CHAPTER I

 

HER COUNTRY, HER BIRTH, HER INCLINATIONS, AND

THE VOW OF VIRGINITY WHICH SHE MADE AT

THE AGE OF FIVE YEARS

 

OUR blessed Rose, the first spiritual flower which Divine Providence planted and cultivated in the richest part of the New World, was born on the 20th day of April, in the year 1586, at Lima, the capital of Peru, in South America.  Her father was Gasper Florez, and her mother Mary Oliva, both more considerable by their birth than by their fortune.  This virtuous woman, who had been several times in danger of losing her life by the excessive pains she had endured in her other confinements, was preserved from them at the birth of our Saint, who came into the world differently from other children, wrapped up in a double cuticle, like a rose, whose bud is surrounded by leaves as soon as it begins to appear.

 

The lady Isabel of Herrera, her mother’s sister, being chosen as her godmother, gave her the name of Isabel in baptism; but three months after, as she slept in her cradle, her mother and several other persons, who did not all belong to the family, having perceived on her countenance a beautiful rose, called her from that time by no other name than Rose, on account of this prodigy.

 

Her godmother, thinking herself slighted by this change of name, was offended at it, and lived at variance with her sister, till Divine Providence, who watched over the interests of our Saint, put an end to this unhappy dispute by inspiring his Lordship, the archbishop of

Lima, to give her the name of Rose in confirmation.

 

Rose, when older, had some scruple about it on learning that it was not the name she had received in baptism.  She thought it was an effect of the complaisance or of the vanity of her parents, who wished to make her beauty more attractive by this agreeable name.  Disturbed by this conduct, which she thought unworthy of the spirit of a Christian, she went to the church of the Friar Preachers.  Having entered the Chapel of the Rosary, she cast herself at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, to make known to her her uneasiness.  Our Blessed Lady immediately consoled her, assuring her that the name of Rose was pleasing to her Son Jesus Christ, and that, as a mark of her affection, she would also honor her with her own name, and that henceforward she should be called Rose of S. Mary.  So that we may say that of all the saints whose names Almighty God has changed by an extraordinary favor, our blessed Rose is the first and perhaps the only one whose surname has been also changed by heaven.

 

Her infancy had a lively resemblance to that of the seraphic saint, Catherine of Sienna.  Never was she troublesome by teasing cries; and never was she seen to shed tears, excepting once, when her nurse had carried her to a neighboring house, where this sweet child wept, as if to show her sorrow in being drawn from solitude, the sweetness of which she began to feel in the house of her father.  The holy Fathers teach us, that the just man cannot do or suffer any thing virtuously without the help of grace, but that Almighty God works by his grace many wonders in his saints without them:  which is shown in the blessed Rose, who, when only three months old, gave proof of an heroic patience; for, some one having thoughtlessly pinched her thumb by shutting a chest hastily, she concealed he pain it gave her: her mother having hastened to her at the first news of the accident, she hid the finger, and did not let it appear that she had been hurt.  The injury grew worse afterwards from her silence, and violent remedies were necessary, which caused her to lose a part of the nail.  The surgeon employed pincers to extract by the roots that part which still remained in the flesh, and was greatly surprised to remark that, during this painful operation, she did not shed a tear, utter a scream, or even change countenance.  It was not on this occasion alone that she gave proof of her patience; she practiced it equally whenever she had any thing to suffer.  She endured with an inconceivable constancy, the pain inflicted by cutting off, with scissors, part of her ear which had become corrupted.  At the age of four years she was troubled with a sort of disorder in the head; and her mother, who loved her tenderly, wished to dress it herself, used a certain powder so corrosive and burning, that it caused her to shudder from head to foot; still she never complained, though this remedy caused a number of ulcers in her head, which gave her excessive pain.  As coral hardens in the waves, which are the emblem of affliction, so we might say, that the patience of our Saint increased with the greatness of her sufferings; for, during six weeks, the surgeon who attended her cut off every day a portion of flesh, that a new skin might grow in its place, and she suffered this torture with an invincible patience.

 

Almighty God, who designed her to be a living image of His crucified life, did not leave her long without suffering; and he permitted hat two years after she should be afflicted with a polypus in her nose, which grew so large that they had recourse to the surgeon to remove it, which he did in three different operations, during which she evinced a super-human patience, suffering this pain with a joy that seemed miraculous, and much resembled that which many martyrs have shown in the dreadful torments inflicted upon them by their executioners.  This early apprenticeship in the school of Calvary, where she learned from Jesus Christ crucified, to suffer all sorts of pains and afflictions, disposed our young Rose to offer to God, from her infancy, the agreeable odor of the ardent charity with which her heart was inflamed.

 

She received most happily the first rays of divine grace, and her little brother contributed to this; for playing near her one day, he threw accidentally, a quantity of mud on her hair.  Being naturally neat, she was vexed at his carelessness, and was on the point of going away, when he said to her with a gravity beyond his years, “My dear sister, do not be angry at this accident; for the curled ringlets of girls are the hellish cords which bind the hearts of men, and miserably draw them into eternal flames.” Rose received these words, which he uttered with the zeal of a preacher, as an oracle from heaven: she entered into herself, and renouncing for ever the vanities of the world, she gave herself entirely to God, and conceived an extreme horror for sin.  From that time she felt herself powerfully drawn to prayer; and she applied herself to it assiduously, that she was not content with giving to it part of the day and the greatest part of the night; we may even say, that sleep was no interruption to her prayer: for her imagination represented to her during her repose he absorbing idea she had formed to herself of her Divine Spouse in the fervor of her prayers, and of her converse with Him during the day.  In this sacred intercourse she received a lively inspiration from Almighty God to following the footsteps of S. Catherine of Sienna, by a perfect imitation of the virtues of this seraphic lover of God: and because virginity, joined to baptismal innocence, and to the flower of youth, is a double lily, which sheds its splendor on the spouses of Jesus Christ, so Rose, moved by the Spirit of God, consecrated to Him irrevocably and by vow, at the age of five years, her virginal purity, by the promise she gave Him never to have any other Spouse but Him alone.  Thus we may say of St. Rose, what S. Ambrose said of S. Agnes, that her piety and virtue were above her years, and beyond the strength of nature.

 

As soon as she had made this vow, she cut off her hair, unknown to her mother, in order to manifest to the spouse she had chosen, that by thus disfiguring herself she intended rather to disgust than to please men; and that she absolutely renounced the world, with which she never wished to have any intercourse.  From the testimony of her confessors, she began to have the use of reason when this heavenly ardor filled her soul; and this generous action was so pleasing to Almighty God, that he showered down upon her His choicest benedictions, and enriched her with so many graces, that she preserved her baptismal innocence till her death.

 


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Text from the Fr. Faber translation, Peter F. Cunningham, fourth edition, 1855

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