St. Rose of Viterbo: Miracle Worker
On September 4, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Rose of Viterbo (1235-2352), miracle worker, Franciscan tertiary, and Virgin. She is the patron saint of exiles, teriaries, and those rejected by religious orders.
Rose was born of poor and pious parents, in Viterbo, Italy. She entered the world at a time when Emperor Frederick II was oppressing the Church and denouncing the Papacy, in order to regain control of the “Roman Empire.” Pope Gregory IX excommunicated the heretic and war raged across Italy. Many were unfaithful to the Holy See.
Rose was filled with grace from birth. Before she could walk, her parents would find her kneeling before Jesus in His tabernacle, praying before sacred images.
At the age of three, she miraculously brought her aunt back from death by laying her hands upon her and calling out her name. At the age of seven, she professed her intention to live the life of a hermit, devoting herself to penance and fasting.
At that time, Rose became very ill and nearly died of consumption. The Blessed Mother appeared to her on her sickbed, and Rose suddenly exclaimed to those gathered beside her: “All of you here, why do you not greet the Queen of the world? Do you not see Mary, the august Mother of my God, coming forward? Let us go to meet her, and prostrate ourselves before her majesty!”
Knowing Rose to possess supernatural gifts, they turned toward the door and knelt down. Mary, the Mother of God, spoke to Rose, telling her she must enter the Third Order of Saint Francis, then go out to “reprove, convince, exhort and bring back the erring to the paths of salvation. If your endeavors bring upon you sarcasm and mockery, persecution and labor, you must bear them patiently… Those who assist you will be enriched with all the graces of the Lord.”
Rose miraculously recovered, and donned the habit of the Third Order Franciscans. Shortly afterwards, she had another vision. This time, our Lord appeared to her on the cross, wearing the crown of thorns on His head and bleeding profusely from all His wounds. He revealed to Rose that his love for men and their sins had caused his great suffering.
Consequently, Rose carried a cross in her hand and went out into public squares of her city, telling people of the terrible tortures our Lord suffered and of the evil of sin. At the age of 8, she began preaching penance to the city of Viterbo, and defending the papacy and continued this for the next two years. As Viterbo had been captured by the forces of the emperor, her father eventually forbade her to preach. However, it was the prefect of the city banished her from Viterbo.
The family left Viterbo and took refuge in the city of Sorriano. On December 5, 1250, Rose foretold the speedy death of the emperor, a prophecy that was realized on December 13. Soon afterwards she went to Vitorchiano, whose inhabitants had been corrupted by a famous sorceress. Rose obtained the conversion of all, even of the sorceress, by standing unharmed for three hours in the flames of a burning pyre. With the restoration of the papal power in Viterbo in1251, Rose returned.
Rose then attempted to enter the convent of Saint Mary of the Roses, but was turned away due to the lack of a dowry. She returned home and lived in a private cell in her father’s house, where she increased her prayer and mortification, continued to pray for the faith of the Catholic Church, and demonstrate great zeal for the Lord. Several young women came to live with her, and she instructed them in the faith.
At the young age of 18, Rose died, having prophesized her own death (of what is now believed to have been a heart defect). Her dying words to her parents were: “I die with joy, for I desire to be united to my God. Live so as not to fear death. For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening, but sweet and precious.”
Saint Rose of Viterbo was buried in the church of Santa Maria in Podio. After her death, Pope Alexander IV ordered that her body by laid to rest in the convent that had refused her admission and her incorrupt body was translated to the convent of Saint Mary of the Roses. Her body remains fragrant and beautiful. For more than 700 years it has remained supple and unchanged, except for its color, which was darkened after a fire in the chapel where her body reposed had occurred.
in the youthful Saint Rose, Your servant,
You combined wonderful courage of soul
and unsullied innocence.
As we celebrate her merits
may we imitate the example of her virtues.
“Prayer reveals to souls the vanity of earthly goods and pleasures. It fills them with light, strength and consolation; and gives them a foretaste of the calm bliss of our heavenly home.”
— St. Rose of Viterbo