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Saint Rose of Lima

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Saint Rose was born Isabel Flores de Olivia in the city of Lima in Peru (at the time, it was the Viceroyalty of Peru) on April 30, 1586. As an infant, a caretaker claimed to see her face transform into a rose, hence the namesake she would be known by. She officially take the name Rose (Rosa) at her confirmation in 1597.

As she grew older, she continued to grow more and more beautiful, much to her dismay. Upset that potential suitors began to notice her, she would often rub her face in pepper and other oils and cut her hair off to appear less beautiful. Her plan of a vow of chastity crashed head on with her family, who had hoped she would find a nice husband to marry.

From an early age, Saint Rose showed a love and determination for her faith that truly set her apart from the world. An almost unheard of practice at the time, Saint Rose would receive the blessed sacrament daily. What started as a fast three times a week became a complete abstinence of meat. Her parents built an addition to their house, letting her live there. Out of that room she would take care of the poor, feed the hungry and spend hours upon hours contemplating the Blessed Sacrament.

Not allowed to take the oath and became a nun due to her parents, she entered the Third Order of Saint Dominic, and at the age of twenty donned the habit of tertiary. So great was her dedication and love, she would sleep no more than two hours a night , so that she could spend every minute possible for prayer. She would eventually don a heavy spiked silver crown to remind her of the Crown of Thorns Jesus was forced to wear.

To aid her family's finances, she grew beautiful flowers and designed needlework to sell at the market. She also made lace and embroidery for her outreach to the poor. Outside of her family and those who came in need, she faded from public view into a grotto she had built for reflection and prayer.

Saint Rose's battle with the demonic

Saint Rose is famous for her encounters and physically battles by the devil. Once, disguised as a giant, he attacked her in the room she served the poor out of it. As he continued to try to bite and attack her, Saint Rose said aloud

"Lord, do not abandon to the tyrannical fury of these hellish monsters who hope in thee"

The Devil fled upon hearing the words. Constantly he would insult and mock her, slapping her in the face and once throwing a stone at her head that caused her to faint on the ground.

Late at night while praying, the devil began making noises to detract her attention from prayer. In an act that can only be described as Saintly, she challenged him to combat. Gladly, he accepted, once again taking the form of a giant and attacking her. As he viciously hit and shook her, she began to laugh, telling him that for all his strength he could not even defeat her resolve.

Once in her garden, the devil appeared again, this time in the form of a handsome young man. She fled immediately, and after disciplining her self with a thick iron chain, she complained to God that He had abandoned her in this fight. She would tell others that Jesus Christ then appeared in front of her and said:

“Rose, you are deceived if you imagine that I left you alone in this extremity. Know that you have only avoided this danger by My grace, and that if I had not been with thee in this dangerous occasion, you would not have triumphed over the devil, who wished to surprise thee.” 

Death and Legacy.

Saint Rose prophesied the date of her death and died on August 24 1617 at only 31 years old. Her funeral was attended by all of the city's authorities, and several magistrates took turns carrying her coffin. Famously, legend is that the town of Lima both smelled like roses on the day of her death and that rose pedals fell from the sky of Lima on that day.

She was beatified by Pope Clement IX in 1667, and officially canonized in 1671 by Pope Clement X as the first Catholic in the Americas to be declared a sign. Originally her feast day was declared on August 30 (the date of her death, the 24th was already a feast day for Saint Bartholomew the Apostle) but the 1969 revision of the calendar created an open spot on the 23th. In Peru, the 30th of August is a public holiday in her honor. Her skull, surmounted with a crown of Roses, is on public display in Lima.

Among many others, she is the patron saint of embroiders, gardeners, Latin America, people ridiculed by their piety, for the resolution of family quarrels, Lima, and against vanity.

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