CHAPTER IV

 

HER HUMILITY, HER INCOMPARABLE PURITY OF

HEART, AND OTHER VIRTUES

 

 

HUMILITY, which the holy fathers have always considered as the foundation of the other Christian virtues, was so deeply rooted in the soul of S. Rose, that her labors seem to have been directed, all her life, to the contempt of herself, and to the practice of every sort of humiliation and abjection.

 

To satisfy this predominant inclination of her heart, she did not find it sufficient to choose as her employment the vilest occupations of the house; she considered herself infinitely below the servant; and this sentiment of her miseries and unworthiness induced her often to cast herself at the feet of a poor country girl named Marianne, who worked in the house, and entreated her, earnestly, to strike her, and to treat her as the most abject and contemptible creature in the world.  When she received blows or harsh words on account of the retired life she led, she though she well deserved them, and that by her own fault she had brought on herself this injurious treatment, and she suffered it with humility and patience.  When any misfortune happened to the state or to her family, she attributed it to her sins, which had drawn down this chastisement from heaven; and her humility made her usually say, that she was a burden, useless to the world, and odious to nature; that she was unworthy to see the light; that she was a sink of corruption infecting the air; and that she was surprised that Almighty God did not cause the earth to open and swallow up so unhappy a creature, who, for her enormous offences, deserved to be annihilated. 

 

As she was deeply penetrated with a sense of her own nothingness and misery, it was to her an insupportable cross to see herself honored; her humility could not bear to hear a word of praise; and on this account hearing, one day, Michael Garrez, canon of the cathedral of Lima, who had come to visit Don Gonzalez, her intimate friend, praising her in the course of the conversation, and extolling the favors she had received from Almighty God, she retired into her chamber, where she began to strike her breast, to weep and to groan in the presence of God; and to punish herself for giving, as she thought, a false opinion of herself to men, she gave herself several violent blows on the head, to force in more deeply the iron points of the crown which she always wore concealed under her veil.

 

Having once performed an heroic act of virtue in something very difficult and repugnant to nature, the wife of Don Gonzalez, fearing that she would injure her health very much by these laborious works, spoke to her confessor, the Rev. Father Alphonso Velasquez, and begged him to reprimand her severely for it, and to forbid her to attempt works of piety beyond her strength.  He followed this advice, reproving her for her action, and desiring her to perform nothing extraordinary, capable of injuring her health.  S. Rose received this reproof respectfully, rejoicing before God to see herself despised, and to find humiliation in those acts of virtue from which she had so much reason to fear vain-glory and the esteem of men.

 

During the three last years of her life, which she spend with Don Gonzalez, she obeyed his children, and all his servants; she did nothing without his express permission, and her humility often made her ask on her knees for a little water for the love of God, like a beggar, whose only means of subsistence is from the alms given him.  In the time of sickness she usually concealed the greater part of her sufferings; but when her symptoms and weakness made them evident, she spoke of them as the just reward of her sins; and when she made known the insupportable pains she endured in every part of her body, she did so to make others consider her an abominable sinner, whom Almighty God chastised thus rigorously in punishment of the crimes she had committed.

 

She was not only thoroughly persuaded herself, that she was infinitely guilty in the sight of Almighty God; but scarcely any one else, who saw her at confession, and witnessed the abundance of tears she shed at the feet of the priest, and heard the half-stifled sobs to which her contrite heart gave vent, would have failed to take her for some public sinner, doing penance for her crimes.  Yet she never committed one single sin, capable of destroying the grace of God in her soul.  She led so pure and innocent a life, that her confessors had often great difficulty in finding matter for absolution in those things of which she accused herself with so many tears.

 

She kept so strict a watch over herself, that she was never heard to speak one word louder than another, or to find the least fault with the conduct or actions of others.  There was nothing in her behavior that could give annoyance to those with whom charity or duty obliged her to converse; on the contrary, her sweet and obliging manners made her so agreeable to every one, that it was commonly said, that he name of “Rose,” did not suit her, because she had not its thorns.

 

Her charity towards mankind was so universal, that this queen of the virtues seemed to be the soul which animated her words, her actions, and her whole conduct.  This love which she had for God and her neighbor filled her whole heart, and had so entirely disengaged it from earthly things, that she was insensible to the pleasures which most men love so passionately.  Being asked one day if, in the midst of the delights and consolations which Almighty God infused abundantly into her soul, she did not feel her heart attached to worldly thing, she confessed that it was impossible for her to think of them, or to take the least pleasure in them.  By this detachment from creatures, she attained to a purity of heart, in some degree similar to that which the angels possess by the privilege of their nature; for during the course of her life, which lasted thirty-one years, she never was guilty of any venial sin of impurity; and, what is something miraculous, she was never assailed with impure thoughts, from which even the most cherished and favored saints of God have not been exempt.  Eleven learned religious, six of the order of Friar Preachers, and five Jesuits, who had several times heard her general confessions, have deposed this on their oath.

 

After her face had become emaciated, and had lost its beauty from the effects of fasting, penances, and cold water, which she poured so abundantly over her body, that she nearly extinguished its natural heat, every one seeing the condition to which her austerities had reduced her, held her in greater veneration than ever; and she was considered in Lima as a living image of the penitential life led by the anchorets, who have sanctified the deserts by their great mortifications.  As her humility feared nothing so much as this universal esteem, and her modest suffered greatly from these applauses, she had recourse to prayer to put an end to the cause of them; and she obtained by her prayer the restoration of the brightness of her eyes, and of that brilliant complexion which her austerities had destroyed, so that she became as fresh and beautiful as before; and it happened, one Good Friday, as she was returning home from the church at noon, with a color on her cheeks that heightened the beauty which Almighty God had given back to her, some young libertines who saw her pass, surprised to see her looking so well, rallied her for it, as if she were returning from some feast, where she had been enjoying herself, and insolent asked her, if that were the manner in which devout people fasted?  Yet she had fasted all Lent on orange pippins and water, and had just spent thirty hours in tears, prayers, and groans in the church of S. Dominic, without eating or drinking.  She was still more careful to hide from the eyes of men the spiritual graces and favors she received from God; and fearing they might be perceived in spite of all the precautions she took to keep them secret, she earnestly begged Him from her infancy, not to allow the graces He bestowed upon her to be known by men; and this having been granted by her Divine Spouse, we may easily believe that she kept to herself the greatest part of the extraordinary things that passed in her interior, and that her directors were only made acquainted with the least part of the graces she received from heaven.

 

We cannot be surprised at this, since the blessed spirits, taking the part of her modesty, assisted her to hide her virtues, which the following example shows.  One day when she was at church, she remembered having left her discipline on her table, and as her door did not shut, she was seized with great apprehension that some one belonging to the house would perceive this dear instrument of penance.  In this uneasiness she formed a wish within herself, that the Blessed Virgin would put it in a certain place in her room, which she interiorly pointed out to her.  Returning home, she did not fine her discipline where she had left it, but saw, to her astonishment, that this sweet compassionate Queen of Heaven, to satisfy her desire, and take away her fear, had shut it up in the place which she had thought of.


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

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