Rose of Lima (+1617) birth name was Isabel, but called ‘Rose’ when a servant saw her face mystically transformed. Sure enough, Isabel-Rose would go on to become the first native-born canonized saint of the Americas, renowned even during her lifetime for her generosity and charity, flowing from a life of self-denial and asceticism and prayer. Although beautiful and desired, from the earliest age she renounced any thought of marriage, making a private vow of virginity, cutting her hair and smearing pepper on her face, so that she would appear less appealing to members of the less-fair sex. Her father forbade her entrance into the convent, so she remained in the lay-state, joining the third-order Dominicans in their spiritual work, helping the poor, selling the fine needle-work she would make.
When we read of her rather extreme penances – in imitation of her Dominican predecessor, Catherine of Siena – fasting three times a week, sleeping two hours a night, wearing a crown of thorns, many hours of prayer – we should see these as motivated by the love of God, and not from any morbidity. For Rose, they were not a denial of the goodness of these natural things, but rather an affirmation, for their goodness derives from their source, He Who is all good. She sought to remove all that stood in the way of complete devotion and self-gift to the One Who has given all to us. I consider all things as dross, as Saint Paul confessed.
And God did not stint in his reciprocity, favouring Rose with ecstasies, visions, miracles and heavenly delights. Foretelling her own death, she entered heaven at the tender age of 31, anno Domini 1617. She was canonized sixty years later – a short span in those days – April 12, 1671 by Pope Clement X.
She is the patron saint of embroiderers, the Philippines and, of course, Peru, where she appears on their highest currency, the 200 soles bill, ironic for one who never owned any money, nor anything much at all. For all she had, she gave to God, something we should ponder in this age of immersion and addiction in all the ‘world’ has to offer.
Saint Rose of Lima, oren pro nosostros!