August 30, 2019: ST. ROSE OF LIMA
August 30, 2019: ST. ROSE OF ST. MARY, VIRGIN OF LIMA
“Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase thy love in my heart.”
O Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who wast pleased that blessed Rosa, abundantly favoured by the dew of thy heavenly grace should beautify the Indies with her purity and patience: grant us thy servants, that following the perfumes of her virtues, we may be an agreeable odour to Christ. Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
The fragrance of holiness is wafted to-day across the dark ocean, renewing the youth of the old world, and winning for the new the good will of heaven and earth.
A century before the birth of St. Rose, Spain, having cast out the crescent from her own territory, received as a reward the mission of planting the cross on the distant shores of America. Neither heroes nor apostles were wanting in the Catholic kingdom for the great work; but there was also, unhappily, no lack of adventurers, who, in their thirst for gold, became the scourge of the poor Indians, instead of leading them to the true God. The speedy decadence of the illustrious nation that had triumphed over the Moore, was soon to prove how far a people, prevented with the greatest blessings, may yet be answerable for crimes committed by its individual representatives. It is well known how the empire of the Incas in Peru came to an end. In spite of the indignant protestations of the missionaries: in spite of orders received from the mother country: in a few years, Pizarro and his companions had exterminated one third of the inhabitants of these flourishing regions; another third perished miserably under a slavery worse than death; the rest fled to the mountains, carrying with them a hatred of the invaders, and too often of the Gospel as well, which in their eyes was responsible for atrocities committed by Christians. Avarice opened the door to all vices in the souls of the conquerors, without, however, destroying their lively faith. Lima, founded at the foot of the Cordilleras, as metropolis of the subjugated provinces, seemed as if built upon the triple concupiscence. Before the close of the century, a new Jonas, Saint Francis Solano, came to threaten this new Ninive with the anger of God.
But mercy had already been beforehand with wrath; ‘justice and peace had met’, (Ps, lxxxiv. 11) in the soul of a child, who was ready, in her insatiable love, to suffer every expiation. Here we should like to pause and contemplate the virgin of Peru, in her self-forgetful heroism, in her pure and candid gracefulness: Rose, who was all sweetness to those who approached her, and who kept to herself the secret of the thorns without which no rose can grow on earth. This child of predilection was prevented from her infancy with miraculous gifts and favours. The flowers recognized her as their queen; and at her desire they would blossom out of season. At her invitation, the plants joyfully waved their leaves; the trees bent down their branches; all nature exulted; even the insects formed themselves into choirs; the birds vied with her in celebrating the praises of their common Maker. She herself, playing upon the names of her parents, Gaspard Flores and Maria Oliva, would sing: ‘O my Jesus, how beautiful Thou art among the olives and the flowers, and Thou dost not disdain Thy Rose!’
Eternal Wisdom has, from the beginning, delighted to play in the world. (Prov, viii. 30, 31) Clement X relates, in the Bull of canonization, how one day when Rose was very ill, the Infant Jesus appeared and deigned to play with her; teaching her in a manner suitable to her tender age, the value and the advantages of suffering. He then left her full of joy, and endowed with a life-long love of the cross. Holy Church will tell us in the legend how far the saint carried out, in her rigorous penance, the lesson thus divinely taught. In the superhuman agonies of her last illness, when someone exhorted her to courage, she replied: ‘All I ask of my Spouse is, that He will not cease to burn me with the most scorching heat, till I become a ripe fruit that He will deign to cull from this earth for His heavenly table.’ To those who were astonished at her confidence and her assurance of going straight to heaven, she gave this answer which well expresses her character: ‘I have a Spouse who can do all that is greatest, and who possesses all that is rarest, and am I to expect only little things from Him?’ And her confidence was rewarded. She was but thirty-one years of age, when, at midnight on the feast of St. Bartholomew in the year 1617, she heard the cry: ‘Behold the Bridegroom cometh!’ In Lima, in all Peru, and indeed throughout America, prodigies of conversion and miracles signalized the death of the humble virgin, hitherto so little known. ‘It has been juridically proved,’ said the Sovereign Pontiff, ‘that, since the discovery of Peru, no missionary has been known to obtain so universal a movement of repentance.’ Five years later, for the further sanctification of Lima, there was established in its midst the monastery of St. Catharine of Siena, also called Rose’s monastery, because she was in the eyes of God its true foundress and mother. Her prayers had obtained its erection, which she had also predicted; she had designed the plan, pointed out the future religious, and named the first superior, whom she one day prophetically endowed with her own spirit in a mysterious embrace.
Let us read the Church’s beautiful account of her life.
The first flower of sanctity that blossomed in South America, the virgin Rose was born of Christian parents at Lima. From her very cradle she gave clear signs of her future holiness. Her baby face appeared one day changed in a wonderful way into the image of a rose, and from this circumstance she was called Rose. Later on the Virgin Mother of God gave her also her own name, bidding her to be called thenceforward Rose of St. Mary. At five years of age she made a vow of perpetual virginity, and when she grew older, fearing her parents would compel her to marry, she secretly cut off her hair which was very beautiful. Her fasts exceeded the strength of human nature. She would pass whole Lents without eating bread, living on five grains of a citron a day.
She took the habit of the third Order of St. Dominic and after that redoubled her austerities. Her long and rough hair-shirt was armed with steel points, and day and night she wore under her veil a crown studded inside with sharp nails. Following the arduous example of St. Catharine of Sierra, she wound an iron chain three times round her waist, and made herself a bed of the knotty trunks of trees, filling up the vacant spaces between them with potsherds. She built herself a narrow little cell in a distant corner of the garden, and there devoted herself to the contemplation of heavenly things, subduing her feeble body by iron disciplines, fasting and watching. Thus she grew strong in spirit, and continually overcame the devils, spurning and dispelling their deceits.
Though she suffered greatly from severe illnesses, from the insults offered her by her family and from unkind tongues, yet she would say that she was not treated so badly as she deserved. During fifteen years, she suffered for several hours a day a terrible desolation and dryness of spirit; but she bore this suffering, worse than death itself, with undaunted courage. After that period, she was given an abundance of heavenly delights, she was honoured with visions, and felt her heart melting with seraphic love. Her angel-guardian, St. Catharine of Sierra and our Lady used often to appear to her with wonderful familiarity. She was privileged to hear these words from our Lord: ‘Rose of my heart, be thou my bride.’ At length she was happily introduced into the paradise of this her Spouse, and being famous for miracles both before and after her death, Pope Clement X solemnly enrolled her among the holy virgins.
Another account of St. Rose of Lima
Life of Asia, Europe, and Africa had been watered with the blood of many martyrs, and adorned, during many ages, with the shining example of innumerable saints, whilst, by the inscrutable judgments of God, the vast regions of America lay barren, and, as it were, abandoned, till the faith of Christ began to enlighten them, and this saint appeared on that hemisphere like a rose amidst thorns, the first-fruits of its canonized saints. She was of Spanish extraction, born at Lima, the capital of Peru, in 1586. She was christened Isabel; but the figure and colour of her face in the cradle seeming, in some measure, to resemble a beautiful rose, the name of Rose was given her. From her infancy her patience in suffering, and her love of mortification were extraordinary, and whilst yet a child, she ate no fruit, and fasted three days a week, allowing herself on them only bread and water, and on other days, taking only unsavoury herbs and pulse. When she was grown up, her garden was planted only with bitter herbs, and interspersed with figures of crosses. In her exercises she took St. Catharine of Sienna for her model. Every incentive of pride and sensuality was to her an object of abhorrence; and, for fear of taking any secret satisfaction in vanity, she studied to make those things in which it might insinuate its poison, painful to her. One day her mother having put on her head a garland of flowers, she secretly stuck in it a pin, which pricked her so deep, that the maid at night could not take off the garland without some difficulty. Hearing others frequently commend her beauty, and fearing lest it should be an occasion of temptation to any one, whenever she was to go abroad to any public place, she used, the night before, to rub her face and hands with the bark and powder of Indian pepper, which is a violent corrosive, in order to disfigure her skin with little blotches and swellings. A young man happening one day to admire the fineness of the skin of her hand, she immediately ran and thrust both her hands into hot lime, saying, “Never let my hands be to any one an occasion of temptation.” What a confusion is this example to those who make it their study to set themselves off by their dress, to become snares to others! We admire a St. Bennet on briers, a St. Bernard freezing in the ice, and a St. Francis in the snow; these saints were cruel to themselves, not to be overcome by the devil; but Rose punishes herself to preserve others. Thus did she arm herself against her external enemies, and against the revolt of her senses. But she was aware that this victory would avail her little, unless she died to herself by crucifying in her heart inordinate selflove, which is the source of pride, and all the other passions. Rose triumphed over this subtle enemy by the most profound humility, and the most perfect obedience and denial of her own will. She never departed wilfully from the order of her parents in the least tittle, and gave proofs of her scrupulous obedience, and invincible patience under all pains, labour, and contradictions, which surprised all that knew her.
Her parents, by the vicissitude of worldly affairs, fell from a state of opulence into great distress, and Rose was taken into the family of the treasurer Gonsalvo, by that gentleman's pious lady; and by working there all day in the garden, and late at night with her needle, she relieved them in their necessities. These employments were agreeable to her penitential spirit and humility, and afforded her an opportunity of never interrupting the interior commerce of her soul with God. She probably would never have entertained any thoughts of another state, if she had not found herself importuned by her friends to marry. To rid herself of such troublesome solicitations, and more easily to comply with the obligation she had taken upon herself by a vow of serving God in a state of holy virginity, she enrolled herself in the third Order of St. Dominic. Her love of solitude made her choose for her dwelling a little lonely cell in a garden. Extraordinary fasts, hair cloths, studded iron chains which she wore about her waist, bitter herbs mingled in the sustenance which she took, and other austerities, were the inventions of her spirit of mortification and penance. She wore upon her head a thin circle of silver (a metal very common in Peru), studded on the inside with little sharp pricks or nails, which wounded her head, in imitation of a crown of thorns. This she did to put her in mind of the adorable passion of Christ, which incomprehensible mystery of divine love and mercy, she desired to have always in her thoughts. She never spoke of herself but as of the basest of sinful monsters, the sink of the universe, unworthy to breathe the air, to behold the light, or to walk on the ground; and she never ceased to adore the infinite goodness and mercy of God towards her. So ardent was her love of God, that as often as she spoke of it, the accent of her voice, and the fire which sparkled in her countenance, discovered the flame which consumed her holy soul. This appeared most sensibly when she was in presence of the blessed sacrament, and when in receiving it she united her heart to her beloved in that wonderful fountain of his love; her whole life was a continual vehement thirst after that divine banquet, in which she found her greatest comfort and support during the course of her earthly pilgrimage. God favoured the fervour of her charity with many extraordinary graces; and Christ once in a vision called her soul his spouse. But, for her humiliation, and the exercise of her virtue, she suffered, during fifteen years, grievous persecutions from her friends and others; and, what were much more severe trials, interior desolation, and dreadful agonies of spiritual anguish in her soul. The devil also assaulted her with violent temptations, filling her imagination with filthy phantoms. But God afterwards recompensed her fidelity and constancy in this life with extraordinary caresses. Under long and most painful sicknesses it was her prayer, “Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase thy love in my heart.” She happily passed to eternal bliss on the 24th of August, 1617, being thirty-one years old. The chapter, senate, and all the most honourable companies of the city, by turns, carried her body to the grave; the archbishop assisted at her funeral. Several miracles wrought by her means were juridically proved by one hundred and eighty witnesses before the apostolical commissaries. She was canonized by Clement X in 1671, and the 30th day of August has been appointed for her festival.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Rose of Lima, pray for us.