CHAPTER XII

 

OF HER INVINCIBLE PATIENCE UNDER PERSECUTION,

IN SICKNESS, AND IN HER OTHER SUFFERINGS

 

 

As thorns spring forth with roses, so grief and pain seem to have been born with the blessed Rose; for her life was a tissue of sufferings, sickness, pains, and crosses, which exercised her patience from her cradle to her tomb, by a long and tedious martyrdom.  When Rose was only nine months old her mother lost her milk, and as she could not afford a nurse for her, she brought her up with a little broth instead of milk.  Though the sweet child suffered greatly from this privation, and from the violence used in forcing open her mouth that she might take this nourishment, she never cried; on the contrary, she seemed to derive pleasure from it.  We have spoken before of the wonderful patience she exhibited at the age of three months, under the painful operation of extracting the roots of her nail with pincers, when she did not shed a tear, but appeared as unmoved as if she were insensible to pain.

 

Scarcely had she begun to walk, when she saw herself the subject of a dispute between her mother and godmother, each wishing to call her by the name they had given her.  Her mother would have her called rose, and her godmother could not endure the idea of giving her any other name but that of Isabel, which she had received in baptism.  Whatever this blessed child did was sure to offend one or the other.  If she answered to the name of Isabel, her mother punished her severely; and when she wished to correct his innocent error by acknowledging the name of Rose, her godmother, who was also her aunt, treated her with the same rigor.

 

As she was of a mild disposition, quiet opposite to the passionate temper of her mother, it would be difficult to enumerate all the harsh treatment she received from her during several years.  Her mother found fault with every thing she did; she condemned her reserve, she blamed her fasts, she did not like her taking up so much time in prayer, nor her retired life, so opposite to the maxims of the world; for these reasons she often scolded her, and went so far as to use a thousand abusive epithets, as if she had been an infamous person.  At the least provocation, she gave her blows on the cheek; but when she was carried away by anger, she put no bounds on her ill usage; she was not content with abusing her, striking her on the face, and kicking her; she took a thick knotty stick and struck her with it with all her strength.  She began to treat her thus when she cut off her hair, after having consecrated her virginity to God, and she continued the same treatment on many other occasions.

 

Those with whom she lived were actuated towards her by so extraordinary a spirit of envy and vexation, because they saw her lead a life so different from theirs, that they did every thing they could to disoblige her; they even threatened to report her to the Inquisition as a deluded girl and as a hypocrite, who deceived the world by a false appearance of virtue.

 

Rose blessed God under these persecutions; she suffered them with joy, as she had read in the life of her seraphic mistress that she also had attained a very close union with Jesus Christ by the means of sufferings.  When a lady of quality asked her why she did not beg S. Catherine of Sienna to free her from these persecutions, for it was commonly said in Lima, that she obtained from God, by the intercession of this Saint, whatever she asked for herself or others, she answered, “What would this dear mistress say to me, if I were to do so? Would she not have reason to reproach me for choosing a different path from hers? Ah! May God preserve me from this cowardice!” In fact, our Saint esteemed the sufferings of S. Catherine of Sienna more highly than her consolations; and she preferred the stigmas which the Son of God honored her to all the sweets of His caresses, because she thought it a shameful thing for a Spouse of Jesus Christ crucified to be a moment without a cross.

 

She desired sufferings with a sort of eagerness, and when Divine Providence sent her sickness to furnish her with an occasion for it, she felt much more compassion for the trouble she gave others who waited upon her, than pity for herself, which made her often say, “Oh, how advantageous and agreeable it would be to be always ill and to suffer great pains, if we did not give so much trouble to those who attend upon us!” Almighty God who inspired her with this great desire of sufferings, furnished her with many occasions for practicing patience: she was scarcely ever on moment without suffering excessive pain, and when she had nothing to afflict her exteriorly, Almighty God sent her interior pains.  When those with whom she lived relaxed their unjust persecutions a little, sickness came upon her in all sorts of shapes.  She was three years in bed a paralytic, suffering great torture, without shedding a tear, or making the least complaint.  These diseases arose from different causes, which all united in her body to give her an increasing suffering.  Even the physicians were surprised to see her suffer so long,  sometimes from tertian, sometimes from quartan fevers, which made her burn with heat and then shiver with cold; for her body was so attenuated and dried up, that there seemed to be scarcely anything remaining to nourish fever.

 

She on her part adored the hand of God in her infirmities, acknowledging that they did not proceed in her from a derangement of the system, as is the case with others, but from the particular dispensation of her Divine Spouse, who sent them to exercise her patience and to furnish her with opportunities of merit and grace.  She declared to one of her most familiar friends, that she did not think there was a member of her body that had not suffered all it was capable of enduring.  Her patience was invincible in these continual sufferings, and though her pains sometimes rose to the highest degree of torture, she never showed a single movement of impatience, nor uttered a word of repugnance to follow the will of God by this path of the cross; on the contrary, she always showed an entire resignation and a respectful disposition to suffer every thing she had to bear.

 

It is almost impossible to enumerate her different afflictions; for we think there are very few which she did not experience in the greatest degree. First, she suffered long from a quinsy; secondly, she was subject to asthma, which impeded her respiration; thirdly, she felt for several years the severe pains of sciatica, which tormented her day and night; fourthly, she was several times in danger from pleurisy; fifthly, she frequently fell into convulsions caused by the pain she suffered in the membrane which surrounds the heart, and from the heart of her inside, which sent vapors to her brain; sixthly, she was scarcely ever free from fever; seventhly, we must confess that she stood in need of all her patience to bear the pain of gout in her hands and feet; and  though this affliction is generally the effect and the punishment of intemperance, this chaste virgin was cruelly tormented by it, although her whole life had been spent in fasting and severe penitential exercises.

 

In all these severe pains, which succeeded one another, and which made the blessed Rose a daughter of affliction, she made known to those whom she saw touched with compassion for her sufferings, that she was still too well; that Almighty God treated her with too much tenderness; and that if He were to increase her pains to an infinite degree He would do her no injustice, for she had deserved more.  In the extremity of her sufferings she turned lovingly towards her crucifix, from which she derived her strength and patience, and addressed her Divine Redeemer in these tender and affectionate words: “Oh my Jesus! Oh, my Jesus! Increase my sufferings, but increase also Thy Divine love in my soul!” We may conjecture from a vision which she had one day, that the Son of God heard the ardent prayers of this chaste Spouse.  He appeared to her on two very brilliant rainbows, holding a pair of golden scales, in which He weighed on one side the sufferings mankind could endure, and on the other the graces and infinite rewards which He promises; she heard Him immediately extol with magnificent praises the constancy of those who suffer generously for His love, and declare aloud that there was no other means of mounting to heaven but by the ladder of the cross.

 

This vision inflamed her heart with so great a desire of suffering all things for His Divine love, that she was on the point of going to publish to all men the inestimable advantage of affliction, and the great grace which God bestows whenever he sends sickness, losses, or any other visitation; for these apparent evils acquire fro those who bear them an infinity of merits, which dispose them for the possession of sovereign happiness.  The blessed Rose drew new strength from this vision, which encouraged her under the paralytic seizure which Almighty God sent to crown her patience, and which caused her to die a sort of martyr in the flower of her age.


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

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