Thursday, August 17, 2006

August 23 Memorial of St. Rose of Lima

The following article on the life of St. Rose of Lima (1586-1631) is drawn from articles on the following websites:

St. Rose of Lima was born on April 20, 1586 in Lima, Peru. Her name was Isabel Flores de Oliva. Her father, Gasper de Flores, was a soldier and her mother, Maria d'Oliva, was of Incan descent. At three months old, Isabella was in her cradle as her mother and several other women were sitting around. It is said there suddenly appeared in the air a beautiful rose, which gently touched the face of the baby and then vanished; from that day on Maria called her Rose.

St. Rose had a great love of God throughout her whole life. Even as a child, whenever she spoke of Him it was with great reverence and tender devotion. Her face would also light up as she spoke of God. This appeared most visibly as she prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament. She would often spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament and received Holy Communion daily, which was not customary at the time.

She was obedient to her parents and very hard working around the house. She was especially skilled at embroidery. The writings of the Dominican, St. Catherine of Siena, were a great inspiration to her and St. Rose began to model her life after her. She sought to overcome her excessive self love and pride through prayer, fasting and other mortifications. She began fasting three days a week. As a young woman, she hid her physical beauty so that she would not be a temptation to anyone. Once she rubbed her face with pepper until it was all red and blistered. She cut off her beautiful hair, wore coarse clothing, and roughened her hands with hard work. Her parents pressured her to marry, but she took a vow of virginity. Because of her way of life she suffered persecution from family, friends and others. After many years, through patience and prayer she eventually won her parents’ blessing to continue her mission.

St. Rose had a great devotion to the Infant Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. She would sometimes spend hours before her altar. She spent her days doing fine embroidery and in acts of charity. When her work permitted, she retired to a little grotto which she had built, with her brother's help, in their small garden, and there passed her nights in solitude and prayer. With the consent of her spiritual director, she was allowed later to become practically a recluse in this cell, except for her visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

At the age of 20, she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. She agonized over violent temptations from against purity, faith and perseverance. To combat these temptations she redoubled penances and began to wear a metal spiked crown, concealed by roses, and an iron chain around her waist. Each day Jesus consoled her by making Himself known to her with proof of His Divine Love. She began to totally abstain from all meat and finally took whatever meager food that was necessary to support her life. She constructed a bed for herself of broken glass, stone, potsherds, and thorns. She admitted that the thought of lying down on it made her tremble with dread."

She continued these severe penances for fourteen years without relaxation. At these times she offered to Him all her mortifications and penances in expiation for offenses against His Divine Majesty, for the idolatry of her country, the conversion of sinners and for the souls in Purgatory. Throughout this time Jesus revealed Himself to her frequently, flooding her soul with such inexpressible peace and joy as to leave her in ecstasy four hours.

In her final illness she asked the Lord to increase her sufferings and with them the love in her heart. She died at the age of 31 on August 30, 1617. Many miracles were reported to be worked through her intercession after her death.

St. Rose of Lima was beatified by Pope Clement IX in 1667 and canonized in 1671 by Pope Clement X. She was the first saint of the New World of the Americas. She is the patroness of the South America, especially Peru, the Philippines, India, Santa Rosa, California, florists and gardeners, embroiderers and people ridiculed for their piety. She is represented wearing a crown of roses.

The following is from the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, August 23

It is found on the following website:

Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: "Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven."

When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: "Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul."

That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of divine grace. It pressed me so that my breath came slow and forced me to sweat and pant. I felt as if my soul could no longer be kept in the prison of the body, but that it had burst its chains and was free and alone and was going very swiftly through the whole world saying:

"If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions. All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace. This is the reward and the final gain of patience. No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men."

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