CHAPTER XVI

 

OF HER ZEAL FOR THE SALVATION OF SOULS, AND

HER CARE IN ASSISTING THE POOR IN THEIR

SICKNESS AND NECESSITY

 

 

TRUE love being always accompanied by zeal, it follows that we cannot love perfectly the Son of God, who takes so great an interest in the salvation of those souls whom He has redeemed with His precious blood, without also being zealous for the eternal welfare of sinner for whom He suffered death.  As this was the characteristic of S. Dominic, and as it still inflames the hearts of those among her children whom the Church destines to gain souls, we need not be surprised that S. Rose, his beloved daughter, should have received the spirit of zeal of this great patriarch with the habit of his order, as she showed during her whole life an indefatigable zeal for the conversion of sinners, and never failed one single day to ask of God for them by her prayers, and generally also by her blood, the grace to be restored to His friendship.

 

Whenever she cast her eyes on the high mountains of South America, she wept for the eternal loss of the barbarous people who dwell amongst them.  Her zeal being as boundless as her charity, she deplored also the damnation of the almost innumerable multitude of pagans in the New World, who have no knowledge of God nor of the adorable mysteries of religion; she desired to be torn in pieces and placed at the gate of hell, as a net to hinder men from precipitation themselves into it, as they do every day. 

 

She exhorted religious persons, whenever she met them, in words of fire, to go and preach the Gospel to the idolatrous Indians, warning them especially to shun the studied figures of rhetoric, which corrupt the purity of the word of God; and not to be attached to the useless subtleties of the schools, nor to the questions which are therein agitated, unless they may be useful in converting infidels.  She sometimes said, in a transport of zeal, that if Almighty God had made her of a different sex, she would have applied herself to study, in order to labor, with all her power, for the conversion of souls; and that when her studies were finished, she would have penetrated into the most distant provinces and most barbarous nations of America, to enlighten these savages with the torch of faith, or to finish her life by a glorious martyrdom.  Seeing herself incapacitated by her sex from executing this charitable design, as she could not make these long journeys, she had resolved to adopt a child, and bring him up to study and prayer, by the help of the alms given her, and the money she gained by her work, that she might send him to preach to infidels when he was capable of it.

 

One of her confessors being undecided about accompanying some good religious men in a mission to the Indians, for which they were preparing, she made over to him half the merit she might have gained by the good works which she had performed by the grace of God, in order to animate him to this enterprise, in which the salvation of a great number of souls was in question.  If she had great zeal for these poor Indians, what shall we say of that which she manifested for the salvation of Christians, who are, as S. Paul says, of the household of the faith, when she saw them in danger of losing heaven by their crimes and excesses? She took every day severe disciplines for their conversion; and as she could not keep to herself the zeal which inflamed her, she made it known by these words, which she sometimes uttered: ďAh, if it were permitted to me to exercise the function of preacher, I would go by day and by night, barefoot, into the most public places, covered with a hair shirt, and bearing a large cross on my shoulders, to exhort sinners to do penance, and to represent to them the fearful severity of the judgments of God.Ē  For this reason she modestly advised those who were engaged in the apostolical ministry, to make these subjects the ordinary matter of their discourses, to renounce the ornaments of worldly rhetoric, and to abstain from those studied declamations, which are more suited to the theatre than to the pulpit, because preachers are established by Almighty God to be fishers of men, that is, to withdraw them from sin and hell by their fervent exhortations.

 

As she was animated with the spirit of her father, S. Dominic, she would have considered herself to have degenerated from the glorious quality of his daughter, if she had not imitated his ardent charity for others; therefore all her aim was to draw men to God, to bring them from vice, and to inspire them with a love of virtue.  She never spoke with any one without leading the conversation to the necessity of knowing, loving, and serving God, and to the obligation contracted by every Christian of leading a holy life, of renouncing the maxims and vanities of the world, and of clothing themselves with Jesus Christ, by an imitation of those virtues which He has practiced to give us an example.  She was so thoroughly persuaded of the truths she uttered, and so deeply touched by them, that she scarcely spoke to any person without gaining hem to God, and inducing him to change his life.

 

Almighty God often made use of her in a miraculous manner to contribute to the conversion of several persons engaged in vice.  A young man of high family, but whose life did not correspond with his noble blood, despairing of marrying Rose, whom he passionately loves, sought at least some comfort in the pleasure of seeing her; he watched carefully for opportunities; he gained her mother over, and agreed with her that she should order Rose to make collars and linen for him, which he pretended to want.  When her mother called her to speak to him, and to accompany him to the linen draperís shop, Almighty God made known to Rose the bad intentions of this young gentleman, whose name was Don Vincent Montelis Venergas.  Thus warned by heaven, she met him with civility, spoke to him strongly, and filled him with so great a fear of the judgments of God, that he left her entirely converted, and so touched with what she had said, that he gave himself holly to God, and applied himself so diligently to the care of his salvation, that from that time he lived in sentiments of exemplary piety, and generally communicated every week.

 

She contributed no less to the salvation of a woman whose passionate temper caused her to fall into such excesses of impatience every minute, that it was impossible to live with her and to have a quarter of an hourís peace.  She went one day to visit S. Rose in her cell, and this holy virgin made her a discourse on the meekness which the Son of God has taught us by His words and example; and she showed her so efficaciously the excellence and necessity of this virtue, which is, in some degree, the spirit of Christianity, that this woman overcame her fiery and passionate temper, telling every one that she had been delighted with the admonitions of our Saint, and that the sweetness of her eyes and words extinguished always in her the impetuous sallies of anger to which her temper, and a long indulged habit, gave rise continually in her heart.

 

S. Roseís confessor, Father Peter of Louysa, knowing the greatness of her compassionate zeal, informed her that a certain religious person was suffering dreadful pains; in his agony he was seen to sweat, shudder, and tremble with a lively apprehension of the rigor of Godís judgments.  She begged this good father to fortify him and to animate him to hope by the representation of the boundless mercy of Almighty God; and to offer him from her a part of all the good she had done during her life in the service of God, in order to supply what might be wanting to him before he could enter heaven; and to tell him that she should be glad to know the state of his soul after death, that she might continue her prayers and suffrages for him if he stood in need of them.  He was greatly comforted by S. Roseís liberality, and died in great tranquility.  Some days after, Almighty God revealed that the soul of this person was in possession of eternal happiness. 

 

It will, perhaps, appear surprising, and not without cause, that the funeral of S. Rose should have been honored with the cries, tears, and groans of the poor, and that they should have been heard bitterly to lament having lost, in the person of Rose, their mother and their nurse, since she was so poor herself, and so ill provided with the goods of this life, that she was obliged to support her family, partly, by her own work; nevertheless, we need not be astonished at it if we reflect that charity is powerful, and the zeal which accompanies it ingenious in devising means to help others in their necessities, when it undertakes to do so.  She assisted them, first, by begging for them in the first houses in the town, where her virtue made her well received, and where the distribution of plentiful alms was confided to her.  Secondly, by dividing with them the charity which was given her for herself, as it was known that she had to support her parents and family.  Thirdly, by depriving herself of the necessaries of life to help them.  In this spirit of charity she abstained from food eight days, that she might give a poor man the money she would have spent in nourishment during that time.  Fourthly, by bestowing upon them things of which she herself stood in need.  Her mother having given her six ells of cloth to make veils and aprons, and other articles of dress, she gave them to two very poor by very virtuous young ladies. Almighty God worked several miracles to enable her to give alms, and He never failed to supply the necessities of the family by extraordinary means when S. Rose, confiding in His providence, boldly gave away what was intended for their support.

 

One day when she had nothing to give a poor woman, who begged her for the love of God to give her some old clothes to cover her poor little half-naked children, she took a large cloak belonging to her mother, and without any permission beyond that which she interiorly received from God, she bestowed it upon her.  Her mother being displeased with this sort of liberality, Rose humbly entreated her not to be uneasy, and assured her that Almighty God, who had given her this thought, would make her a return beyond the cost of her cloak.  She was not deceived in her expectation; for the same day a stranger came in and gave her fifty pieces of money. Three days after, Dame Mary of Sala sent her, by a servant, a piece of cloth large enough to make another cloak; and the next day the Dominicans gave her several ells of serge, as if they had all joined together, that they might return to the mother of our Saint more than her charitable daughter had given to the poor.

 

Her charity extended still farther.  She made herself the attendant and infirmarian of the poor.  She took home with her a young orphan lady, named Jane de Bovadilla, of Azevedo, who, besides her great poverty, which obliged her live at the very extremity of the suburbs of the town, had a cancer in her breast, of which no one could bear the insupportable odor.  God revealed her condition to S. Rose: immediately she went to see her, offered to wait upon her, and that she might be able to do it, she persuaded her to come to her fatherís house, where she would render her every sort of assistance; still as she knew hat her mother was a little too much attached to her own interests, she told her that she would hire a room in the house for her, and that she would give her the money to pay herself, only requiring that she should keep this a secret.  Rose hired the room, brought the lady to it, whom she charitably waited upon, and worked more than usual to obtain the money necessary for the payment of the lodging, which the lady did not quit till she was perfectly recovered.

 

Her mother having found this out a little later, gave her leave to bring home sick persons, and after this permission Rose exercised her charity indifferently towards the poor women and girls whom she met in the streets, whatever might be their condition.  She was not satisfied with giving them a lodging, she nursed them, made their beds, dressed their ulcers, washed their clothes, and, in a word, rendered them every sort of service, making no distinction between the Spaniard and the Indian, the free and the salve, the Europena or the African negroes.  There was no disease, however loathsome, form which these poor women were suffering, that did not call into action the indefatigable charity of S. Rose, who waited upon them night and day.

 

When she had no sick persons to attend at home, she went to practice charity at the hospital; and when she perceived any one whose disease caused aversion, she devoted herself to her service; and whatever repugnance she might feel, she performed for her the most abject services.  She did not practice these virtues without a strong opposition on the part of nature; but she courageously resisted and triumphed over it by the violence he did to her feelings, of which the following is an instance.   She went one day to visit a girl in the house of Isabel Mexia, who was very ill and had been bled two days before.  When our Saint saw the green and corrupted blood which had been taken from her in a dish, she felt her stomach turn at the sight.  Ashamed of this weakness, she asked the servant, who was going to throw the blood away by order of the physicians, to give it to her; and taking it with her into another room, she drank it to the last drop, imitating her good mistress S. Catherine of Sienna, by this heroic action, who, having felt the same weakness at the sight of a dreadful cancer, from which a poor woman, whom she had taken upon herself to serve, was suffering, filled a vessel with the matter that proceeded from it, and drank it courageously, to overcome the rebellion of nature.

 

Her charity was sometimes stronger than death; for she restored a number of sick persons to health; and we might say that the Son of God, to show forth the merit of the mercy she exercised towards them, had communicated to her hands a miraculous virtue to heal them; and that as He formerly imparted so efficacious a virtue to the shadow of S. Peter that it restored health, it seemed that He had renewed this wonder in our Saint; for very often the mere sight of her effected a cure.  We will only cite on example, of which the whole people of Lima were witness.  Don Juan díAlmansa, a man of high rank, being very dangerously ill, desired very much to speak to S. Rose once more before he died.  She went to see him, to afford him this satisfaction.  When she entered his room, he remarked quite a heavenly beauty on her countenance, from which he conceived a firm home that she would obtain his cure from Almighty God, who alone could draw him from the state to which he was reduced.  While she was speaking to him he fell asleep with this consoling thought, and awoke as perfectly recovered as if he had never been ill.



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

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