Emily M. DeArdo


St. Rose of Lima: Saint of Peru

Catholicism, dominican saints seriesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

St. Rose is an excellent saint for our times. 

Recently, I was reading a magazine article that talked about scar removal and the various ways to do it. I laughed a bit and then sighed, because I've got a third-degree burn on my right arm. Well, I did. But it's one huge scar, and no amount of dermatological intervention is going to make it go away. I live with it, and I don't mind it--but I know to some people, it would be a huge problem. 

I'm not saying we shouldn't try to be beautiful. I wear make-up, y'all. I'm saying that St. Rose teaches us that physical perfection isn't all we should be focusing on--in fact, she saw it as a hindrance to what her real calling was. 

St. Rose was born on April 20, 1586, the seventh of eleven children born to Gaspar and Maria Flores. Her parents had little money, but some social prestige. Her baptismal name was Isabel, but she was nicknamed Rose after an incident in her childhood--a servant claimed to have seen her face transform into a rose. When she was confirmed in 1597, she formally took Rose as her name. 

As a young girl, she read about St. Catherine of Siena, and began to emulate her, especially with intense fasting. She was a beautiful girl, and was often praised and admired for her beauty. In what may be a bit of extreme measures, she cut off her hair and smeared peppers on her face.(The hair, OK. The peppers? I'm not going to try that anytime soon.) This, you can imagine, did not please her parents, who wanted her married. Her mother, especially, loved and praised her daughter's beauty. 

Rose spent many hours before the Blessed Sacrament, and received communion frequently. She undertook severe, secret penances, and abstained entirely from meat. Finally, in frustration, her father gave her a private room in the family house for her use, and her parents gave up trying to marry her off. 

She helped the sick and hungry of Lima, bringing them to her room and caring for them, and selling her exquisite needlework and embroidery to help support the poor and her family. She was especially devoted to the indigenous Peruvians, and prayed intensely for their conversion. 

During this time, Dutch pirates invaded Lima's harbor and defeated the Peruvian fleet. They intended not only to loot the city, but to desecrate Lima's churches. The women, children, and religious of Lima took refuge in the churches, and in the church of Santo Domingo, Rose stirred all of them to prayer. The pirates burst into the church, but saw St. Rose ablaze in light, holding the monstrance which contained the Blessed Sacrament. They fled and returned to their ships, leaving the churches in tact. 

Rose had wanted to become a Dominican nun, but her father forbade it, so she became a member of the third order instead. She took a vow of perpetual virginity when she was twenty, and only allowed herself to sleep two hours a night, so she'd have more time for prayer.

The Spanish oppression of the indigenous Peruvians greatly distressed her, and she was diagnosed with arthritis and asthma. Her only human support was St. Martin des Porres, himself a Dominican, who offered her spiritual counsel. 

She died at the age of 31, after being joined to Christ in a mystical marriage, like her great role model, St. Catherine of Siena. She was canonized on April 12, 1671, by Pope Clement X, and was the first Catholic in the Americas to be declared a saint. 

Her feast day is August 22, and she is the patron of embroiderers, gardeners, florists, India, Latin America, the resolution of family quarrels, Peru, the Philippines, against vanity, and the city of Lima. She's often seen wearing or holding wreaths of roses--her mother liked to place these on her daughter's head to accentuate her beauty, but Rose saw them as her own "crown of thorns"