Near the end of his Mother’s Day homily on Sunday, May 10, Fr. Joseph asked EWTN viewers to send flowers to Our Lady during the month of May. However, there was a catch. Each flower had to represent one rosary. The next day, Father John Paul reiterated the message.
As EWTN viewers know, a veritable tsunami of flowers now surround a beautiful statue of Our Lady, sprawl across the floor around the altar in Our Lady of the Angels Chapel in Irondale, Ala., and flow into an adjoining room known as St. Michael’s Hall. The flowers are affectionately being called “Mary’s Garden.” The catch seems to have deterred no one.
The avalanche of flowers has proved to be a blessing not only to EWTN and its viewers, who get to enjoy the amazing sight during each Mass, but to florists and many others across the local area and beyond.
From the first day, viewers from around the country, and in some cases the world, began calling Birmingham, Alabama area florists and ordering anywhere from three flowers to several dozen flowers – almost all of them roses, which are associated with the rosary and Mary. That same day, Father Joseph began hearing from local florists whose pandemic-ravaged businesses have benefited by these orders from across the country,
“Yesterday, shortly after the morning Mass broadcast by EWTN, the flower shop was inundated with calls from all over the country,” said Shirley Carmack of Shirley’s Florist in Trussville, Ala. in a post on her shop’s Facebook page which was shared by the Trussville Chamber of Commerce. “Father Joseph asked the faithful followers of EWTN to send roses to the Virgin Mary. We have honestly spoken to people from every state in our nation. After closing my shop due to the coronavirus, this was a true blessing to me, Robin Monteabaro, and our employees. Our bills will be paid and we will make payroll because a man of God told the world to do this. I’m sure God told him to do this. Prayers are answered, maybe not the way we expected, but they are answered. Every small flower shop in the Birmingham area has been blessed this week. Thank you Eternal [Word] Television Network!”
In a follow-up interview, Carmack said she had received 100 orders averaging $50 apiece. “It was like Valentine’s Day,” she said. “We were flabbergasted to be honest. We lost so much business due to COVID-19. I pray daily for my business to survive this. We’re financially sound, but I don’t care how healthy your business is, no weddings for four to six weeks is detrimental – and not just to us, but also the growers and the third-party wholesalers. This was a blessing for a lot of people. It all trickles down.”
Cameron Pappas of Norton’s Florist said his shop fielded 500 phone calls on Tuesday alone – at least 200 of which were attributable to EWTN viewers. He said he typically receives 50 to 60 boxes of flowers twice a week, but that after Mother Day, the flower farms that supply U.S. florists had run out of their usual assortment.
“But they DID have roses so we got 20 boxes of roses and five of other stuff. It’s a God thing [since that’s what EWTN viewers were ordering]! The people who were calling had no idea what a blessing, what an impact it had on our company. It’s just amazing how God works!”
Dorothy McDaniel of Dorothy McDaniel’s Flower Market said that 40% of U.S. flower shops closed their doors during the 2018 financial crisis and many are anticipating that a significant number of smaller florists will close their doors due to the coronavirus. While Mother’s Day was good for McDaniel, she said all of her events from March through June have been cancelled. Fortunately, that blow has been softened by the 150 orders she has received in less than a week from EWTN viewers.
It appears that it may not be just florists who will benefit from the attention this brought to the Birmingham area.
“One lady wants to make a pilgrimage to EWTN,” McDaniel said. “She asked me if there were any nice B&Bs in the area because she doesn’t like big hotels. Another gentleman said when things calm down they are going to come visit the chapel [and they will need a place to stay.]”
“Everybody included cards to Mary,” said Shirley’s Florist’s Carmack. “They prayed with us. They witnessed to us over the phone. It was just unbelievable. A more devout group I’ve never known. It was so heartfelt, so full of love. It’s not all about the money, although money is good to keep us going. But it’s such a feeling of being a part of something that big, that makes such a difference in people’s lives.”
McDaniel, who is not Catholic, said a conversation with one caller inspired her to look up the message of Our Lady of Fatima, whose feast was celebrated May 13. The feast commemorates Our Lady’s appearance to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in which Our Lady called for prayer and fasting in order to attain peace and the end of the Great War (World War I). McDaniel said she found it “very relevant to what we’re going through today.”
“I can’t begin to tell you how meaningful this experience has been to me. Just to talk to these people from all over the country who felt so deeply this message that Fr. Joseph and Fr. John Paul sent out. It really did touch me. Obviously, this was important to a lot of people. At a time when hope is so important, it gave them hope.”