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SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, VIRGIN
From her life written by Hansen, a Dominican friar, and from the elegant panegyric pronounced by F. Paul Oliva, S. J. in presence of the pope.
A. D. 1617.
ASIA, Europe, and Africa had been watered with the blood of many martyrs, and adorned, during many ages, with the shining examples of innumerable saints, whilst, by the inscrutable judgments of God, the vast regions of America lay barren, and, as it were, abandoned till the faith of Christ began to enlighten them, and this saint appeared on that hemisphere like a rose amidst thorns, the first-fruits of its canonized saints. She was of Spanish extraction, born at Lima, the capital of Peru, in 1586.* She was christened Isabel; but the figure and color of her face in the cradle seeming, in some measure, to resemble a beautiful rose, the name of Rose was given her. From her infancy her patience in suffering, and her love of mortification, were extraordinary, and whilst yet a child, she ate no fruit, and fasted three days a week, allowing herself on them only bread and water, and on other days, taking only unsavory herbs and pulse. When she was grown up, her garden was planted only with bitter herbs, and interspersed with figures of crosses. In her exercises she took St. Catharine of Sienna for her model. Every incentive of pride and sensuality was to her an object of abhorrence, and, for fear of taking any secret satisfaction in vanity, she studied to make those things in which it might insinuate its poison, painful to her. One day her mother having put on her head a garland of flowers, she secretly stuck in it a pin, which pricked her so deep, that the maid at night could not take off the garland without some difficulty. Hearing others frequently commend her beauty, and fearing lest it should be an occasion of temptation to any one, whenever she was to go abroad to any public place, she used, the night before, to rub her face and hands with the bark and powder of Indian pepper, which is a violent corrosive, in order to disfigure her skin with little blotches and swellings. A young man happening one day to admire the fineness of the skin of her hand, she immediately ran and thrust both her hands into hot lime, saying, “Never let my hands be to any one an occasion of temptation.” What a confusion is this example to those who make it their study to set themselves off by their dress, to become snares to others! We admire a St. Bennet on briers, a St. Bernard freezing in the ice, and a St. Francis in the snow; these saints were cruel to themselves, not to be overcome by the devil; but Rose punishes herself to preserve others. Thus did she arm herself against her external enemies, and against the revolt of her senses. But she was aware that this victory would avail her little, unless she died to herself by crucifying in her heart inordinate self-love, which is the source of pride, and all the other passions. This is the most important and most difficult part of our spiritual warfare; for so long as self-love reigns in the affections of the heart, it blasts with its poisonous influence even virtues themselves; it has so many little artful windings, that it easily insinuates and disguises itself everywhere, wears every mask, and seeks itself even in fasting and prayer. Rose triumphed over this subtle enemy by the most profound humility, and the most perfect obedience and denial of her own will. She never departed wilfully from the order of her parents in the least tittle, and gave proofs of her scrupulous obedience, and invincible patience under all pains, labor, and contradictions, which surprised all that knew her.
Her parents, by the vicissitude of worldly affairs, fell from a state of opulence into great distress, and Rose was taken into the family of the treasurer Gonsalvo, by that gentleman’s pious lady; and by working there all day in the garden, and late at night with her needle, she relieved them in their necessities. These employments were agreeable to her penitential spirit and humility, and afforded her an opportunity of never interrupting the interior commerce of her soul with God. She probably would never have entertained any thoughts of another state, if she had not found herself importuned by her friends to marry. To rid herself of such troublesome solicitations, and more easily to comply with the obligation she had taken upon herself by a vow of serving God in a state of holy virginity, she enrolled herself in the third Order of St. Dominic. Her love of solitude made her choose for her dwelling a little lonely cell in a garden. Extraordinary fasts, hair cloths, studded iron chains which she wore about her waist, bitter herbs mingled in the sustenance which she took, and other austerities, were the inventions of her spirit of mortification and penance. She wore upon her head a tin circle of silver (a metal very common in Peru studded on the inside with little sharp pricks or nails, which wounded her head, in imitation of a crown of thorns. This she did to put her in mind of the adorable passion of Christ, which incomprehensible mystery of divine love and mercy she desired to have always in her thoughts. She never spoke of herself but as of the basest of sinful monsters, the sink of the universe, unworthy to breathe the air, to behold the light, or to walk on the ground; and she never ceased to adore the infinite goodness and mercy of God towards her. So ardent was her love of God, that as often as she spoke of it, the accent of her voice, and the fire which sparkled in her countenance, discovered the flame which consumed her holy soul. This appeared most sensibly when she was in presence of the blessed sacrament, and when in receiving it she united her heart to her beloved in that wonderful fountain of his love; her whole life was a continual vehement thirst after that divine banquet, in which she found her greatest comfort and support during the course of her earthly pilgrimage. God favored the fervor of her charity with many extraordinary graces; and Christ once in a vision called her soul his spouse. But, for her humiliation, and the exercise of her virtue, she suffered, during fifteen years, grievous persecutions from her friends and others; and, what were much more severe trials, interior desolation, and dreadful agonies of spiritual anguish in her soul. The devil also assaulted her with violent temptations, filling her imagination with filthy phantoms. But God afterward recompensed her fidelity and constancy in this life with extraordinary caresses. Under long and most painful sicknesses it was her prayer, “Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase thy love in my heart.” She happily passed to eternal bliss on the 24th of August, 1617, being thirty-one years old. The chapter, senate, and all the most honorable companies of the city, by turns, carried her body to the grave; the archbishop assisted at her funeral. Several miracles wrought by her means were juridically proved by one hundred and eighty witnesses before the apostolical commissaries. She was canonized by Clement X. in 1671, and the 30th day of August has been appointed for her festival.
The saints, whether in the world, in the desert, or in the cloister, studied to live every moment to God. If we make a pure and perfect intention of always doing His will the governing principle of our whole lives, we thus consecrate to Him all our moments, even our meals, our rest, our conversation, and whatever else we do; all our works will thus be full. To attain to this perfection we must crucify in our hearts all inordinate self-love, or it will creep into our actions, and secretly rob God of them. We must study to remove every obstacle that can hinder the perfect reign of divine love in our souls, and must pray and labor with all our strength, that this love be continually increased in us. If true charity animate our souls, it will regulate and sanctify all our actions. By it we shall ardently endeavor to glorify God alone in all our works, and sincerely offer and refer ourselves and all we do to this end, repeating in the beginning of every action. Hallowed be thy name, both by me with all my powers and strength, and by all thy creatures, now and for ever. Or, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, may it be always fulfilled by me, and in me, and all others, with the most ardent affection, and pure intention, as it is by the blessed angels above, O God of my heart, my God, and my All!