CHAPTER VIII

 

JESUS CHRIST ESPOUSES THE BLESSED ROSE IN THE

PRESENCE OF THE EVER BLESSED VIRGIN

 

LOVE always tends to union, and the greater the love the closer is the alliance to which it aspires; and as there is not a closer union than that which joins a man and a woman in marriage, Almighty God makes use of this expression to assist us to comprehend the union which He contracts with just souls by grace and charity.  Thus he assures the faithful soul, that He will espouse her; that is, that He will raise her to the honor of an alliance with Him, and will give her a share in His heart, and in His caresses.  It is true that sanctifying grace procures this advantage for all the just in an invisible and hidden manner; but as there are souls singularly favored and caressed by God, and with whom He is more closely connected, He sometimes also espouses them in a visible manner, with a ceremonial of pomp and magnificence.  The blessed Rose had read in the life of S. Catherine of Sienna, her dear mistress, that Jesus Christ had raised this seraphic lover to so great a degree of glory and favor, that He espoused her solemnly in the presence of the Blessed Virgin, S. Dominic, and of several other Saints. Though the love she bore to the same Divine Savior made her sigh after the enjoyment of a similar grace, the consciousness of her own misery and nothingness kept her in such profound humility, that she would have though it a crime to harbor the thought, or to form a single desire of it; and this very humility, which made her judge herself unworthy of it, was the precious portion which captivated the heart of the Son of God, and induced Him to honor her in a similar manner.

 

He disposed her for this divine alliance by miracles; for the mysterious black and white butterfly, of which we have already spoken, after having long fluttered on the left side of her, at last settled exactly over her heart, and did not move till it had traced the resemblance of a heart on the dress of our Saint.  At this moment she seemed to hear an interior voice, saying, with great sweetness, “Rose, my beloved, give Me thy heart,” as if Jesus Christ wished her to understand by this enigmatic representation, that He would give her His heart in exchange for hers, and renew in her person the miracle He had formerly performed in favor of S. Catherine of Sienna, when he took away her heart, in order to put His own in its place.

 

One night when the blessed Rose was absorbed in contemplation, Jesus Christ appeared to her as a most beautiful man, and told her with a smiling countenance, that she was an object of His love; and after this delightful assurance, he showed her an almost innumerable troop of virgins, resplendent with brightness, who were occupied in sawing and cutting marble, and He invited her to join the number of these chaste spouses, whom she saw employed in this hard labor.  She began to consider in her mind this scene, which ravished her with admiration, and at the same instant she saw herself covered with a mantle woven of gold and precious stones, and she was placed in the company of these happy virgins.

 

It is painful to make known to carnal men, who comprehend not the wonders of God, and who are scandalized at the ineffable condescension with He shows to souls inflamed with His love, the present with which He honored the blessed Rose, to invite her to the dignity of being His spouse.  On Palm Sunday, a day on which the church celebrates the solemn and triumphant entrance of the Son of God into the city of Jerusalem amidst the acclamations of the people, the sacristan, who distributed palms to the other sisters of her order who were in the church, passed her without giving her one, either through inadvertence, or by the special permission of God.  Rose through this must have happened through her fault, and that she must have been distracted during the distribution.  Afflicted and confounded, she retired into the chapel of our Lady of the Rosary, where, placing herself on her knees, she began to sigh and weep, to expiate her fault.

 

While she was soliciting by her tears the pardon of the negligence she thought she had committed, she saw that the Blessed Virgin had a smiling countenance; and that, after having looked upon her graciously, she turned to speak to her Son, and, as if she had received from Him a favorable answer to her request, she turned her eyes again toward the blessed Rose, as if to congratulate with her on the happiness to which she was going to be raised.  Our Saint, transported with a secret joy, which she did not usually feel, raised her eyes to look at the Son of God, who, looking at her again, caused a torrent of delight to flow into the soul of this chaste lover, and said to her these tender and loving words: “Rose of My heart, I take thee for My spouse.”

 

Quite enraptured with the honor of this illustrious alliance, she prostrated herself humbly at the feet of Jesus Christ, and entering into the abyss of her miseries, she said to Him with profound respect, “Lord, behold thy handmaid; I am too much honored by the quality of Thy slave; and I bear in my soul the indelible marks of a necessary slavery, which renders me unworthy of the glorious rank of thy spouse.”

 

The consideration of her own nothingness would have made her take this heavenly favor for an illusion, had not the Blessed Virgin assured her of the truth of this mystery by these gracious words: “Rose, the beloved of my Son, see to what an excess of glory He has raise thee; by His mercy thou art now truly His spouse.” As her humility, however, made her still apprehend some delusion in this grace, of which she judged herself very unworthy, Jesus Christ, to give her confidence, graciously confirmed to her the  truth of the alliance he had contracted with her in the presence of His holy mother.  Who could express the supernatural gifts of grace which she received from her Divine Spouse in consequence of this august union?  We can only know what she herself made known to a learned man who directed her.  When he urged her one day to declare to him what gift her Heavenly Spouse had bestowed on her as the pledge of His love and their alliance, she confessed that she was not possessed of eloquence sufficient to express the magnificent liberality which God had exercised in her regard without considering her unworthiness.

 

That she might always have a sensible mark of this illustrious alliance before her eyes, she begged her brother to have a ring made for her; he took the measure for it, and though he knew nothing of this mystery, he told his sister that he would have engraved upon it, “Rose of My heart, I take thee for My spouse.”  This consoled her very much; for she saw that Almighty God had inspired him to choose these words.  On Maundy Thursday she begged the sacristan to put this precious pledge of the love of Jesus Christ into that part of the tabernacle in which the most Adorable Sacrament is enclosed; but on Easter Sunday she was much surprised to see this ring on her finger, though she had not asked for it back, and the religious whom she had asked to enclose it had not returned it to her.  She knew at once by this miracle that her Divine Spouse had communicated to this metal the property of returning to her finger, only to show her His ardent desire of being intimately united to her heart; and that as He had become everything to her by this alliance, she should make Him the sole object of her thoughts and affections.  This miracle was very evident; for her mother who was beside her in the church, and who closely watched her, saw this ring on her finger without having seen any one approach to place it there.

 

A year after our Saint’s death, a great servant of God, holding this ring in his hand, was sweetly ravished into and ecstasy; and amongst the ineffable consolations which Almighty God poured abundantly into his soul, he perceived this faithful spouse of Jesus Christ very high in glory, and honorably placed among the greatest saints in heaven.  Quite enraptured with joy at this delightful spectacle, he wished to extend his hand to retain it, but he was not able; the ring seemed to have benumbed his arm.  If this nuptial ring worked so great a wonder on this servant of God, who can conceive the power with which it acted on the soul of this chaste spouse?


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

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