August 18, 2015

Saint Rose of Lima

It is ironic, and perhaps cautionary, that the first canonized saint of the Western Hemisphere should have been not a man of organized philanthropy but a frail young woman of staggering asceticism and profound mystical gifts.  The future patron of Peru was the daughter of a Spanish conquistador named Gaspar de Flores and his wife Maria de Oliva.  She was baptized Isabel, but called Rose. ("She looks like a rose," exclaimed the Indian servant of the Flores family when she first beheld the beautiful child.) The mother was pleased by this compliment, and thereafter ignored the baptismal name.

Rose found her own beauty perilous.  Intensively spiritual in bent, she even tried to scar her features when people praised her good looks.  To please her mother, she wore a wreath of roses, but beneath it she placed something like a crown of thorns.  We are not called on to imitate the saints in their particular methods of mortification, but their penances should always remind us that in our necessary efforts to follow God's will, we must not allow our own wills to become stumbling blocks.

St. Catherine of Siena, it seems, became the model whom Rosa de Flores selected.  When those around her ridiculed this ambition, she stood her ground.  It was her desire to enter a religious order.  Her parents forbade it, however, and she accepted their veto.  But to counter their nagging insistence that she marry, she took a private vow of chastity.  Then, when she was twenty, she enrolled in the Dominican Third Order.  Thereafter she wore a habit of a Dominican tertiary.  Unable to become a nun, she finally discovered an equivalent on her own property: a little hut at the end of the garden where she could live and work and pray much like a hermitess.

In her prayer life, Rose suffered far more from interior pains than from the scorn of her associates.  For fifteen years she endured agonizing spiritual desolation.  But she was also rewarded by visions of her guardian angel, of St. Catherine, and of the Blessed Virgin.  Her greatest consolation was to hear from the lips of Christ himself, "Rose of my heart, be my spouse."

The penitent of Lima was not so involved in prayer, however, as to neglect others.  When her parents came upon hard times, she labored day and night to support them, raising beautiful flowers for sale, and doing fine needlework on order.  She also set up a little infirmary in one room in which she took care of impoverished children and ailing seniors.  This marked the beginning of social service in her native city.

Despite the criticism that many had visited on Rose, she won a great crowd of admirers among the local citizenry.  When she died on August 16, 1617 -- a date that she had exactly foretold --t he throngs who came to her wake were so great that the funeral had to be postponed several days.

Beatified in 1668, in 1671 she was canonized as "St. Rose of St. Mary," and proclaimed patron, not only of Peru, but of all America, the West Indies, and the Philippine Islands.

A Rose Among Thorns:

The life of this saint is like that of a rose among thorns. She was born into a poor but upper-class family in Peru, soon after the conquest.

Coming from a bewildering and abusive childhood, she identified deeply with the suffering Christ. She longed to become a nun, but was prevented by her family from doing so. She practiced austere penances at home and eventually became a Dominican tertiary. She was a close friend of another Dominican saint with an unhappy childhood, Martin de Porres. While the pain inflicted on her as a child helped to foster a piety we find puzzling today, she also developed a compassion for the Indian peoples of her day who suffered abuse not unlike her own.

To help support her family, she did fine embroidery and raised flowers for sale. Along with flowers, she raised medical herbs which she used to cure the sick poor of Lima who began flocking to her small infirmary in her family's home. She had a special love and concern for the Indians who had been savagely conquered by men like Pizarro. She herself had Inca blood. 

Her love for God was passionate and deep, She wrote mystical poetry, which she occasionally sang with a guitar. Like many a Spanish mystic, she had to defend herself before the dreaded Inquisition. Near the end of her short life, a small bird came each day at sunset and sang a love song with her that she had composed. She died after a painful illness, just as a clock was striking midnight - reminiscent of the Gospel parable of the Bridegroom and the ten virgins bearing lamps.

St. Rose of Lima:
Follower of Dominic and Spouse of the Heart of Christ

Saint Rose of Lima is proof of the truth that the saints are God’s most joyous and winsome friends. The love that they have for God fills their souls and brims over in love, so that they find joy even in their suffering. Such was Saint Rose, who might be described as a “Little Flower” of the New World.  

Rose was the seventh of eleven children born to Oliva and Gaspar Flores, a member of the viceroy’s guard in Lima. Her parents had social prestige but little money, a lack often felt in their household. 

Oliva loved to adorn her daughter with wreaths of her most beautiful roses. The little girl was so pretty and precocious that the mother had high hopes for her, but like Saint Catherine of Siena in a previous century, Rose was already showing signs that the hand of God was on her as His choice. At age five, when she made her first confession, she obtained permission from her confessor to make a vow of virginity. About this time she cut her hair off, trying to disguise the lack under her veil. When her mother discovered the catastrophe, she expressed her displeasure with great vehemence. At first Rose tried to resist wearing party clothes. Then she discovered that she could conceal thorns on the underside of the rose wreath around her head, making the wreath into her own “crown of thorns.” 

Saint Rose is most famous for her penances, done not for their own sake, but as pure expressions of her love for Jesus and vicarious satisfaction for souls dear to Him. Her love found other means of expression, as well. Rose prayed long hours for her beloved Archbishop Turibius, himself a saint, in his trials, and beseeched God for the conversion of the Peruvian Indians, who were still practicing pagan religions. She was taught to make herbal medicines and took great delight in distributing these remedies to long lines of the sick poor of Lima. 

It is natural that one with Rose’s pure love of God seek a religious vocation, but for a time even this good desire seemed to be frustrated. She discerned that it was not God’s will that she enter a cloister. A short time later she received a sign in answer to prayer that she was to be a Dominican tertiary and live at home, like Saint Catherine of Siena. At age 20 she made her profession in the Third Order of Saint Dominic. 

It was at this time that perhaps the most spectacular of Rose’s miracles occurred when Dutch pirates invaded Lima’s harbor and defeated the Peruvian fleet. Due to the Reformation, they intended not only to loot the city but also to desecrate churches. The women, children and religious of Lima took refuge in the churches. In the church of Santo Domingo, Rose stirred them all to prayer. It is said that as pirates burst into the church, they were confronted with the terrifying spectacle of a young girl ablaze with light, holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. They turned away and fled to their ships which sailed away. 

As she continued her prayer, penance and good words, Rose underwent a new season of suffering. In spite of her prayers, ruthless Spanish landlords oppressed and exploited her beloved Indians. Rose came down simultaneously with asthma and arthritis. On top of this, she began to have dreams which caused her soul great disturbance. Her only support came from the Dominican saint, Brother Martin de Porres, who assured her that her visions and spiritual aridity were signs of the highest friendship with God. Other religious, through jealousy, had Rose examined by the Inquisition. The inquisitors found her to be enjoying God’s highest favor in the midst of her suffering and desolation. During this time, Rose received the grace of mystical marriage with Christ and had a ring engraved with the works He spoke to her: “Rose of My Heart, be My spouse.” Not long after, she died of a terrible fever and paralysis at age 31. 

Rose stands out among Dominican saints in her understanding of the immeasurable value of redemptive suffering. Speaking of the power that directed her life, she wrote, “That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of Divine Grace.”

Song of St. Rose

St. Rose, like many saints, had a special relationship with nature. She had a natural talent for singing and she composed a song in praise of God. The family she stayed with would listen at her door each evening for a unique duet sung by St. Rose - yes a duet! At sunset a small bird came and sang (chirped?) with her the song she composed. They sang alternately for an hour. Then at her signal the bird would leave.  Here are some of the verses of her song-prayer:

Tiny singer, flit your wings;
Bow before the King of kings.
Let your lovely concert rise
To Him Who gave you songs and skies.
Let your throat, full of carols sweet,
Pour them before the Eternal's feet
That we His praise may magnify
Whom birds and angels glorify.
I shall sing to Him who saved me:
You will sing to Him who made ye.
Both together, we shall bless
The God of love and happiness.
Sing, sing with bursting throat and heart!
In turn our voices will take part
To sing together, you and I,
A canticle of holy joy.
{As the bird flew away:}
The little bird abandons me:
My playmate's wings ascend.
Blessed be my God,
Who faithfully Stays with me to the end.

from the Monks of Adoration

Prayers :

Beginning on the medal of St. Rose, pray:

Glorious St. Rose of Lima, you who knew what it was to love Jesus with such a fine a generous heart.

You, whom since infancy, despised the world’s vanities in order to embrace His Cross.  You who loved with unfailing devotion our Heavenly Mother and professed a great tender dedication to the destitute, serving then the same way Jesus did.

Teach us to imitate your greatest virtues, so that we, following your example, could enjoy your glorious protection in Heaven.

For Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever…

On the large bead, pray Our Father...

On the ten small beads, pray Hail Mary...

In conclusion, pray Glory be...


 O Rose, receive the gracious vows of your clients. The voice proclaims thee, the heart and soul beseech thee.

 On the twentieth day of April she was born into the world; on the Feast of the Holy Spirit* she was washed by the Spirit and water**.
*Pentecost. The Latin is 'Flaminis in festo'. Flamen is a rare title of the Holy Spirit, naming Him in His office as the one who moves hearts to God; it also means gust or blast of wind.
**The reference is to her baptism, but the image is forceful, with the Holy Spirit [flamen - a blast of wind] and a wave [the waters of baptism]

 While she lay in her crib, a rose purpled her countenance. Her mother, rejoicing, said: "You shall [be named] Isabelle Rose."

 [The name was] Not perhaps granted by heaven, until the prelate confirmed her. He imposes on her the name and omen of Rose.

 The Virgin Mary approved this pious name of Rose and joined her own to it, bring forth new joy.

 She exhorted her handmaid to weigh her down around the neck and to trample her, and give her beatings and spittle.

 At the age of fifteen Rose made a vow, cutting off a lock of hair. She suffered cruel fights with her brethren and mother. 

(French) Rose cut off a lock of hair, to escape from marriage: and she attracts for herself the hatred of her family.

They invited her to several monastic cloisters, still she received the holy habit of Dominic.

 She always would drink gall or cold water: and eat bread and herbs which sprouted from the ground. 

Often before she drank, she would heat up some water: thus she would remove from herself the thirst for a hot drink, being more grateful for the cold.

For herself, for criminals and for those in the fire of purgatory, Rose would give herself harsh floggings three times a night.

Ninety-nine times, she plucked thorns from within, with which she enclosed her head with a crown.

Rose wrapped a lock of hair hanging from a nail: thus she drove away sleep both night and day.

Deep sleep often overwhelmed the sleepless Rose while Rose climbed a tall cross and also when she bored a tree trunk.

She would sleep on this bed for two hours, and replenish her mouth and stomach with gall.

Rose rubbed her breasts with briers and thorns. She tore into her armpits and both her sides.

She tightly covered her mangled body with a hair shirt. She pressed her arms in closely, binding them with a rope.

In the home of her father, while the bread-oven was burning she would cross its dome with bare feet.

At night, she walked through the garden barefoot on the sharp stones. Thrice Rose succumbed to the heavy cross.

In a pleasant vision, Jesus spoke to her, desiring to be worshiped by Rose with great rigor.

Lo! Every flower, tree and herb bows its head, esteeming the hours when Rose prays.

Rosa, while praying, throws roses up to heaven. They form a cross, bordered by an oval border.

She was rapt in prayers and many ecstasies in which, from every side and her mouth, [she] hurled forth flames like a funeral pyre.

While she received the sacrament, surrounded by light collected around her, lo! Her entire face shines fiery, like a torch.

While the Dutch threatened the city walls, Rose desired to undergo the torments of the martyrs for the sake of the bread of angels.

She loathed the mixture of pure blood from the sick, which she drank entire, that she might offer penance.

Look how the devil despises Rose's virtues: the raging river Styx drags her, tosses her about on the floor.

St. Catherine visits and comforts her every day: this she makes the winged heavenly multitude friends of Rose.

With an address and touch of her hand, Mary excites Rose from her sleep to prayer and devotions.

When fearful that she was reprobated, Christ spoke thus: "Thou Rose art this Rose which my right arm holds."

While Rose prayed the hours, turning over the book, behold a little Jesus* smiling crossed the book.
*Iesulus, in the Latin

While weaving or sewing to get her parents bread, Christ would dash up and offer her kisses.

Very often holding hands through the meadows and buildings, behold the little bridegroom visits His bride.

Once in an ecstasy of mind a person saw the name “Rose” made to move before a cross on a star.

Lo! Amongst the sick, and also she herself ill, she turned into an Angelic form many times and in many places.

While Rose dies in the house of the quartermaster general, she is turned into the very face of the dying Christ.

Here there is a company of angels who lead Rose to heaven. And here Mary holds the garland prepared for Rose.

Her relics, her tomb, even her image drives away every illness and death.

From the Writings of Saint Rose of Lima:

"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! 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."

"Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart."

"Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven."

" 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 anticipation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.' "

Litany of St. Rose of Lima

Lord, have mercy on us.
 Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ hear us.
 Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven,
 Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
 Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit,
 Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
 Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Queen of Virgins,
 Pray for us. (repeat after each line)
St. Dominic, glorious Patriarch,
St. Rose, prepared by the dew of heavenly grace,
One in whom the grace of God was not fruitless,
From infancy illustrious for holiness,
Foolish to the world but chosen by God to confound the wise,
Dear to the Virgin Mary while yet a child,
Consecrated to Christ by a vow of virginity,
Disdaining all things to gain Christ,
Shining example of an angelic life,
Lily among the thorns,
Nailed to the Cross of Christ,
Model of patience and mortification,
Refreshed by heavenly consolations,
Favored by appearances of the Mother of God,
Devoted to heavenly contemplation,
Inflamed with seraphic love of God,
Ardently zealous for the salvation of souls,
One whose charity was not extinguished by persecutions,
Dying in the love of Jesus and Mary,
Brought to Him whom she did love,
First flower of sanctity in America,
Ornament of Christian virgins,

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
 Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
 Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
 Have mercy on us.

Pray for us, St. Rose,
 That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, Almighty God, the author and giver of all good things, who willed that St. Rose be prepared by the dew of grace from Heaven and bloom in America as a beauteous flower of virginity and patience. Grant to us your servants, to be drawn by the perfume of her virtue, that we may deserve to become a sweet fragrance of Christ, who lives and reigns, world without end. Amen.

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