Feast of St. Rose of Lima

August 23, 2021 | Miles Christi

“When we serve the poor and the sick we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus.”

 St. Rose of Lima

Starting at a very young age, the fervent desire of St. Rose of Lima, born in Lima Peru,1586, as Isabel Flores de Oliva, was to be a nun. However, Isabel, later renamed Rose due to her extraordinary beauty, was not permitted by her parents to enter the convent. 

Believing that God had made her a “little” person, she obeyed her parents and did what she considered “little” things to help her family make money for survival. She was known for beautiful and delicate embroidery. In secret however, she would fast and perform acts of self motificiation, like wearing a hair shirt and whipping herself. 

Because of her beauty, many suitors pursued St. Rose for marriage. Making an early vow of virginity inspired by St. Catherine of Siena, and not interested in marriage, St. Rose cut her hair short and tried to disfigure her skin by rubbing hot peppers on her cheeks.

The struggle between St. Rose and her parents lasted 10 years after which time her mother finally allowed St. Rose at 20 years old to join the Third Order of St. Dominic. Shortly afterwards she set up a hermitage in their backyard where she would spend much time in prayer for the Indian people of Peru. Later, St. Rose transformed a room in their house into a place of care for orphaned children and the elderly. St. Rose continued her small works as a Dominican tertiary. She also offered all her small acts of penance for the good of souls in the New World. St. Rose had many dreams. One in which she said the Indians were the precious stones of a new Jerusalem, that would help to build a new Church. In another vision she saw herself wearing a crown of red roses, mirroring Christ’s crown of thorns. 

St. Rose died at the young age of 31. On her deathbed when her mother began to weep, St. Rose said, “Mother, please, don’t shed tears for me. Tears are precious, and you should shed them only for your sins.” St. Rose was canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671. She is the first saint from the New World – The Americas. At her canonization, Pope Clement X wrote she was a “rose of the sweetest savor to God, to the angels and to men…”.

The lesson we can learn from St. Rose is in a world that praises superficial beauty, we are called by God to focus not on our outer beauty, but on our inner beauty that was created by God to do his will in the life we are called to lead.   

St. Rose of Lima, pray for us.