exploring different titles and personages of Mary and how we can let her mother us. We are collaborating with a beautiful Catholic creator, First Saturday Shop, to bring you a prayer card with each post in this series.

  • To receive a free printable version of the prayer cards, subscribe to our email list and receive the download link by email each month. Artwork belongs to First Saturday Shop and is emailed for domestic printing as a prayer aid.

  • To see more Catholic artwork and prayer aids, go to First Saturday Shop (international shipping available).

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