Rose of Lima: a saint who's difficult to understand

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"Rose of Lima" by Pam Spano (CatholicMom.com)

By Claudio Coello[2], Public Domain, Link. Text added by author.

Today we acknowledge, celebrate, and ask the intercession of Rose of Lima, patroness of Peru, South America, the Indies and the Philippines. She is also patroness of the care of the sick, Christian love, and serving the poor.

Rose of Lima was unfamiliar to me, so I started researching her through books I already had.

Rose was a beautiful young woman who felt her looks were a distraction. She “rubbed her face with pepper and her hands with lime” according to Melanie Rigney’s Sisterhood of the Saints. Despite her self-abuse she did fine needlework which helped to support her family.

Today’s Magnificat meditation tells us that this beautiful girl of Puerto Rican and Incan descent was born in Lima, Peru in 1586. Catherine of Siena became Rose’s role model at an early age and Rose even entered the same religious order, the Dominican Third Order. Rose “wore a spiked silver crown disguised with roses and slept on a bed of broken tiles.” She endured these extreme mortifications for the conversion of sinners and her Native Peruvians.

Rose’s intentional mortifications chill me. During a recent illness, I offered up my meager sufferings for family and friends. I can’t imagine harming myself deliberately for such a prayer intention.

In Bert Ghezzi’s Voices of the Saints, there is a more detailed account of Rose’s mortifications.

“She fasted often. Sometimes she made herself vomit after meals, which today would probably be regarded as bulimia. She prayed long hours and frequently beat herself with a little whip.”

In Rose’s own words she offered “thirty-three extra communions for the fringes of his swaddling clothes.” She promised to “assist at thirty-three Masses and to spend thirty-three hours in mental prayer.” She also promised to recite thirty-three times the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Creed, the Glory Be to the Father, and the Salve Regina.  And finally:

“I will also recite thirty-three rosaries, fast thirty-three days and take three thousand stripes of the discipline in honor of the thirty-three years he spent on earth.

Lastly, I offer as a gift to my dear Jesus, my tears, my groans and all the acts of love that I shall make. With this I offer my heart and soul that there may be nothing in me that is not entirely consecrated to him.”

Rose did these things out of her love for Christ. It is difficult to understand, isn’t it? Her love for Jesus, her mortification is something that I will ponder for some time.

I may not be able to harm myself in an offering to Christ, but I can say Our Father, Hail Mary, the Creed, the Glory Be to the Father and the Salve Regina throughout the day in offering to Him who suffered like no other and understands my limitations in suffering for Him.


Copyright 2018 Pam Spano

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About Author

Pam Spano converted to the Catholic faith as an adult over 30 years ago. Her conversion story started when she sarcastically said to her Catholic boyfriend at the time, "I suppose if we were to get married, you would want me to convert." He thought for a moment and said, "Well, I am worried about your soul." And so the journey began ...

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