Saint Rose of Lima: First American Saint
August 23 is the feast of Saint Rose of Lima, virgin, who was known for her piety and her care of the poor. She is the patron saint of embroiderers, florists, gardeners, people ridiculed for their piety, and those who suffer from family problems.
Isabella Flores de Oliva was born April 20, 1586 to a family of educated, but impoverished Spanish immigrants in Lima, Peru. At her confirmation, she took the name of Rose, because as an infant, her face transformed into a mystical rose.
She was pious from an early age. At age five, she built a small chapel for herself in the family garden. When she made her first Confession, she obtained permission from her confessor to make a vow of virginity.
Rose had a strong devotion for Jesus and the Blessed Mother and spent long hours praying before the Blessed Sacrament. With St. Catherine of Siena as her model, Rose fasted three times a week, offered up severe penances, and when her vanity was attacked, she cut off her beautiful hair and wore coarse clothing. She frequently deprived herself of food, water, and sleep. As a result of her exterior mortification, she had interior mystical experiences as well as long periods of darkness and desolation. For fifteen years, she went through the “dark night of the soul.”
Rose worked hard to support her poor parents (by embroidering and gardening) and she humbly obeyed them, except when they tried to get her to marry. That she would not do. For ten years she fought them on this issue as she had secretly taken a vow of virginity with the permission of her confessor at the age of five. At the same time, she experienced great temptations which resulted in excruciating mental anguish and loneliness.
At age 20, Rose joined the Third Order of St. Dominic and thereafter increased her penances as well as her good works. She moved into a small hut in her parents’ garden and served the poor and the sick in a makeshift infirmary. Our Lord frequently manifested Himself to her, filling her heart with peace and joy, leaving her in ecstasy for hours. In her last long, painful sickness, this heroic young woman prayed: “Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart.”
Exhausted from her many penances, Rose died of a fever and paralysis at age 31. She was canonized in 1671 by Pope Clement X and became the first American saint.
Rose stands out among Dominican saints in her understanding of the immeasurable value of redemptive suffering. Speaking of the power that directed her life, she wrote, “That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of Divine Grace.”
Saint Rose of Lima Quotes
“Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”
“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.”
“Would that mortal men might know how wonderful is divine grace, how beautiful, how precious; what riches are hidden therein, what treasures, what joys, what delights. If they but knew, surely they would direct their energy with all care and diligence to procuring sufferings and afflictions for themselves. Instead of good fortune all men everywhere would seek out troubles, illness and suffering that they might obtain the inestimable treasure of grace. This is the final profit to be gained from patient endurance. No one would complain about the cross or about hardships coming seemingly by chance upon him, if he realized in what balance they are weighed before being distributed to men.”
— Saint Rose of Lima
“Affliction is always accompanied by Grace; Grace is proportionate to Suffering. The measure of My gifts is increased with the measure of trials.” – Jesus to St. Rose of Lima
“Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’ ” – from the writings of Saint Rose of Lima