CHAPTER XIX

 

 

OF HER LAST ILLNESS AND DEATH

 

THE same law which obliges us all to enter the world by birth, that we may be capable of being made children of God by the grace of regeneration given to us in holy baptism, requires us to depart out of it by the door of death, in order to take possession of the inheritance of eternal glory, which the Son of God has merited for us by His sufferings, and to which the grace of our adoptions gives us a title. This indispensable law of nature makes us regard the death of S. Rose, which filled the t own of Lima, and nearly all Peru, with sighs and tears, in the same light as S. Bernard considered that of S. Malachy, which drew lamentations from all his religious, as the end of his combats, the consummation of his virtues, and his triumphant entrance into heaven.

 

S. Rose having learned by revelation that she should die on the day which the Church consecrates to honor S. Bartholomew, had from that time a particular veneration for this feast, and she passed it in particular exercises of piety; but not considering this sufficient to honor the day, which was to be to her the first of a happy eternity, she caused several little children to fast with her on the ever, and their innocence, being very pleasing to God, greatly increased the merit of this mortification. Her mother was surprised at the extraordinary devotion she had towards this apostle; but she ceased to wonder at the meritorious excess of her piety, when her daughter informed her on this day her nuptials with the Son of God would be celebrated in heaven.  Having attained her thirty-first year which she knew by inspiration she should not live to complete, she made the wife of Don Gonzalez, her great benefactor and the protector of her family, acquainted with the day and place of her death, though she was in perfect health when she gave them this sad intelligence.

 

The same revelation which informed her of the day of her death, made known to her also the great sufferings she was to endure at the close of her life.  Almighty God showed her their number, and told her that her pains would be so violent, that each member of her body would have its own particular torment. She knew that she should have to suffer the same thirst which tormented our blessed Savior on the cross, and also a burning heat which would dry up the very marrow in her bones.  She did not tremble at the sight of this species of martyrdom; the bitterness of the chalice which God prepared for her did not shake her constancy; on the contrary she lifted up her hands and eyes to heaven, to adore the sovereign goodness of her Spouse, who wished her to partake in His cross and sufferings, that He might communicate to her His glory and His crown.  With this generous disposition she entered the Chapel of our Lady of the Holy Rosary, to consecrate her soul and body to the sovereign pleasure of God.  Having placed herself on her knees before the altar, she made a perfect act of resignation of herself to the holy will of God, with so great fervor, and so tender a sentiment of love and piety, that the fire of charity which inflamed her soul appeared in her countenance; and Don Almansa, who saw this brilliant color on her cheeks, and so joyful an expression in her eyes, though she must have just received some information of her death from her Divine Spouse.

 

Three days before she was attacked by her last illness, she went to her father’s house to bid farewell to her dear hermitage, the faithful witness of the favors she had received from Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin, her guardian angel, and from her dear mistress, S. Catherine of Sienna: she passed two days therein in acts of thanksgiving, prayer, and tears.  In this retreat S. Rose sang, in preparation for death, canticles of praise and benediction to her adorable Spouse, who called her to His chaste embraces.  She then offered her respectful acknowledgements to S. Dominica for the care he had taken of her, and for the mercy he had shown in receiving her into his order amongst the number of his daughters; and after this she entreated, with tears in her eyes, that he would pardon her want of correspondence to her vocation, the infidelities which she had committed to the observance of the constitutions of her order, and the bad example which she had given to her sisters as well as to seculars.  Though the stifled sobs, which a sensible sorrow drew from her, choked her utterance, she could not omit to recommend her mother very particularly to him, begging him to be a father to her, and to take her under his protection.

 

On the first of August she went to her room at night in perfect health; but at midnight she was heard crying and groaning piteously; and the wife of don Gonzalez, at whose house she lived, having hastened to her with several other persons, found her extended, half dead, on the floor, cold, without pulse, motionless, and scarcely breathing. Alarmed at this circumstance, they asked her what was the matter with her, and if she did not wish the physician to be sent for to give her some relief.  She blushed at this word “relief,” and looking at them with half closed eyes, she told them in a weak languishing voice, that there was nothing the matter with her, but that she felt death exercising its violence upon her; and as God alone, her sol Physician, knew her state, He alone could withdraw her from it by His power.  They placed her again in her poor bed, and immediately they noticed a cold sweat on her face, and so violent a shivering seized her that she breathed with great difficulty; yet she did not cease to pronounce time to time the sacred Name of Jesus with such tender sentiments, and with so much facility, that it was easy to see that this Divine Name was the only comfort she found in her sufferings.

 

The physicians came to visit her in this state, and having diligently examined the opposite maladies with which she was attacked, they declared that these infirmities and sufferings were beyond human endurance, and that this union of incompatible symptoms was something miraculous: in a word, they were of opinion that her illness was not natural, and that God alone might make His destined Spouse participate in the sufferings of His Passion.

 

Her confessor, who did not forsake her in this extremity, fearing that her humility would prevent her from making known the nature and the great number of her sufferings, commanded her, in virtue of obedience, to declare them to the physicians in the best manner she was able, in order to give them at least some slight ideal of them.  In obedience to this order she told them, that during her life she had been afflicted with every one of the different diseases from which mankind suffer; but that she did not understand that with which she was actually attacked, and that she could not explain to them the pains she endured, except by borrowing comparisons from the most painful sensations in nature.  “It seems,” she said, “as if a ball of fire were forced into my temples; that it descends to my feet, and that it passes across from my left side to my right, causing an insupportable heat.  I feel,” continued she, “as if my heart were lacerated by a burning dagger, and the invisible Hand which guides it pierces me sometimes from head to foot, and then, by crossing from side to side, engraves the figure of a cross in my body with this instrument, which burns me with the greatest violence to which fire can attain.  I suffer,” she added, “such sharp pains in the bowels, that it seems as if each moment they were being torn out with burning pincers, and my head burns as if heated coals, just taken from a flaming furnace, were placed upon it.  In fact, I believe that when I die, my bones will be found reduced to ashes, and the marrow dried up, from the effects of the burning heat which I endure.”

 

At this candid declaration the physicians looked at each other in astonishment at hearing things so uncommon; and being more and more confirmed in their first opinion by the recital of these dreadful pains, they concluded that her malady was supernatural, and that Almighty God was the true principle of it . Rose, hearing the result of their consultation, ingenuously avowed to her confessor that they were not mistaken in their judgement, and therefore she needed nothing but love and patience to execute the designs of God over her, who wished her to partake in His pains and sufferings.  When the physicians had retired, she begged that she might be left alone for some days, and t hat no one would come to speak to her, that she might be able to converse more at liberty with Jesus Christ her dear Spouse, with whom she felt herself fixed to the cross.

 

On the sixth day of the same month she ascended with her beloved. Not to Tabor to partake of the glory of His Transfiguration, but to Calvary, to bear a part in His excessive sufferings; for on this day, her left side was attacked by paralysis, and two days after she was seized at the same time with pleurisy, asthma, sciatica, gout, colic, and fever, as if these cruel diseases had united their different pains to make her suffer one which included them all; for she endured inconceivable torments.  We may say that this happened by the special dispensation of Providence, who permitted her to be attacked by all  these diseases at once, that she might suffer on her bed from the hands of her Divine Spouse, a martyrdom as meritorious to her, as that which the saints endured on wheels and racks from their executioners.

 

She preserved always an admirable tranquility of mind in the midst of her pains; she was so calm in the paroxysms of her fever, in the shooting pains of sciatica, and the sharp attacks of colic, that she appeared insensible, or as if her body were of iron, incapable of pain or change.  Though she suffered so much, she entreated her Divine Spouse not to diminish her pains; on the contrary she begged Him, with all the affection of her heart, to increase them, in order to punish her rigorously for the crimes of which she believed herself guilty in the sight of His Divine Majesty.  God has compassion on His servant; He was moved by her tears and groans, and He miraculously preserved her mind sound and entire until her last breath, amidst the vapors which the burning her of her inside sent to her brain, and which must have caused her to fall into delirium if He had not preserved her from it by His mercy; and, by a further favor, granted her the use of her tongue, to make known her thoughts till she died.  We have the greater reason to believe that the preservation of her senses was an effect of the Omnipotence of God, as she was often seen, during this last illness, as it were out of herself, without any use of her exterior senses, or in raptures in which her soul seemed to leave her body to unite itself more closely to God.

 

She suffered from thirst, which was the more painful, as it was caused by the heat and disorder of her inside.  She endured it till death, without swallowing a drop of water to quench it, for the physicians had forbidden her to drink, preferring to deprive herself of this relief, rather than of the consolation of dying with a burning thirst: after the example of her Divine Spouse, she asked only for gall and vinegar to increase her suffering.

 

During her illness she usually confessed her sins every day; and to dispose herself better for death, she made a general confession of her whole life, with such marks of deep contrition, that her sighs and groans were heard in the room adjoining.  On the third day before her death, she received the Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction, with interior dispositions suited to the excellence of these two sacraments, the graces of which were, in some manner, to put the seal to the merits which she had acquired by the practice of all the virtues.  It was noticed when the Blessed Sacrament was brought to her, that she changed color; her face became shining and inflamed; and amidst the transports of joy which filled her, she fell into an ecstasy; and after receiving this Bread of angels,  which was to fortify her to pass from earth to heaven, she remained motionless and totally absorbed in God.  In receiving Extreme Unction she disposed her limbs in such a manner, that those who had seen her before quite incapable of moving them, knew that this holy oil prepared her rather for the glory of her triumph, than for those fearful invisible combats to which the agonizing are exposed; for she was assured of her salvation, and  Almighty God had revealed to her that her soul, on leaving her body, would go straight to heaven, without passing through the flames of purgatory.

 

She often declared, in an audible voice, that she was a Christian, and desired to die in the faith of the Church, and that she was a daughter of S. Dominic. To give proof of this, she kissed her scapular respectfully, and would have it always laid upon her in her sickness. Finally, to imitate the charity of the Son of God, she prayed with all her heart for those who had offended her in word or deed, begging Him to load them with His graces, and to show them the same mercy which she hoped to experience from His goodness; and holding a little crucifix in her hand, she could not satisfy herself with kissing it, and repeating tenderly, “Father, forgive them.” After having so perfectly copied His love, she had only to imitate His humility before her death: for this purpose she begged t hat the servants of the house might be sent for; and though she had never disobliged one of them in any manner, she begged their pardon with tears in her eyes.  She showed a sensible grief that she had been so great a burden to her mother, and that she should give her yet a great deal of trouble during the two days she had still to live.  She thanked Don Gonzalez very gratefully for his goodness to her, telling him that he would soon be freed from this miserable sinner, who had given so much uneasiness and trouble to his whole family.  There was not a person who did not shed tears at these words, and who did not admire the prodigious humility of this spouse of Jesus Christ, who had so profound a contempt for herself, while every one considered her as a Saint.

 

Don Gonzalez feared that some dispute might arise between the curate of her parish and the religious of S. Dominica, concerning the right of possessing S. Rose’s body after death, each having a claim to keep it in their church, the one as his parishioner, for she had died in a house which came under his jurisdiction; the others as their sister, for her being a religious of their order.  To avoid this dispute, he thought it would be advisable that she should ask the prior to have the charity to give her burial amongst them, as to one of their sisters, by manner of supplication, rather than by will, for fear she might become aware of the eagerness which the convent and parish would show to possess her body.  She had no difficulty in following this judicious advice, for she knew it was the custom for religious of the third order of S. Dominic to be buried in the church of his children; and fearing that this favor might be refused to her, owing to the disedification she though she had given, she begged them with many entreaties to grant her this consolation.

 

A short time before her death, she was continually in raptures and ecstasies, in which she had a foretaste of the ineffable sweetness she would possess in heaven for all eternity.  This violent application of the mind fatigued her weak body very much, and gradually disposed it to die; but her soul acquired new strength at the approach of the blessed moment which was to unite her forever to her Spouse, she felt a joy which was visible in her eyes and in her words.  Two hours before she expired, coming to herself from a long ecstasy, she turned to Father Francis Neito, and said to him in confidence, “O father, what great things I could tell you of the pleasures and abundant consolations which God will bestow upon His saints for all eternity! I go with inconceivable satisfaction to contemplate the adorable Face of God, whom I have all my life desired to posses.”

 

She then thanked her parents, those who had nursed her in her illness, and particularly Don Gonzalez and his wife, for all the kindness and charity they had shown her.  She exhorted their daughters with all the strength that remained to her, and with words of fire, to the love of God and the practice of virtue; after this, she spoke privately with her two brothers, and conjured t hem to lead good lives, and to honor and assist their good mother.

 

Towards midnight she heard a mysterious noise, which announced to her the coming of her Divine Spouse; she received it with joy; and seeing herself on the point of expiring, she requested her brother to remove the bolster from beneath her head, and to place pieces of wood in its stead.  She thanked him for this act of kindness, and placed her head upon them; and as if she had only waited for these pieces of wood to die upon a sort of cross, she said twice, “Jesus, be with me!, Jesus, be with me!” and immediately afterwards her pure soul quitted her mortal body, and took its flight into the bosom of God, to take possession of that heavenly inheritance prepared for it from all eternity.  Her death took place on t he 24th of August, the feast of S. Bartholomew, in the year 1617, her age being thirty one years and five months. 

 

The same night Aloysia de Serrano had a revelation of her death; and as S. Rose and she had promised one another, that the one who died first would make it known to the other, S. Rose kept her word and informed her of her death and of the happiness she enjoyed.


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

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