CHAPTER XIV

 

OF HER DEVOTION TOWARDS THE MOST BLESSED

 SACRAMENT, IN DEFENSE OF WHICH SHE ONCE

 PREPARED HERSELF TO SUFFER MARTYRDOM

 

 

IF the union of the soul with God be the principle of its happiness and of its progress in virtue, it necessarily follows, that devotion towards the most holy Sacrament of the altar is the most efficacious means of arriving in a short time at perfection and sanctity.  From this inexhaustible source of grace S. Rose drew strength, light, and heat; through this sacred channel Almighty God communicated Himself intimately to her, and, in fine, it was by the frequent use of this adorable mystery that, possessing the fullness of God in herself, she was enabled to say with S. Paul, that she lived no longer a natural and human life, but that Jesus Christ her Divine Spouse lived in her, since the grace of his august Sacrament had quite transformed her into Him.

 

She communicated regularly three times a week, frequently five times, and in some circumstances of her life she communicated every day, according to the orders given her by those who regulated her conscience.  As this Divine Sacrament operates only according to the dispositions of the receiver, S. Rose prepared for it by confession, which she frequented not by routine, as many in the world do who profess devotion, and who confess their imperfections without any sorrow for them, but, with a contrite heart, trying to blot out her sins by a river of tears, and to obtain pardon from the mercy of God by her sighs.  On the eve of her communion she fasted rigorously on bread and water usually, and took the discipline to blood, and by these austerities she sought to imitate Jesus Christ her Spouse, who is the victim immolated in this mystery. 


She had also the holy custom of preparing her heart for Him by a number of ejaculatory prayers, which she used to express the loving impatience she felt to possess Him; in a word, she disposed herself as carefully for each communion, as if she were going to enjoy that happiness for the last time in her life.  Every time she communicated she was so transported with love, that the fire of charity which consumed her soul showed itself on her countenance, and made it appear so red, and sometimes so bright, that even the priests were seized with awe and fear when they brought the Sacred Host to communicate her.  She was often surrounded with light at the altar; sometimes she seemed to possess a superhuman beauty; and those who noticed this change would have taken her for an angel, had not her face resumed its ordinary expression; and many religious persons have attested, that they saw issue from her eyes, from her hands, and from almost every part of her body, rays as brilliant as those of the sun, when she was making her thanksgiving after communion.  Her confessors wished sometimes to oblige her to declare the admirable effects which this adorable Sacrament operated in her soul; she obeyed, but at each word she stopped short, finding it difficult to express the sentiments of her mind, and what passed in her interior; nevertheless, she told them, to give them some faint idea of these things, that her heart, her mind, and her whole self became, as it were, transported into God; that she experienced such excessive joy, that all the pleasures of the earth were not to be compared to those she tasted in this magnificent banquet, where Almighty God seems to make those whom He admits to this sumptuous feast partakers in His happiness and in His divinity.  She declared to them also, that she found in it an entire satiety; and that she derived from it so extraordinary a strength, that though before communion she was quite weak from fasting, and from the loss of blood which she drew from her veins by disciplines, so that she was sometimes obliged to rest in the middle of the church, not being able to go as far as the altar without taking breath, she went from the holy table with the same strength as the prophet Elias felt after having eaten bread baked in the ashes, which was the symbol of the blessed Eucharist, and of the strength which it communicates to those who receive it.  After communion she felt a certain vigor, which so completely recruited her exhausted strength that she was able to return home without difficulty.

 

Those belonging to the family have borne witness, that the satiety which she found in the sacred table replenished her so completely, that she shut herself up in her room or in her hermitage without taking any nourishment, and that she remained there till night, and often till the next day, devoutly occupied and quite enraptured in the chaste embraces of her Divine Spouse; and when they called or came to seek her at the time of meals, she, who had fasted the day before, excused herself, saying, it was impossible for her to take anything; so that she was sometimes known to fast eight whole days; and, in imitation of S. Catherine of Sienna, to take no other food than that which she had received at the banquet of angels in the holy communion.  She had so great a love and devotion towards the most holy Sacrament, that on her communion days she assisted at every mass that was said till noon with such great recollection, that she kept her eyes always fixed on the altar, and though a great number of persons passed and repassed continually before her, she saw no one.

 

When the forty-hours’ prayer was taking place in any church, she went thither, and remained motionless before the most holy Sacrament, completely absorbed in God from morning till night.  She thought not of food or drink, and though the excessive heat of the country required that she should assuage her thirst with a little water, she felt in her heart a fire of love more vehement than that which heated her corporally, and this made her forget necessary refreshment.  The following was her method of proceeding during the Octave of the most blessed Sacrament, and the manner in which she spent the four last years of her life.  She was not satisfied with accompanying the Beloved of her heart in procession to the sepulcher on Maundy Thursday; she remained in His company for twenty-four hours, with such profound respect that she dared not sit, nor even lean ever so little against the wall to support her extreme weakness.  Any one who saw her standing, motionless, bathed in tears, now and then looking towards heaven and sighing in the bitterness of her heart, would have taken her for another Magdalen, inseparably attached to the sepulcher of her dear Master by the invisible chains of His love.  When the most blessed Sacrament was carried through the town to the sick, she felt so transported with joy at the sound of the bell, that this interior gladness pervaded her whole body.  At the sight of her God she knelt down wherever she was, and after having adored, prostrate on the earth, she accompanied Him to the sick, and followed Him to the church with unspeakable satisfaction, thinking herself infinitely happy on these occasions, which she said were extremely favorable to her for offering her homage to the Son of God, her Sovereign Lord.

 

She took great pleasure in washing the church linen, and in making and repairing neatly everything connected with the decoration of the altar.  She made flowers of gold and silk for this purpose; and for fear that the time which she spent in these works of piety might prevent her from helping her family, who partly depended on her labors for a living, she devoted part of the night to them, taking away the hours from her sleep to consecrate them to the embellishment of the house of God.  Her love for this adorable mystery was so generous, that she resolved once to defend it from the rage of heretics at the expense of her blood and life; for in her fear that they would get possession of the blessed Sacrament, and make it the subject of profanation and sacrilege, she rant to the church to oppose their violence by force, though she could not doubt that they would despise her resistance, and tear her in pieces if she attempted to oppose their design.  It happened as follows:

 

In the month of August, 1615, a powerful fleet of the States-General of Holland appeared on the coasts of Peru.  Already the vanguard of the enemy was seen approaching the port of Lima, and the greater part of the ships belonging to this naval armament coasted so near the land, that some merchants of Lima, whom this fleet had taken by surprise, thought they saw the boats of the admiral’s ship and of the other vessels put on land a quantity of soldiers.  Every one was in tears; nothing was heard but the cries of women and children, and the men prepared to defend themselves in such confusion and disorder, that nothing could be expected but the total ruin of the country.  Rose, who did not look upon these heretics as the enemies of her country, but as the mortal enemies of Jesus Christ, thought of nothing in this general consternation but of defending the most blessed Sacrament at the peril of her life; for It was exposed in all the churches of the town.  She animated her companions, and exhorted them to die generously for the defense of this most august Mystery.  With the resolution of suffering herself to be slain by these soldiers, she disposed herself to resist their violence courageously; she mounted on the steps of the altar with the same resolution as S. Ambrose represents Judith to have acted in approaching the camp of he enemies of God, to fight and die there.  Rose knew very well that she could not resist the violence of those who would put her to death; but she prepared to fight, to honor the belief in this great Sacrament.

 

From her sparkling eyes, her proud air, and t he tone of her voice, which was that of a heroine exhorting the troops to combat, she might have been taken for a Christian Minerva, armed for the defense of religion, or for an angry lioness, which rushes on against the weapons of the hunters, carrying its little ones.  She was found in this state of preparation and resolution to die on the steps of the altar by the hand of those heretical soldiers, when news was brought that the fleet had raised anchor, and sailed away without any manifestation of hostility.  Everywhere in Lima the people were heard blessing God; each one expressed his joy and gratitude; Rose alone seemed inconsolable in this general delight; for she grieved to have lost the opportunity of martyrdom which she had thought so near.  She had so earnest a desire of dying a martyr, that she every day asked of Almighty God the grace of shedding her blood, and of dying by the hand of a sacrilegious person or an executioner.  She often regretted that she was not born in those times when tyrants cruelly massacred the Christians, thinking that then she should not have failed to lose her life for Jesus Christ.

 

This desire of martyrdom, which neither the peace of the Church, nor the little prospect she saw of being exposed to the persecution of heretics and infidels, could extinguish in her heart, often made her say, with tears in her eyes, to Francis Hurtado de Bustamente, “would to God that I could find the opportunity and the means of going to distant pagan countries, that I might die by the hands of barbarians for Jesus Christ my dear Spouse!”


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

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