CHAPTER VII

 

OF HER SOLITUDE, AND THE HERMITAGE WHICH

SHE HAD BUILT IN HER FATHERíS GARDEN, THAT

SHE MIGHT LIVE QUITE SEPARATED FROM MEN

 

SOLITUDE is a sort of paradise to souls that aspire to virtue, either because being solely occupied with the perfections of God, they are raised above the condition of mortals and become quite divine, or on account of the graces which Almighty God then pours out upon them more abundantly, and the familiarity with himself to which He raises them.  As His Spirit is incompatible with that of the world, He is only pleased with solitude, and He reserves His caresses for those who separate themselves from the world to enjoy the sweetness of His conversation.  Thus, speaking of a soul who wishes to keep a close union with Him, he says that he will draw her into solitude, where, being disengaged from creatures, He will speak to her heart; that is, He will converse familiarly with her, to show her the path she must follow to attain heaven.

 

The blessed Rose, while yet a child, felt her self so forcibly drawn to solitude, that she sought the most secret corners of the house, and deprived herself of all those little amusements with which children of her age usually divert themselves, to attend solely to God, and not to interrupt the incredible pleasure she began to feel in her sweet communications with Him.  This desire of being hidden from the eyes of men in order to converse more familiarly with her beloved Spouse, increasing with her age, she made a little hut in her fatherís garden with palm leaves and other branches of trees, and she wove them so carefully, that the sun had great difficulty in penetrating.  She remained there nearly all day; so that it was generally said in the house, ďIf you wish to fine Rose, you must look for her in the garden; that is her bed-room, her table, and her oratory; she could not suffer a greater torment than to be drawn from her retreat to converse with creatures.  She did all she could, by prayers and tears, to prevail upon her mother to allow her some part of the house, where she would not be seen, and no longer oblige her to go with her to the t own.  Though her mother did indulge her to some degree, she still required her, in spite of her repugnance, to go with her sometimes to pay her visits.  One day when she had been ordered to dress smartly on this account, the pulled out of the oven, as she passed, a large stone, which fell so heavily on her foot, that she was obliged to remain at home; for the wound, of which she had been herself the cause, made her walk lame, and gave her great pain.

 

One reason which contributed greatly to give her an aversion for company was, that the fame of her sanctity being spread over the whole town, she was spoken of in her presence as a person of great sanctity and close union with God; and these praises gave her the more pain, as she was fully persuaded of her misery and unworthiness.  This made her resolve to choose another state of life, to be delivered from this slavery, and to be no longer obliged to follow the fashions and maxims of the world. Foreseeing the difficulties which her mother would oppose to this design, and believing that she should never obtain her consent without a special interposition of Providence, she had recourse to the Blessed Virgin, her ordinary refuge in her necessities, and earnestly entreated her to dispose te mind of her mother to consent to her desire of embracing a more retired life, and to allow her to make profession of a life of devotion, that she might be dispensed from the customs of the world, which she could not endure.  In order to obtain this favor, which she so passionately desired, she begged the father sacristan to put on the neck of the statue of our Lady of the Rosary, a chaplet of coral which she kept in her box, assuring him that he would do her a great kindness, as it was of great consequences to her to gain the favor of the Blessed Virgin, that the Divine Infant whom she held in her arms might become her security for a grace which she fervently solicited from Him.  Though these words were an enigma to the good father, He promised to present her rosary; but as the ladder was not there, he thought no more about it, till Rose, noticing his omission, repeated her petition.  He then immediately sent for a ladder, and in presence of those who were in the chapel, he put the rosary on the image of the Blessed Virgin.

 

Some days later, the chaplet was seen in the divine hands of the Infant Jesus, as if it had been taken from the toddler, as if it had been taken from the mother, expressly to give it to the Son. This prodigy very much surprised those who frequented the church, particularly the father sacristan, who declared that no one had made the exchange, and that it must have been an effect of the power of Almighty God.  Rose herself interpreted it in her favor, and saw it with great delight, knowing by this sign that our Blessed Lady had obtained the favor she had asked, and that Jesus Christ her Divine Son, held this rosary, in order to answer for His blessed mother, and to show her that He had taken upon Himself the execution of her pious design.

 

With this confidence she requested her mother, through the Rev. Father John of Laurenzana, Don Gonzales and his wife, Mary of Usategni, to allow her a little room apart, into which no one of the family, or from out of doors might enter to speak to her, or visit her, except her confessor, t ho whom she was obliged to give an account of her proceedings from time to time.  Her mother, who till then had been inflexible to her tears and entreaties, gave her leave to do as she pleased, in consideration of those who made the request.  This consent being obtained, she had a little hermitage built in the garden, five feet long and four wide.  One of her confessors found it too narrow; but she answered, pleasantly, that it was large enough for her and for Jesus Christ, her adorable Spouse.

 

Some days after she had shut herself up there, a holy women, who had frequent ecstasies saw, in a rapture, the blessed Rose like a brilliant star, the rays of which not being confined to the limits of this small cell, pierced through the walls on every side, to spread themselves over the town of Lima.  She remained buried in this hermitage as a person dead to the world, always occupied either in prayer or penance, or in some work, and so absorbed in God, that living more to Him than to herself, she did not know whether her soul were separated from her body, or still animated it in its operations.

 

The fame of her virtue induced the first ladies of the town to visit her, to enjoy the sweetness of her conversation, and to profit by her example.  As she could not forbid them the house, and as they were careful to request her motherís assistance, who enabled them to see her, and who took them to her retreat, Rose received them, though against her will, deploring the time she thought she lost in these civilities; and though they only spoke of Almighty God, our Saint said that it was much more agreeable and profitable for her to speak with God, than to speak of God.

 

This retired life made her much talked about, especially when she was not seen to come so often to church as before; for this is customary with devout persons, whose good example inspires piety, and often attracts to God persons who are engaged with the world by there business or rank in life.  One person being scandalized at this excessive solitude, asked her why she no longer went to mass every day? Rose answered, that not being able to leave the house without her mother, who was detained at home by the cares of her household, Jesus Christ supplied for it in a miraculous manner, favoring her so far, that while she still remained in her hermitage, she heard every mass that was said in the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, and even those celebrated in the church of S. Augustine, which was for of five streets distant from her house.  In fact, it was remarked several times, that our Saint had this gift from God, of assisting in spirit at all the sermons that were preached in the churches of Lima, and of giving as exact an account of them as if she had been actually present.

 

Her body being so obedient to the laws of her mind, and her mind so perfectly submissive to the will of God, we need not be surprised that irrational animals should have respected her virtue, and given her proofs of their obedience.  The dampness of the earth, and the foliage of the trees which surrounded the hermitage of this happy solitary, drew thither an almost innumerable quantity of mosquitoes, which are little troublesome files, with which America is filled, and which we call gnats; and although these little insects love the shade, and always seek it, particularly at noon, when the heat of the sun is almost insupportable, and at night to the be sheltered from the cold; still not one of this legion of flies, which covered the walls, the windows, and the doors of her cell, presumed to settle upon her; they showed so much respect for her person, that they seemed to honor in her the sovereign power of God who had created them.  They did not show the same deference to her mother, nor to the persons who came to see her in her retreat by the permission of her spiritual guides; for they were severely stung.  Three years before her death she retired to the house of Don Gonzalez de la Massa, in obedience to her parents, who were anxious to allow him this favor, which he had earnestly solicited; and here she caused to be built for her a room as small as that which she had occupied at home, in which she passed her whole time, both day and night, in prayer, except when she returned, as she did from time to time, to her first hermitage, to avoid the intercourse of creatures, and to enjoy the company of Almighty God in that solitude.


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

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