St. Rose of Lima (1586-1617)

Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
The life of this saint is like a rose among thorns. She was born into a poor, but upper class family in Peru, soon after the conquest. As a child she suffered physical and psychological abuse from her neurotic mother and grandmother, each of whom slapped or beat her when she answered the name the other had given her -- Isabel or Rose. After several years, when the bishop of Lima finally established that her name was Rose, the slaps and beatings stopped, but she could never please her mother.

Coming from such a bewildering childhood, she identified deeply with the suffering Christ. She longed to become a nun, but was prevented by her family from doing so. She practiced austere penances at home and eventually became a Dominican tertiary. She was a close friend of another Dominican saint with an unhappy childhood, Martin de Porres. To help support her family, she did fine embroidery and raised flowers for sale. Along with flowers, she raised medicinal herbs which she used to cure the sick poor of Lima who began flocking to her small infirmary in her family’s home. She had a special love and concern for the Indians who had been savagely conquered by men like Pizarro. She herself had Inca blood.

Her love for God was passionate and deep. She wrote mystical poetry, which she occasionally sang with a guitar. Like many a Spanish mystic, she had to defend herself before the dreaded Inquisition. Near the end of her short life, a small bird came each day at sunset and sang a love song with her that she had composed. She died after a painful illness, just as a clock was striking midnight -- reminiscent of the Gospel parable of the Bridegroom and the ten virgins bearing lamps.

Her feast day is August 23.


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