Saint Rose of Lima
Her heart was so hot with divine love that she sometimes believed she was dying from joy.
The first canonized saint on the South American continent, she is the main patroness of Latin America. In her short life she experienced the intimacy of prayer: "I can only explain myself with silence", she loved to repeat. She was animated by a concern, which today would be called solidarity, towards the Indians, the most miserable and marginalized of the Peruvian people. She shared her abandonment and suffering, she tried to transmit her dream and her missionary enthusiasm to the priests: "We must bring salvation and holiness among the natives".
Isabel Flores Oliva was born on April 20, 1586 to Gaspare Fiores, a nobleman from a noble family of the archibuques company and to Maria Oliva, a native of Lima also of Spanish origins. Her father, was born in Spain, had emigrated first to Puerto Rico and then to Lima, the capital of the vice-kingdom of Peru called Ciudad de los Reyes at the time. Tenth of thirteen children, Isabel was baptized as the grandmother. Rose was called by her nanny Mariana India who, according to the indigenous custom, imposed the name of a flower to enhance her beauty. Then the girl will ask Heaven what name she should have and the Queen of the Rosary will say to her: You are Rose of Saint Mary. And such will remain her name.
She was always tied to the nurse as a real mother, it was certainly the first reason that led Rose to take care of the Indians. She wondered why the Spanish, Christian conquerors, called by the Gospel to love and compassion for their neighbor, had instead brought so much abuse and violence to the new world.
The discovery of asceticism was very early for Rose. Since childhood, she contemplated the image of Jesus maturing a faith, made of physical sacrifices, heroism, fervor. She was five when she decided to fast on alternate days. At six she underwent penances to mortify vanity. Meanwhile she was passionate about studying, learning the art of embroidery, taking care of the flowers in the home garden.
Rose was, from the early years, a real contradiction with respect to the ambitions of her parents, determined as it was to follow only the divine suffering Master, meek and humble of heart.
As a child Rosa had a great inclination to prayer and meditation. One day, praying before an image of the Virgin Mary, the child Jesus seemed to her and said to her: "Rose consecrate all your love to me". So she proposed to live loving Jesus Christ. And on hearing from her brother that many men fell madly in love with her for the attraction of her flowing hair and her very beautiful skin, she cut her hair and put chili pepper on her face, and covered her face with a veil, in order to not to be a temptation for anyone.
A young man of high social class fell in love with Rose and wanted to marry her. Her parents were very enthusiastic because they were poor and marriage offered them a bright future. But despite the sorrows caused to the family, she declared that her love was only for God and that she completely renounced any marriage. She was forced by her parents to attend a dance in which she passed out, in assisting her they removed her veil and discovered that she wore a crown of thorns like that of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the important moments of her life was the "Mystical Marriage", which happened on Palm Sunday in the Rosary Chapel (Church of Santo Domingo in Lima). Rose, did not receive the palm tree she was to carry in the procession, and she thought this was a message from God for some offense she made. Anguished she went to the Chapel from the image of the Rosary where she heard the call of the Child Jesus who said to her: "Rose of My Heart, I want you for Bride, and she replied:" Here you have Lord your humble slave".
When the family had to give up the ease for a series of disruptions Rose, now a young girl, helped the poor budget by turning in the homes of the nobles of Lima to sell her embroidery and her flowers. After knowing the poverty of her home, she discovered in her tours of the neighborhoods a much more humiliating poverty, that of the Indians disheartened by privations, surrounded by contempt.
She had read some texts about Saint Catherine of Siena, who enchanted her and became for her as "mother and sister", a model of contemplative mysticism and of service to her brothers. It was precisely Our Lady who indicated to her that she was to be, like Saint Catherine, a Sister of the penance of the Dominican Third Lay Order. Spiritually guided by Father Juan de Lorenzana and other Fathers of the convent of Santo Domingo, she prepared herself with more bitter penances for her profession in the Confraternity. At the age of twenty, on 10 August 1606, she dressed in the white cassock with the scapular, the mantle and the black veil, of Dominican tertiary, she wanted to be called Rose of Saint Mary and retired to a hut at the bottom of the garden that will become her life monastic.
The radical choice shocked Lima's right-thinking people, while some began to visit her in her refuge and were struck by her unusual spirituality for such a young and beautiful girl. Over time the fame of her asceticism spread in the city, many began to talk about her ecstasies.
"The Savior raised her voice and said, let everyone know that grace follows tribulation, that without the burden of afflictions one does not reach the summit of grace, and they understand that as the intensity of pain grows, the extent of the charisms increases. Nobody err or be deceived, this is the only true stairway to heaven outside the cross there is no other way to go up to heaven ". Hearing these words, I felt compelled to go down to the square to shout to everyone: "Listen people, let's listen to all people. On the part of Christ and with words of his own mouth, I warn you that you do not receive grace without suffering. This is the purchase and the ultimate gain of suffering is welcome". As you yourself wrote.
With the help of her brother Flores of Herrera, she built a small cell or hermitage in the garden of her parents' house. It was a very cold place in winter and sultry in summer, surrounded by myriads of mosquitoes, in this place Saint Rose of Lima retired to pray for twelve hours and to do penance, practicing a very severe asceticism, with a crown of thorns under the veil, hair nailed to the wall so as not to sleep, gall as a drink, rigorous fasting and constant disciplines. The cell and the garden were spectators of many extraordinary events.
Her biographers say that her mystical experiences and states of ecstasy were very frequent. It seems that weekly she experienced an ecstasy similar to that of Saint Catherine of Ricci, her age and her sister; it is said that every Thursday morning she closed herself in her oratory and did not return to herself until Saturday morning.
Her fast was almost continuous. And her abstinence from meat was perpetual. She ate the minimum necessary so as not to faint from weakness. Still on hot days, she did not take refreshing drinks of any kind, and although sometimes her thirst tormented her, it was enough for her to look at the crucifix and remember the thirst of Jesus on the cross, to continue to endure her thirst, for love of God.
She whipped her body until she tore her skin. The severity and variety of her penances reached a heroic degree, constantly using a crown of metal thorns, hidden with roses, and an iron chain on her life. When she could not stand now, she sought rest in a bed built by her, of broken glass, stone, remains of containers, and thorns. She admitted that the thought of going to bed made her tremble with fear.
This martyrdom of her body lasted fourteen years without interruption, but not without consolation. Our Lord frequently revealed himself and flooded her soul with peace and cheerfulness, to such an extent that she could remain in ecstasy for four hours. On these occasions she offered the Lord all her mortifications and penances in expiation for the offenses against His Divine Majesty, for the idolatry of her country, for the conversion of sinners, and for the souls of Purgatory.
Located in the garden of the house, there was a deep well nineteen meters, in this well according to tradition, Saint Rose of Lima threw the key of the lock of the sackcloth that tightened her body. When her confessor and relatives found that the chain had already stuck in her skin, her confessor ordered her to remove it, but she said what had happened and went to cry at the well. It was there that the Lord miraculously opened the chain that surrounded the body through Grace. This is why people come to invoke the Wishing Well.
She became the nurse of the sick grandmother in bed, continued her manual sewing and embroidery work to sell to help the most miserable, she began to welcome some abandoned children and elderly people, almost all of Indian origin, into the father's house. Her physique was beginning to give way, tormented by mortifications, fasts and vigils. Rose spent the night at contemplation and slept only three hours.
In 1614, her mother worried about her condition, now almost exhausted, convinced her to leave the hut at the bottom of the garden and move to the home of the spouses Gonzalo and Maria de la Maza. She suffered from sharp pains throughout her body, however she had a cell built with wooden boards in the barn of the house and spent whole days without leaving it. In that period she underwent a massive assault by the devil who wanted to prevent her from completing the conquest of many souls, her reputation for holiness came out increased.
Rose spent three relatively peaceful years, attracted to her spiritual world and lived the mystical experience of "marriage with the Lord". As a child she knew that she would die on August 24 feast of St. Bartholomew. In the previous days she asked for Viaticum and the Anointing of the Sick and wanted the Dominican scapular to be spread on the covers. She died on August 24, 1617, thirty-one years exhausted from penance.
Since the day of death, numerous miracles and graces were attributed to the Saint of Lima. In the same year the first Life of Rose of Saint Mary came out, which was immediately sent to Rome for the start of the canonical process, together with a plea from the Dominicans and other orders present in Lima. The same request came to the Vatican from the Spanish court, with letters from the future Charles II and the queen mother Mariana. The trial was opened in 1634, by special arrangement of Pope Alexander VII. Rose of Lima, very popular not only in America but also in Catholic Europe, was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement X in 1671. Her body is venerated in Lima, in a crypt in the convent of Santo Domingo.
Pope St. John Paul II wrote: America has seen a flowering of holiness from the beginning of its evangelization. This is the case of Saint Rose of Lima, "The first flower of holiness in the New World. The Church, canonizing these saints, sees in them powerful intercessors with Jesus Christ, the high and eternal Priest, mediator between God and man sees them like brothers and sisters who accompany with fraternal concern, the men and women of their land, while, among the joys and sufferings, they are on the way to the definitive encounter with the Lord.
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