St. Rose of Lima

April 20, 1586 – August 24, 1617

Feast Day: August 30

St. Rose was born in 1586 at Lima, the capital of Peru, of poor but noble Spaniards. Her baptismal name was Isabella; the appearance of her face while still an infant resembled one of a beautiful rose, hence the name Rose was given her. The little girl was of a quiet disposition, and so amiable in her ways that she was a universal joy to all in the house.

In her tenderest age she already manifested signs of patience and endurance in sufferings. Once the cover of a chest fell upon and crushed her right thumb, but she kept quiet and concealed it until the finger had festered so badly that the surgeon was obliged to amputate it. On another occasion, when a most painful operation was undertaken upon her, she uttered no complaint, though she trembled through pain. It was the spirit of religion and self-denial that enabled her to act thus.

Her elder brother once happened to soil her hair, whilst playing with her; that vexed her a little, but her brother pithily retorted: “This long hair and these braids of girls are only so many snares with which the devil tries to entangle and bind young men.” Such words touched her to the quick; apprehending danger on all sides she fled to God, her only refuge, entreating Him to assist her with His grace; she offered her entire self to Him, vowing chastity for life, in testimony of which she cut off her beautiful hair.

Jesus, now her only love, wonderfully led her to a higher spiritual life; her parents, on the other hand, urged her to partake of the vanities of the world. Her mother, proud of the beauty of Rose, always pressed her to dress as gaily as possible, poor as she was; she would have her decorate her head with flowers and ribbons, use powder, wear corals and beads about her neck and arms. Rose patiently suffered these vain commands and obeyed with bitter grief, but with the flowers she would press thorns upon her head; in one instance she fastened a wreath of flowers with a pin to her scalp in order to suffer more under the appearance of vain decoration.

In all these things she was a most loving and self-sacrificing child; she labored with unwearied diligence, doing all in her power to assist her parents.

When she had arrived at the age suitable for marriage, she was to be espoused to the son of a rich widow; all negotiations had been settled without the least knowledge on the part of Rose, who would by all means remain a faithful spouse to Jesus. She refused to give her hand under any condition, though her mother entreated, threatened and even chastised her with the rod; many were the troubles and the tears she caused Rose, who was strengthened from above to resist all inducements to change her holy resolution.

When twenty years of age, she obtained permission to enter the third Order of St. Dominic, in which condition she was still allowed to live at her home. Having entered this state of life, she increased her mortifications to a greater extent than ever before: she ate little, and coarse food at that; she nearly always slept upon blocks of wood and potsherds, at most she made use of boards; she wounded her tender body with an iron girdle, which she so contracted that it sunk deeply into her flesh; in order to be unable ever to relieve herself of the continual pain, she closed the girdle with a padlock, of which she threw away the key, so that she could not find it again; she always wore a wreath of metal from which stood forth many points, piercing her head.

Her parents and relatives looking upon this as extreme folly strove by every, even abusive, means to induce her to abandon her practices; these were wounds the more painful as they were inflicted by those dearest to her on earth. With the invincible power which she drew from Jesus, her once suffering spouse, she would not abandon her mode of life, which can only be admired, scarcely imitated. Her daily occupations were prayer and labor, spending ten hours in work, twelve in prayer and only two in sleep.

It was very natural that in consequence of such exceeding mortifications she should often suffer great bodily pain; scarcely ever was she free from oppressive sufferings. When broken down and exhausted by many and great pains, she would try to conceal all as well as possible, and she suffered everything with a patience which seemed more angelic than human. But this amiable Rose in the garden of God could not always enjoy the consolations with which she was overwhelmed, for, besides the astonishing sufferings of the body, she was to pass through the ordeal of spiritual dryness, anguish and desertion.

It is impossible to imagine how heavily these trials bore upon her. Besides the devil himself appearing to her visibly in all his hideous forms, she felt her soul all empty and overcast with an apparently impenetrable darkness. She would force the thought of a speedy death upon her mind, in order to console herself, but how cruelly was she deceived. Instead of finding consolation, she was tempted to doubt the immortality of her soul; moreover, the thought of being destined to hell pressed so much upon her that she could scarcely live. In her undaunted faith she would, in spite of all, cry out imploringly: “O my God, O my gracious God, why hast Thou forsaken me? O my God, how long wilt Thou yet remain irritated at me, and how long must my heart yet sigh for Thee?”

It seemed all was to be in vain, she was ever haunted by the same cruel thoughts in whatsoever occupation she would find herself. She stood the trial, and the gloomy night was followed by a day so much the brighter; henceforth the grace of God, the dew of Heaven, refreshed her heart, so parched by the fire of a terrible trial; now she was all buried in God and nothing could separate her from the love of Christ.

Our lovely saint could scarcely wait for the day of her dissolution; at length the day of her heavenly espousal arrived. She was thirty-one years of age when she was attacked with her last illness; her limbs were all paralyzed, and a painful fever brought her near death; physicians’ aid availed nothing; all stood amazed at seeing this living image of our suffering Savior.

During all these pains St. Rose maintained an unspeakable peace of mind and the full use of her senses. Having received the Holy Eucharist, she bade farewell to all about her, and breathing the words, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be with me,” she expired on the 24th of August, 1617.

After death her body assumed the beauty of a living person and a sweet smile seemed to hover about her lips. Thus she appeared a Rose after death, as she had been during life. Many authentic miracles have been wrought through her intercession. Pope Clement X canonized her in 1671, setting apartthis day for her festival. St. Rose is the first canonized saint of America.