HER OBEDIENCE, THE RESPECT SHE HAD FOR HER
PARENTS, AND THE ASSISTANCE SHE RENDERED THEM
To obey the parents from whom we have received our life, is only the effect of an ordinary degree of virtue; and there would have been nothing remarkable in the obedience of the blessed Rose, if she had contented herself with simply fulfilling this duty: but she infinitely increased its merit by perfectly complying with that which she owed to her parents, without failing to accomplish what God Almighty required of her. She managed so well, that she executed whatever her father and mother commanded her, without omitting the least part of her duty towards God. Her mother, like many others who live their children more for the world than for heaven, often begged her to take care of her beauty, and even desired her to use cosmetics and paint to preserve its freshness; but Rose, who knew this to be contrary to modesty and simplicity, which are the only ornaments of Christian beauty, entreated her so earnestly not to oblige her to do this, and not to imitate those mothers who sacrifice the salvation of their children to their own ambition, that she, by degrees, induced her to think differently; thus making the law of the spirit victorious over that of the flesh, and causing the secret aversion with which her Divine Spouse inspired her for this worldly custom, to triumph over the unjust command she had received to conform to it.
Another time her mother made her wear a garland of flowers on her head. Not thinking herself strong enough to effect a change in this command, she obeyed; but she sanctified her submission by the painful mortification with which she accompanied it: for God having brought to her mind the remembrance of the cruel thorns which had composed his crown in His Passion, she took the garland, and fixed it on her head with a large needle, which she plunged so deeply into her head that it could not be drawn out without the help of a surgeon, who had much difficulty in doing it. Thus she contrived to elude, without resisting, the orders of her mother when they were openly opposed to the counsels of perfection; and she punished herself severely when she obeyed her in any thing that partook of the vanity of the world. This fidelity was most pleasing to her Divine Spouse, and she perceived by a remarkable circumstance, that she could not in the least depart from it without offending him.
One day having put on a pair of scented gloves in order to oblige her mother, she had no sooner begun to wear them than her hands became cold and benumbed, and soon after she felt in them so violent a heat, that notwithstanding the love of our Saint for sufferings, she was obliged to take off the gloves which caused this torture; and God, to show the blessed Rose that the little breath of vanity which had induced her, under the specious pretext of obedience, to wear these gloves, had inflamed the zeal of her Divine Spouse, showed her the same gloves in the night, surrounded by flames. From that time she never obeyed her mother in anything that was agreeable to the world or to nature, without joining some act of mortification to her obedience. Her mother having absolutely commanded her to remove the pieces of wood which she had secretly put into her pillow, she did so; but she put in their place so great a quantity of wool, and stuffed it in such a manner, that her pillow might have been taken for a log of wood covered with linen, from its hardness.
The stratagem which she practiced in order to avoid appearing at assemblies, or accompanying her mother in the visits she paid to her friends and relations, was not less surprising; for she rubbed her eyelids with pimento, which is a very sharp burning sort of Indian pepper: by this means she escaped going into company, for it made her eyes red as fire, and so painful, that she could not bear the light. Her mother having found out this artifice, reprimanded her for it, and mentioned the example of Ferdinand Perez, who had lost his sight by a similar act of indiscretion; Rose answered modestly, “It would be much better for me, my dear mother, to be blind all the rest of my life, than to be obliged to see the vanities and follies of the world.” After this answer, her mother, seeing clearly that it was a repugnance for these visits, and for the dress she was compelled to wear on these occasions, which caused her to inflict this pain on herself, no longer urged her to accompany her, and allowed her to dress as she liked, in a poor stuff dress, which she wore with great satisfaction; for she sought nothing but contempt and abjection. In all indifferent things S. Rose obeyed willingly, and never received a command from her mother which she did not cheerfully fulfill. Her mother wishing one day to try her obedience, ordered her to embroider some flowers in the wrong way; Rose obeyed blindly, and spoiled her work, and her mother, feigning to be angry, reproved her for it. This truly obedient daughter answered that she had perceived that her work was good for nothing, but had not dared to disobey the order given her; that it was of no consequence to her in what manner she traced a flower, but that she could not fail in obedience to her mother’s orders. For this reason she never began her work without asking her mother’s leave, and told one of her friends, who seemed astonished at it, that she did it expressly to join to her work the merit of obedience.
Her obedience did not concern her mother only, to whom she was so submissive that she never drank without her permission, and dared not begin her work without her express order: it extended even to the servant of the house, whom she respected as her mistress, and whom she obeyed always joyfully, particularly when she was cross and ill-tempered. Her mother, who was of a bilious temperament and often angry, sometimes forbade her to drink; and as she did not know that her virtuous daughter never would drink without her permission, Rose was often known to pass six days without drinking. Her parents having taken her to Canta, a very unhealthy part of the country, she was seized with a contraction of the nerves in her hands and feet; and as this arose from cold, her mother made her wear skins, the hair of which was very irritating, and desired her not to take them off. Rose bore with them for several days without mentioning the insupportable heat they caused, that she might not be wanting in obedience; but her hands and feet became so inflamed in consequence, that numbers of little blisters were formed in them, which afterwards became very painful ulcers.
Obedience generally terminates with life, but the blessed Rose manifested it even when in her tomb. The mother prioress of the Convent of Nuns of S. Dominic at Lima, commanded the picture of Rose, in virtue of the obedience which every one in the house owed to her, to enable them to find a silver spoon which a servant belonging to the monastery had lost, that they might avoid any rash judgment of innocent persons; and as if our Saint had animated the colors of her picture with the spirit of obedience which had made her so submissive to God, and to His creatures for His love, the prioress perceived, immediately, on the table the lost spoon; and we might say, that the picture placed it there, to represent the perfect obedience of the original. Who could express her exact obedience to her parents during her whole life, her respect and the tender love she bore them? At the times when she was suffering most from weakness, she generally spent more than half the night in working to help them in their necessities; and though she devoted twelve hours every day to mental prayer, she did more work that another, who had less to do, would have done in four days; and her work had so much beauty and delicacy, that it seemed to surpass art and nature.
She was a perfect mistress of needlework, either in designing flowers, or executing them in embroidery or in tapestry; and what is surprising is, that though her mind was often elevated to God, and absorbed in the contemplation of His perfections while she was working, yet her hands guided her work so perfectly as if her mind was solely intent upon it.
Besides her needlework she cultivated a little garden, in which she grew violets and other flowers, which she sold to help her parents in their necessities; and as all her industry was insufficient to save them from poverty, she confessed, ingenuously, to a great servant of God, that Jesus Christ, her Divine Spouse, supplied the deficiency by secret and wonderful means. She tended them in sickness with incredible assiduity; she was always at their bedside; she passed days and nights there, and only left them to perform for them elsewhere some other service. She made their bed, prepared their medicine, and was ready by day and by night to perform for them the vilest and most difficult services.
I must not conclude this chapter without speaking of the ineffable joy she procured for her mother, who would otherwise have been overwhelmed with grief in seeing her depart out of this life. This blessed Saint, when on her death-bed, foreseeing the anguish her mother would feel at her death, earnestly begged her Divine Spouse to console her in this affliction’ and He did so by bestowing upon her so great a plentitude of joy, that she juridically deposed that she felt an extraordinary joy when this death took place, which would otherwise have drawn from her abundance of tears and sighs. She further testified, that this favor not only rendered her insensible to this great loss, but took possession of her mind so powerfully, that for several days she could scarcely bear its violence, and that Almighty God had shown her, by this experience, the happiness which her holy daughter enjoyed in heaven, and the torrents of delights which He poured upon her soul in that happy abode.
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