Santa Rosa de Lima was born on April 20 1586, in Peru. Her father was Spanish businessman Gaspar de Flores and her mother, Maria d'Olivia, was of Spanish and Incan ancestry. She was baptized as Isabel de Herrara. She was first baptized at home because of her poor health at birth. Isabel's overwhelmingly beautiful complexion and features were the source of both problems and praise. The praise caused her name to be casually changed to Rose over the years, eventually becoming her name at her Confirmation ceremony in 1597. But the praise and concentration on her extreme beauty upset Rose throughout her life. She feared that the praise would make her proud and be a source of distraction to those who should be thinking of God, including herself.
Over the years, she often used mortification to refocus herself on God and remove distractions. Rose modeled herself after St. Catherine of Siena. Both St. Rose and St. Catherine experienced an overwhelming love when in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Her parents, who lost much of their wealth in a failed mining venture, looked forward to seeing their daughter married and be assured of a safe, stable life. But St. Rose didn't want to marry. She was completely devoted to God, and wanted to remain so. To make her selfless attractive to suitors, she rubbed hot peppers into her face to change her complexion and the smoothness of her skin. She also cut her hair, wore simple, unattractive clothing and worked to keep her hands rough through labor. She used many methods to fight any source of vanity or any temptation to give her life to anyone but God. While this may sound extreme to us, it does highlight St. Rose's desire and commitment to serve God alone.
With her family fortune lost, she helped support the household by selling her embroidery and knitting. She lived in a small home in the garden that her brother built for her. There she spent nights in prayer and penance and hours meditating on and in devotion to the Blessed Mother and Christ. Eventually, St. Rose joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, wore the modest clothes of the order, and took a perpetual vow of chastity.
After her death on August 30, 1617, her intense mystical life and spiritual gifts became more known to the world. Throughout her life as well, she had offered much charity, time and energy to the poorest people in Lima. She had been an advocate for the indigenous who lived in poverty while the gold they mined was shipped to enrich the Spanish kingdom.
Her death was soon followed by many conversions and miracles attributed to her intercession. Pope Clement canonized her in 1671, we celebrate her feast day on August 23rd. She was the first canonized Saint to be born in the Americas.
St. Rose is a model for devotion to God and service to neighbor. As we honor her as our parish patroness, let us ask St. Rose for her intercession that that our own commitment and devotion to the Lord and our charity to others may increase so that we too may enjoy the same eternal reward that she now enjoys.
St. Rose of Lima, pray for us.