Saint Rose of Lima

Mystic, Stigmatic, & Layperson

(1586 - 1617)

Memorial : 23 August

Saint Rose of Lima, T.O.S.D. (April 20, 1586 – August 24,  - 1617), was a Spanish colonist in Lima, Peru, who became known for both her life of severe asceticism and her care of the needy of the city through her own private efforts. A lay member of the Dominican Order, she was the first person born in the Americas to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

As a saint, Rose of Lima is designated as a co-patroness of the Philippines along with Saint Pudentiana, who were both moved as second-class patronage in September 1942 by Pope Pius XII, but remains the primary patroness of Peru and the indigenous natives of Latin America.

She was born Isabel Flores y de Oliva in the city of Lima, then in the Viceroyalty of Peru, on April 20, 1586. She was one of the many children of Gaspar Flores, a harquebusier in the Imperial Spanish army, born in San Germán on the island of San Juan Bautista (now Puerto Rico), and his wife, María de Oliva, a native of Lima. Her later nickname "Rose" comes from an incident in her babyhood: a servant claimed to have seen her face transform into a rose. In 1597 she was confirmed by the Archbishop of Lima, Turibius de Mongrovejo, who was also to be declared a saint. She formally took the name of Rose at that time.

By age 5, Rose wanted to learn how to read and write, but there was nobody who was free to help her. Her mother Maria had tried to do so, but soon grew tired and gave up. So the child decided to pray to the Child Jesus, saying to her mom:  “Since no one has time to teach me things, I am going to ask Jesus to do it. He can do anything can’t He?”

Thus in her childlike simplicity and candor, Rose began to recite the following prayer: “Oh Jesus, help me to know and to love You, and teach me to read and write.”

She began to fast three times a week and performed severe penances in secret. When she was admired for her beauty, Rose cut off her hair and smeared pepper on her face, upset that suitors were beginning to take notice of her. She rejected all suitors against the objections of her friends and her family. Despite the censure of her parents, she spent many hours contemplating the Blessed Sacrament, which she received daily, an extremely rare practice in that period. She was determined to take a vow of virginity, which was opposed by her parents, who wished her to marry. One day, Rose announced to her mother that she knew how to read and write. She told her mother that it was the Child Jesus who had taught her. Her mother was in disbelief but nevertheless Rose proved to her mother that she knew how to read by reading from a book about St. Catherine of Siena.  Just as Rose had said it was the Little Child Jesus who worked a wonderful miracle by teaching Rose Himself how to read and write, proving that with faith in God, everything is possible. 

But the Child Jesus was to work many more miracles through Rose. As Rose grew older so did her love for Jesus and also her neighbor. She had great compassion towards those who were sick.  She knew that by showing compassion to the sick, she was showing compassion to God.Finally, out of frustration, her father gave her a room to herself in the family home.

After daily fasting, she took to permanently abstain from eating meat. She helped the sick and hungry around her community, bringing them to her room and taking care of them. Rose sold her fine needlework, and took flowers that she grew to market, to help her family. She made and sold lace and embroidery to care for the poor, and she prayed and did penance in a little grotto which she had built. Otherwise, she became a recluse, leaving her room only for her visits to church.

She attracted the attention of the friars of the Dominican Order. She wanted to become a nun, but her father forbade it, so she instead entered the Third Order of St. Dominic while living in her parents' home. In her twentieth year she donned the habit of a tertiary and took a vow of perpetual virginity. She donned a heavy crown made of silver, with small spikes on the inside, in emulation of the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ.

On that day Rose, who was a member of the Third Order of St Dominic, was with the other Tertiaries  the Church of Santo Domingo assisting at the solemn services. The sacristan distributed the waving palm branches, but some how missed Rose. When the procession had formed, the saintly maiden took her usual place and modestly accompanied the others, humbling herself before God and accusing herself of having too eagerly desired the palm branch. So when she came before the miraculous statue of the Queen of the Rosary she begged for pardon. Then the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Child became animated and smiled upon the humble Rose.

Saint Rose of Lima - Stigmatist
Rose, touched to the very depths of her soul by this kindness, cried out : “Nevermore, O dearest Lady, will I take a palm branch from the hands of man, for You, O Palm of Virgins, will give me a never fading one!”

The Blessed Virgin then turned to the Child Jesus and asked a favor; then suddenly Rose experienced a thrill of holy joy, and ecstatic emotion filled her inmost soul, as the Divine Infant spoke these words to her : “Rose of My heart, be My spouse!”

With a heart over-flowing with love and tender gratitude, and overwhelmed by a realization of the greatness of the favor and of her own unworthiness, she humbly bowed her head, giving vent in tears of thankfulness to the great joy that came over her, while she promised eternal fidelity to her beloved Jesus.

For eleven years she lived this way, with intervals of ecstasy, and died on August 24, 1617, at the age of 31. It is said that she prophesied the date of her death. Her funeral was held in the cathedral, attended by all the public authorities of Lima, and with a eulogy by the archbishop.

Rose was beatified by Pope Clement IX on April 15, 1667, and canonized on April 12, 1671, by Pope Clement X, the first Catholic in the Americas to be declared a saint. Her shrine, alongside those of her friends, St. Martin de Porres and Saint John Macías, is located inside the convent of St. Dominic in Lima. The Roman Catholic Church says that many miracles followed her death; there were stories that she had cured a leper. Many places in the New World are named Santa Rosa after her. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is especially devoted to her.

Her liturgical feast was inserted into the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1729 for celebration initially on August 30, because August 24, the date of her death, is the feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle and August 30 was the closest date not already allocated to a well-known saint. Pope Paul VI's 1969 reform of the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, made August 23 available, the day on which her feast day is now celebrated throughout the world, including Spain, but excluding Peru and some other Latin American countries, where August 30 is a public holiday in her honor.

She is honored together with Martin de Porres and Turibius of Mogrovejo with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on August 23.

Early lives of Santa Rosa were written by the Dominican Father Hansen, "Vita Sanctae Rosae" (2 vols., Rome, 1664–1668), and Vicente Orsini, afterward. Pope Benedict XIII wrote "Concentus Dominicano, Bononiensis ecclesia, in album Sanctorum Ludovici Bertrandi et Rosae de Sancta Maria, ordinero praedicatorum" (Venice, 1674).

There is a park named for her in downtown Sacramento, California. A plot of land at 7th and K streets was given to the Roman Catholic Church by Peter Burnett, first Governor of the State of California. Father Peter Anderson built one of the first of two churches in the diocese to be consecrated under the patronage of St Rose.

In the Caribbean twin-island state of Trinidad and Tobago, the Santa Rosa Carib Community, located in Arima, is the largest organization of indigenous peoples on the island. The second oldest parish in the Diocese of Port-of-Spain is also named after this saint. The Santa Rosa Church, which is located in the town of Arima, was established on April 20, 1786, as the Indian Mission of Santa Rosa de Arima on the foundations of a Capuchin Mission previously established in 1749.

Rose's skull is on public display in the basilica in Lima, Peru. It was customary to keep the torso in the basilica and pass the cranium around the country. She has a crown of roses on her cranium. The skull is displayed with that of St. Martin de Porres, whose skull is also separate from his torso.

Saint Rose is the patroness of Americas, indigenous people of the Americas especially of Lima, Peru; the secondary patroness of the Philippines along with Saint Pudentiana; of gardeners; of florists; of Sittard, the Netherlands; of India.

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