Left: Holy card, St Rose of Lima
Rose was born Isabel Flores de Oliva, on April 20, 1586, in Lima, Peru. Her mother, Maria de Oliva, was of Inca descent, and her father Gaspar Flores, was said to be a Spanish soldier, although considering the political climate in South America at that time, it is doubtful canonization would have been granted to any saint who didn't claim this lineage.
Indeed, Rose was the first saint of the Americas.
She one of the extreme ones; the women who starved and punished themselves. The hagiography is haywire. One wonders what lessons we are to take from such deliberate martyrdom:
She began by fasting three times a week, adding secret severe penances, and when her vanity was assailed, cutting off her beautiful hair, wearing coarse clothing, and roughening her hands with toil. All this time she had to struggle against the objections of her friends, the ridicule of her family, and the censure of her parents. Many hours were spent before the Blessed Sacrament, which she received daily.Like so many of the great women saints, Rose was harangued by her parents to marry, and she resolutely refused, taking a vow of virginity. At age 20, she takes the strict vows of a Dominican nun:
In her twentieth year she received the habit of St. Dominic. Thereafter she redoubled the severity and variety of her penances to a heroic degree, wearing constantly a metal spiked crown, concealed by roses, and an iron chain about her waist. Days passed without food, save a draught of gall mixed with bitter herbs. When she could no longer stand, she sought repose on a bed constructed by herself, of broken glass, stone, potsherds, and thorns. She admitted that the thought of lying down on it made her tremble with dread. Fourteen years this martyrdom of her body continued without relaxation, but not without consolation. Our Lord revealed Himself to her frequently, flooding her soul with such inexpressible peace and joy as to leave her in ecstasy for hours. At these times she offered to Him all her mortifications and penances in expiation for offences against His Divine Majesty, for the idolatry of her country, for the conversion of sinners, and for the souls in Purgatory.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia
I told you she was one of the extreme ones.
Do you suppose any of this really happened? If so, my heart bleeds for Rose. It is a fact that she was only 31 years old when she died. How could anyone have allowed her to do all that? Then again, there is no question from records that survive: this was her own choice, in the context of the pious times she lived in.
If Rose's suffering is a fable, what are they teaching us in this story? Is voluntary pain a vehicle to ecstasy and spiritual enlightenment?
Can we achieve religious or spiritual ecstasy without self-denial?
Miracles were reported after Rose's death (in 1617), by her intercession. She was canonized 1671 by Clement X. Her feast day is celebrated on August 30 in South America. Her iconography is represented by a crown of roses.
Note: This is the first in my series on women saints, whom I'll be writing about on subsequent Feast days. In so doing, I also ask for their intercession.