CHAPTER III

 

S. ROSE TAKES THE HABIT OF THE THIRD ORDER OF

S. DOMINIC, IN IMITATION OF S. CATHERINE OF

SIENNA, WHO SHE HAD TAKEN FOR HER MODEL

 

 

IF any one should attempt to compare the lives of S. Catherine of Sienna and of S. Rose, he would find so great a resemblance between these two lovers of the Son of God, that he would have some difficulty in discovering whether this sweet flower spring forth in the Indies, or whether it was transplanted from Italy into Peru; for in S. Rose all the characteristics of S. Catherine of Sienna were to be seen; the same manner of living, the same inclinations, the same favors from God, and so great a similarity in figure and countenance, that one might easily have been taken for the other.

 

S. Rose having cut off her hair after making her vow of virginity, seemed thereby to have deprived any one who might seek her in marriage of the hope of succeeding in this design.  But the advantages she had received from nature, offered an innocent opposition to the resolution she had made to preserve, until death, the precious lily of her virginity; for her extreme beauty, the refinement of her mind, her delightful conversation, and her virtue itself, captivated many hearts by their charms, and drew towards her admirers from all parts.

 

In order to extinguish these rising flames in the hearts of others, she invented all sorts of means to disfigure herself; she made her face pale and livid with fasting, she sought to destroy her delicate white complexion, she washed her hands in hot lime to take the skin off them; and to prevent others from feeling any pleasure to which the sight of her might give rise, she shut herself up closely in the house, and went out but very seldom and when it was quite necessary; and having been taken to Canta, a little village near one of the most celebrated mines in Peru, she remained there four entire years without leaving the house; she would not even to see a beautiful garden close to the door of the house where she lived, from which she might have easily viewed those famous machines called moles, for which Peru is renowned.

 

Notwithstanding all these precautions, she was not able to prevent several persons from seeking her in marriage.  Amongst others, one of the most distinguished ladies in the city, as much delighted with her virtue as with her beauty, wished her only son to marry her; she openly made the request to St. Roseís parents, who, having eleven children to provide for, received the proposal most favorably, thinking the alliance would be very advantageous to their family.

 

Rose was the only person to whom this offer was disagreeable; she blamed herself for it, and that frail beauty which brought upon her this great misfortune; and seeing that there was no means of escaping but by openly declaring that she would never consent to marry, having a horror of the very though of it, she made known her resolution with a firmness which surprised her parents, though it did not make them give up the hope of inducing her to comply with their wishes.  They employed threats and caresses, and seeing her inflexible in her resolution, they tried the effects of ill-treatment; they gave her blows, and loaded her with injuries; in a word, S. Rose had the same sufferings to endure as were inflicted on S. Catherine of Sienna by her mother, for a similar reason.

 

After this storm she sought, in the third order of S. Dominic, a port where she might be secure, all the rest of her life, from the furious tempests which the devil would be sure to raise against her purity as long as she remained in the world.  When her resolution as known, the nuns of the most celebrated monasteries in Lima wished her to take their habit.  Turibius, the archbishop of Lima, requested her to enter a convent of S. Clare, which his niece, Mary de Quignonez, had just finished building, that thus she might be the foundation-stone of the holy edifice; but Rose, who, from the age of five hears, had proposed to herself S. Catherine of Sienna as the model for her imitation, though it was not sufficient to copy her innocence and her other virtues, but that she must embrace the same state of life, which would not prevent her from continuing to assist her parents.

 

Almighty God confirmed her in this resolution by two miracles.  The first took place when she had the intention of going to the Monastery of the Incarnation, where the nuns were anxiously expecting her.  Before setting out, she went to bid farewell to our Blessed Lady in the Chapel of the Rosary, belonging to the Convent of S. Dominic, and there remained immovable on her knees at the foot of the altar; when her prayer was finished, although she made several efforts to rise, she could not succeed; she called her brother, who was in the church, to her assistance; he took her hand and pulled her violently without being able to move her from the spot; this appearing to her to be a sign from heaven, she resolved not to prosecute her design, but to return home.  She had no sooner come to this determination than she was able to rise and leave the chapel without difficulty.

 

Almighty God showed her by another miracle that he would have her choose the order of Friar Preachers in preference to any other, in imitation of S. Catherine of Sienna, who was one of its brightest ornaments.  Amongst the almost innumerable quantity of differently colored butterflies which are to be seen in the vast plains of Lima, one, prettily marked with white and black, the colors of the habit of S. Dominicís order, came and fluttered round her; she considered this as a heavenly indication that she was to accomplish the design she had formerly conceived of becoming a religious in the third order of this great patriarch.  She received the habit solemnly, at the age of twenty years, from the hands of the Rev. Father Alphonso Velasquez, on the 10th day of August, 1606, with much satisfaction; but she would have quitted it before her profession, for three reasons, if she had not been specially guided by Almighty God, whose will it was that she should remain in the order of S. Dominic.

 

In the first place, Don Gonzalez, a very great benefactor of hers, and who possessed great influence over her mind, pressed her earnestly to become a discalceated Carmelite, offering to procure her the necessary portion, and assigning as his reason, that a cloistered life was more suitable to her than remaining with her parents amid the bustle of the world. 

 

Secondly, she though that as she wore a white habit, this dress required greater innocence than hers; and that as her life did not come up to the perfection of this new state, she was deceiving the world by a false appearance of virtue under this holy habit.

 

Thirdly, as she had only quitted her secular dress that she might life unknown and forgotten by men, she was surprised to find that her new state of a religious person, instead of keeping her concealed, showed her forth as a light in the house of God, and that her reputation was so universally diffused over the town, that she was the only subject of conversation, was pointed out in the streets, distinguished from others, and praised by every one.  Her modesty suffered inconceivable pain from these praises, especially when she knew that some pious persons, from the high esteem that had for her virtue, made no difficulty of comparing her to S. Catherine of Sienna.  Though these applauses gave her great pain, she still persevered in wearing the habit she had obtained from heaven by so many signs; for having conceived the design of quitting it in order to live more concealed, she went to kneel before the altar of the Holy Rosary to visit the Blessed Virgins, her usual refuge in the hour of distress, and as soon as she began her prayer she became sweetly insensible.  Those who were in the chapel concluded immediately that she was in a rapture, and observing her closely, they remarked that her countenance changed, being first pale, and then becoming fiery, and so luminous that it sent forth rays of brightness on every side.  When she came to herself after this ecstasy, she made known by the words which she poured forth from the abundance of her heart, that Almighty God had confirmed her entrance into that holy order, and that she was resolved to live and die in it.



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

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