CHAPTER XV

 

OF HER DEVOTION TO AN IMAGE OF OUR BLESSED

LADY, TO THE SIGN OF THE CROSS, AND TO HER

DEAR MISTRESS S. CATHERINE OF SIENNA

 

 

FOR more than a century the people of the town of Lima had honored a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the church of the Friar Preachers, under the name of Our Lady of the Rosary, a devotion which these monks had taught to the people at the time that they planted the faith by their instructions in the most celebrated provinces of America.  But before we speak of the graces which S. Rose received by this means, we must go farther back, and show what rendered the people so devout to this image.

 

It was a wooden statue of our Blessed Lady, five feet high, which the first Spanish Christians who passed over into Peru with our forefathers brought from Europe with them to be the powerful protectress of their project.  She holds the Infant Jesus with her left arm, and with the right hand offers a Rosary.  When they had settled in this country, and had built this famous town now called Lima, they raised a superb church for the religious of the Order of Friar Preachers, under the name of the Holy Rosary, which was the first church and the first parish in which baptismal fonts were erected for the regeneration of spiritual children to Jesus Christ in the New World; and they placed in it this image, which was honored by the people with special veneration, on account of the signal favors received through the protection of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary.  The year 1535 was marked by one of these instances of her patronage.  The Indians had assembled near Caxaguana, in the province of Cusco, to the number of two thousand, in order to massacre the Christians; and they felt more assured of the victory, as the Spanish army opposed to them consisted only of six hundred men.  In this consternation the religious men, having placed themselves at the head of the Christian troops, exhorted them to implore the protection of our Lady of the Holy Rosary.  They did so, and filled with confidence in her assistance, they gave battle to this great multitude of Indians.  At the moment in which the engagement began, they perceived in the air the Blessed Virgin, under the same form as she is represented in the Church of the Rosary, holding a rod in her hand, and threatening the Indians with death if they did not withdraw.  The infidels were so alarmed at this vision, and so dazzled with the splendor that surrounded the Blessed Virgin, that they begged for quarter, and submitted not only to Spain, but also to the yoke of Jesus Christ, by becoming Christians.  This memorable victory increased the devotion of the people towards our Lady of the Rosary so much, that Philip IV, king of Spain, having placed his kingdom of Peru under the protection of the blessed Virgin on the 27th May, 1643, and having given notice of his intention to the archbishop, the viceroy, and magistrates of Lima, exhorted them to choose some image of the Blessed Virgin, and address to it their prayers, that they might obtain succor from her in the dangers which threatened the country.

 

When the orders of his Catholic majesty were received, the archbishop, the viceroy, and the two states, ecclesiastical and secular, chose our Lady of the Rosary to be the protectress of the whole kingdom of Peru, and resolved that the people should every year go in procession, on the Monday in Low Week, to the Church of the Friar Preachers, to offer their prayers to her.  This procession took place every year with great pomp; this image of our Lady was carried from the church through the town, the garrison being under arms; the chapter of the cathedral, the religious, the viceroy, the officers and magistrates assisted at it.  The devotion towards this image was so great, that every day a crowd of people came to pray before it.

 

S. Rose spent some time every day in prayer on her knees before the altar on which this image was placed, with very great devotion, which increased more and more in her heart as she perceived that this inanimate statue cast towards her looks of tenderness, and made certain signs as if it wished to caress her, and manifest to her by these miraculous movements, the love which the Blessed Virgin, of whom it was but the copy, bore to her.  She noticed the same affability in the figure of the Infant Jesus whom this image was represented as holding; she saw Him sometimes smile, extending His arms to caress her, and He gave her so many marks by these visible signs, that he answered the love which she bore Him, that she felt as certain of it as if she had seen His affection for her painted or engraved in large letters.  It seemed to her that this Divine Infant wished to leave His mother, to throw Himself into her arms and caress her with greater facility.  It was looked upon in the town as certain, that Rose obtained whatever she asked of Heaven when she prayed before this image, and she herself felt as sure of obtaining what she asked through the intercession of our Lady of the Rosary, as if she had received from Heaven letters patent, confirming all the graces she requested for herself or for others.

 

She was also very devout to another image of the Blessed Virgin, which she honored particularly in her oratory at home, because she had remarked that this image gave signs of life; that it changed its position, approached her, smiled upon her, and offered her the same caresses as if it were truly the Blessed Virgin, and not a mere copy of the original.  When a lady who had come to see her, was relating in the presence of this image the great miracles which the Blessed Virgin worked every day at Achota, a place of devotion near Madrid in Spain, in favor of those devout persons who came to honor her, and of the sick, who sought her protection to obtain from God the cure of their diseases, Rose remarked, during this conversation, that her image gave great signs of joy, looking at her with a smiling countenance, and shone more brightly than usual.

 

Every Saturday she took care to adorn the Chapel of the Rosary with flowers which she had cultivated expressly for this purpose.  She was never known to fail in this act of devotion; and in summer, when the heat of the sun dries up all the plants, as well as in winter, when the cold renders gardens unproductive, the altar was seen as richly ornamented with flowers as in the time of spring.  She had also undertaken to adorn with a robe this image, to which she had so great a devotion; but the spiritual garment which she composed of her prayers, her fasts, her disciplines, her tears, and of all the acts of virtue she practiced, as an ornament for the Queen of Heaven, was much more pleasing to her than if she had clothed her with some costly material.  The following is the method she practiced, which she wrote herself:

 

“Jesus, Mary.

 

“The spiritual garment which I, sister Rose of S. Mary, unworthy servant of the Queen of Angels, prepare, by her help, for the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God.  1st, Her tunic shall consist of six hundred Ave Marias, as many Salve Reginas, and of fifteen fasting days, in honor of the spiritual joy which she felt in her holy soul when the archangel announced to her the Incarnation of the Word in her chaste womb.  2ndly, The material for this mysterious robe shall be of six hundred Ave Marias, six hundred Salve Reginas, fifteen Rosaries, and fifteen fasting days, in honor of the joy she felt in going to visit her cousin S. Elizabeth.  3rdly, I will border it with six hundred Ave Marias, as many Salve Reginas, fifteen Rosaries, and fifteen fasting days, in honor of the joy which filled her heart when the Son of God was born into the world.  4thly, The clasp shall be made of six hundred Ave Marias, six hundred Salve Reginas, and fifteen fasting days, in honor of her interior joy in offering her Son Jesus Chris in the Temple.  5thly, Her necklace shall be composed of six hundred Ave Marias, as many Salves, of fifteen fasting days, and fifteen Rosaries, in honor of that joy she felt in finding her Son in the Temple, in the midst of the doctors, after having lost Him.  6thly, the scepter that I shall place in her hand shall be made of thirty-three Paters, thirty-three Rosaries, thirty-three Gloria Patris, and thirty-three Salve Reginas, in honor of the thirty-three years which Jesus Christ, God and Man, lived on earth for our salvation.” A little below she wrote: - “May God be eternally glorified, and His most pure Mother, the Virgin Mary, honored by every creature! I have made this spiritual garment, and have acquitted myself of this devotion, by the help of the grace of my God, who has supplied for my defects.”

 

She had a wonderful devotion to the sign of the cross; she embraced every day a large wooden cross, which she had in her cell in the garden, with such tender sentiments of love and respect, that it was easy to see that she bore its mysteries deeply engraved in her heart.  Wherever she saw a cross she knelt down to venerate it.  She had the same respect for every thing which bore the figure of a cross; for when she saw any representation of it in pieces of wood or placed across, or in the interwoven branches of tress or hedges, or in pieces of straw, or in the bolds of doors, she felt herself interiorly moved by the form of the sign of our salvation, and never passed without showing marks of respect and veneration.   Amongst the plants and flowers which she cultivated in her father’s garden, she had a large Rosemary, the principal branches of which formed a cross.  The wife of the viceroy of Peru asked her for one of them; not being able to refuse so small a gift to a lady of her merit and quality, she sent her one; but as soon as it was planted in her garden it died.  Rose’s confessor having told her of it, she answered, that it was not to be wondered at; for the cross cannot exist amongst the delights and vanities of the court.  She begged that it might be sent back to her, and having replanted it, in four days it was as green and beautiful as ever.

 

The members of the Confraternity of S. Catherine of Sienna were accustomed to carry her image, adorned with a crown of flowers and precious stones, round the town every year.  Rose, who honored her as her dear mistress, and loved her as her spiritual mother, could not bear that any one else should render her this service; she contrived so well, that she was charge with the duty of carrying it, and she acquitted herself of it, as long as she lived, with great sentiments of tenderness and devotion.  Besides this commission, she had obtained also the appointment of sacristan to her chapel: she adorned her image as richly as she could, but with so tender a devotion, that in doing it she gave her a thousand kisses, and expressed t o her by inflamed words the love she had for her.  “Oh, my dear mistress,” said she one day, “how I regret not to have money to clothe you with another garment!” As she finished speaking, a slave of Madame Hierome de Gama brought her the money she had desired for this pious design.

 

One day in May, which is the season of winter in the torrid zone, when she wished to adorn her as usual, she went to seek flowers in her garden, but not finding any, she commanded a root of pinks to furnish her with some; and immediately there appeared several beautiful flowers, though there had not been any ready to come out before.  She gathered in the same manner a quantity of roses from a rose tree.  This miracle happened so frequently that it did not cause surprise any longer to the people of Lima and the surrounding country.  It was not without reason that she honored with special devotion the image of this seraphic virgin; she had often seen her surrounded with heavenly light, and had been present at the miracle she worked in curing Francis de Montoya, by preserving her from the effects of a sulphurous flame which had entered her eye, and would have caused the loss of it without this miraculous assistance.  She had herself experienced the effects of the goodness and power of her dear mistress, when she was suffering from gout, which had swelled her hands so much that she could not move her fingers. 

 

In the year 1616, S. Rose wishing to adorn her image to carry it in procession on the feast of S. Dominic, which was drawing near, begged her to enable her to continue the performance of her usual duties.  After her prayer, she put her fingers within the rings of her scissors without reflecting on her infirmity, and from the size to which her fingers were swollen she could not have done this without a miracle.  This assistance, which her good mistress gave her, filled her with joy, and surprised the Receiver, his wife, and several physicians very much, and they confessed that it was an effect of the Divine Power, which had cured her in an instant.


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

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