St Rose was born in Lima, Peru April 20th, 1586 and was the first canonized saint of the New World. At birth she was given the name Isabel after her maternal grandmother, but from the time she was a baby was called Rosa or Rosita. Later she was officially given the name Rosa at her Confirmation.
Naturally amiable and physically beautiful, Rosa was greatly loved by her family and all who knew her. At home she fulfilled her duties, but also spent much of her time caring for the poor and the sick. She even helped supplement her family’s income by growing and selling flowers and creating and selling exquisite needle work. Despite her many admirers Rose refused to even consider the idea of marriage, since she took a childhood vow of virginity, very seriously. She even scarred her face so that she would not appear attractive to anyone. Instead of focusing her love and care on raising her own family, she directed her efforts to any child she knew needed her.
One of Rosa’s greatest desires in life was to become a religious, and she even received an offer to enter the Poor Clare convent. The idea met with so much resistance from her parents that she eventually withdrew from the process. Later she was given another opportunity at the Convent of the Incarnation. This time she stopped to pray at the Church of Santo Domingo with her brother Hernando. She begged that her novitiate might be blessed by God, and she was unable to move. As her brother reminded her that it was already past the hour she was expected at the convent, she replied that she knew this but she could not stand. Her brother tried to help her up, but he was
also unsuccessful. Finally she realized that there must be some reason why she should not follow through with her plan. Rose said to Our Lady “Senora, I promise that if it is not your will that I should become a cloistered nun, I will return to the house of my parents. I will continue to serve them, but I will also serve you. Their house shall be my retreat and your sanctuary”. After saying this prayer she was able to stand almost immediately.
Soon after this at the age of 20, she became a member of the Third Order Dominicans which had been founded to allow for religious life in the bosom of the family. Although she was not required to wear any kind of religious garb by her way of life, she chose to do so as a sign of her unity with Our Lord. Her's was a life of constant prayer and penance. She constantly sought solitude so that she could be alone with God.
St Rose died in Lima August 24th, 1617, and was canonized in 1671. She is the patron of Latin America where her feast is still celebrated on August 30th. As we celebrate her life let us ask St Rose to show us how to love God more deeply and serve him more faithfully. May the light of her example help us to draw ever nearer to Christ, so that our example will lead others to follow him.
St Rose of Lima Pray for us!