As we near the end of August we come to the 1st canonized saint of the Americas; Saint Rose of Lima. She was born in Peru in the year 1586, and named Isabella at her baptism. It was only shortly after that her name was changed to Rose after one of the family’s servants had seen a blossoming rose bud suspended directly over the infant girl. So much, was her mother taken with her daughter’s beauty, that she took to calling her Rose after the incident, often saying that her daughter was as beautiful as a rose.
Her family had at one time enjoyed wealth and comfort but due to a loss of fortune in a mining venture, young Rose often did needlework and sold flowers that she grew in the family’s garden to help support her family. At a young age she began practicing severe penances and praying for long hours. And as she blossomed into a beautiful young woman, she took great pains to hide her beauty from others. One time she even rubbed pepper over her face to swell it and cause blisters to form. She eventually cut off her beautiful hair and hid what was left under a veil.
Her parents had hoped that she would marry a wealthy noble man to ease their financial burdens but Rose wished to dedicate her life to God and become a nun. When her parents refused to let her join a convent, she built a small hut in their back yard and spent many hours there praying and offering penances for the conversion of the people of Peru, many of whom were Incas and pagans. She often brought the sick and infirm into her small hut and cared for them. Then finally after many years of protests from her parents, she was able to join the Third Order of St. Dominic, donning their habit and taking a vow of perpetual virginity.
Often neighbors would see Rose with a young child playing near the trees or walking hand in hand in the yard. The people did not recognize the Infant at first, but then when they followed the path of Rose and her companion, they found that the infant Child left silver footprints where His feet touched the earth. Many graces were spread through the young saint and soon she found herself standing up for people who were being mistreated. Many times people were cured under her care due to the specials graces she received from the Child Jesus. As word spread of her charitable deeds, she earned the nickname “Mother of the Poor.” Soon more and more people began to realize just how special Rose was.
For fifteen years Rose cared for the poor people of Peru, serving God and bringing the Faith to those around her. She was friends with Saint Martin de Porres, who lived in the same city and spent much time with him, working to spread the Faith. By the time she was just thirty- one, her health was failing due to the long hours of work and the way she punished her body. She became ill and died on August 24, 1617.
It was not until her death, did the people of Lima realize how widely known she had become, and how much her life had influenced the common people of Peru. For when her body was taken down the street to the cathedral, a great crowd of mourners gathered…crying as news spread of her passing. For several days it was impossible to perform the burial because of the great crowds that came to bid her farewell. She was finally laid to rest in the Dominican Convent of Lima. Later though, when miracles and cures began to be attributed to her, her body was transferred to the Church of San Domingo. There it is reposed still today in a special chapel. Rose of Lima was declared patroness of South America and the Philippines; she was canonized by Pope Clement in 1671, with August 30 being appointed her feast-day. This holy woman is highly honored in all Spanish-American countries. The emblems associated with her are an anchor, a crown of roses, and a city. Saint Rose of Lima, pray for us. Amen.