CHAPTER XX

 

OF THE HONOR WHICH S. ROSE RECEIVED AFTER

DEATH, AND OF THE TRANSLATION OF HER BODY

WHICH TOOK PLACE SOME TIME AFTERWARDS

 

 

THE death of the just is attended with circumstances which render it sweet and agreeable: it is not only precious in the sight of God, as their introduction to a throne of which they take possession as conquerors, laden with the glorious spoils they have taken from the world, the flesh and the devil; it is even precious in the sight of men, when they remark on the countenances of the illustrious dead the respect which death pays to their ashes, freeing them from that hideous deformity which gives us a sort of horror even for those persons who were be most beloved by us.  The honors which are paid to them after death, make us regard it rather as a triumph than as a shameful defeat, and we can scarcely believe that they have paid this indispensable debt of nature, since their virtue makes them live in the esteem of men, while their bodies are lifeless and without motion.  In this sense S. Gregory Nazianzen calls the generous Machabees the rivals of a precious death, since they sought it covered with blood and dust in the midst of combats, as a source of life and glory which would render them immortal in the memory of men.  Death appeared so lovely on the countenance of S. Rose, that those who remarked the freshness of her complexion and the redness of her lips, which were separated so as to form a pleasing smile, doubted for a long time whether her soul had quitted her body; for they saw so much brightness in her eyes, and such apparent marks of life, that they could not be satisfied till they had placed a mirror before her mouth, and had perceived that she did not in the least tarnish its luster by her breath; then they knew that she was dead.

 

In place of the tears and groans that would naturally have been expected from the nineteen persons who were present at her death, and who had been very dear to her, either by the alliance of blood or by the bands of a close friendship, so great a joy was visible on their countenances, that the house seemed more like the scene of a wedding than a place of tears and mourning.  A person who was present at her death, saw a number of angels around her bed during her agony, and she deposed upon oath, that God had revealed to her several days before the death of S. Rose, that her passage from earth to heaven would be glorious, and her tomb magnificent; and He had expressly forbidden the use of black drapery which is a sign of sadness; and He desired that they should employ white hangings, as being much more suitable to our Saint’s glorious triumph.  In fact she was placed under ground with as much pomp as would be granted to a heroine, who, during life, had performed a multitude of great actions; for scarcely had the day-light appeared, before a prodigious crowd of people, of all ranks, came to the door of the house of Don Gonzalez, in which she had breathed her last; and this surprised the people of the house extremely, for they could not imagine how they had heard of her death, since no one had gone out afterwards.  The crowd was so great that it did not merely comprise the heads of families; poor, rich, gentlemen, merchants, priests, religious, seculars, Spaniards, and native Indians entered in confusion and surrounded the body of our Saint.  Some pressed her feet with profound sentiments of respect and devotion; others cut off some piece of her dress.  They had taken care to close her eyes; but is was impossible to keep them in this position, for they reopened immediately, as if our Saint took pleasure in looking on the inhabitants of Lima, who had had such esteem and veneration for her. 

 

The news of her death having spread itself over the town and neighborhood, so many people came, that they filled not only the house in which her body was laid out, but the street also; and the viceroy was obliged to send soldiers to make a passage through the crowd in order to carry her to the church; and the multitude was so great in the streets through which they had to pass, that they were several hours without being able to advance.  The archbishop of Lima, who had quitted his palace to convey the body, with his clergy, not being able to reach the house of Don Goncalez, went to wait for the convoy at the church of the Dominicans, which was about a thousand paces distant.  All the religious communities, and all the confraternities of the town, came to join in honoring her; and though the chapter of the metropolitan church does not usually attend on these occasions, except for the archbishop’s funeral, it was nevertheless present, to increase the splendor of this ceremony.  The courts showed her the same honors as they usually paid only to the viceroys of the country.

 

The streets through which the body of S. Rose passed on its way to the Convent of S. Dominic were too narrow, which obliged a great number of illustrious ladies and virtuous widows to place themselves at windows, that they might have the satisfaction of seeing once more this virginal body, which had been the living temple of the Holy Ghost during life.  The poorer people mounted on the roofs to satisfy their pious curiosity; in a word, all the town was present at her funeral, every one wishing to show by this last mark of respect, the esteem they had felt for our Saint during her life.  The gentlemen of the chapter carried the body a considerable distance, but the eagerness of the principal people in the town to partake in t his honor, made them change bearers in every street; the most illustrious amongst the senators succeeded the chapter; after them the superiors of all the monasteries carried her one after another.  Everywhere the people were heard crying out, that Rose was a Saint in heaven; and not being satisfied with this vocal testimony, they tried to obtain some portion of her relics; and if the soldiers had not opposed their devotion, they would certainly have cut off all her clothes, and perhaps two or three fingers.

 

The body being at the church door, certain signs of joy were remarked on her face; and the statue of our Blessed Lady which was in the Chapel of the Rosary sent forth rays of light, which every on took for a miraculous indication of the pleasure she had in again seeing our Saint, who had honored her with so much love and tenderness.  Every one ran to see this prodigy; they observed with astonishment the light which issued from the countenance of this holy image; and there were some who declared that they saw drops of perspiration distilling from it.  The Father Prior of the Convent of S. Dominica appointed the most ancient among his religious to surround this holy body, as much to prevent the pious thefts of the people, as to bring near the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb, and a great number of sick people, whom the hope of obtaining a cure through the merits of S. Rose had attracted; and they were not disappointed in their expectation, as we shall shortly see.

 

The guard of the viceroy and the soldiers of the garrison having made the people retire, they began to prepare for the interment; but so great a tumult was raised, that they were obliged to postpone the ceremony; and unless they had given a promise to the people to delay it, not one would have gone home. This promise having caused those who were in the church to disperse, so great a number of others entered, that the archbishop, seeing that it would be impossible to bury her, made a sign to the religious to carry the corpse into the sacristy.  As these fathers thought it was not very safe there, they took it away, and placed it in the Chapel of the Novice-ship, as the most proper place, and the most retired part of the convent, to which seculars have no access.  The archbishop being now at liberty to pay his respects to the virtuous servant of God, placed himself devoutly on his knees before the corpse to kiss her hand, and he found the fingers as pliable and supple as when she was alive.

 

The next day, as soon as the father sacristan had opened the church doors, and the religious had placed our Saint’s body in the nave, and immense crowd of people entered, not only from the town, but some from six or seven leagues’ distance from Lima, to be present at her interment.  In spite of all the efforts of the soldiers and the viceroy’s guard, they could not keep the people back; they all rushed forward violently; some pushed others to enable them to touch this holy body with garments for the sick, with rosaries, prayer-books or medals; never was there witnessed such a scene of confusion; cripples begged to be allowed to pass that they might be cured by touching her relics; children were lifted from hand to hand over the heads of the people, to kiss her clothes; with all their precautions it was not possible to prevent them from cutting her habit, her veil, and her gimp, which were obliged to be changed six times.  The church resounded with the voices of those who were present, imploring her intercession as a Saint reigning with God.  The noise was so great, that they were obliged to give a signal to the choir by a bell, whenever it was necessary to answer the bishop of Guatimala, who was celebrating mass; it would never have been finished, if the chanters had not left their places to be nearer the altar, that they might be able to hear.  This illustrious prelate having descended from his throne to approach the coffin, and proceed to the ceremony of interment, saw himself surrounded by a quantity of people, who redoubled their cries and groans; and having given by this means a signal to those who were at a greater distance, that the body of S. Rose was going to be put into the ground, a more numerous troop joined them; and fearing some sedition, or that the people would try to seize by force some part of her dress, or of her body, the officials put off their violent devotion, by making the people a second promise to defer the burial till the next day.  They willingly believe this, as there was no sign of corruption in the body from the heat; for so much beauty was remarked in her countenance, so agreeable an odor was perceived, that everyone believed that Almighty God was renewing in the person of S. Rose the miracle He had so often worked in favor of His saints, by preserving her body from corruption; they though the body would be exposed for several days to satisfy the people, who were never satiated with seeing her; for during thirty-six hours no change in had appeared in her, either in her complexion, or the brightness of her eyes, though the dampness of the place, and the heated breath of the people who had filled the church from morning till night, would have been sufficient to effect some alteration in her countenance.

 

Towards noon the doors of the church were closed, and without waiting for the return of the people, who were troublesome even by their piety, they placed the body of S. Rose in a coffin, made of cedar wood, and buried it in the Chapel of the Religious.  When the ceremony was completed, the doors were opened to a crowd of people, whose impatience made them furious, and ready to break them open with violence.  When they saw that they had been deceived, they ran to the grave, and having watered it with their tears, they carried home some of the earth through devotion, to make use of it as a sovereign remedy in their diseases, hoping to be delivered from them by the intercession of this happy Spouse of Jesus Christ.  After her death her father’s house was every day surrounded by the carriages of the first persons of the city, who wished to see the hermitage which S. Rose had sanctified by her sighs and rigorous penances, and in which she had passed the greatest part of her life, separated from the commerce of men, but singularly favored by God.


The frequent miracles which took place in Lima and the whole kingdom of Peru, made her tomb so famous, that the people thought they had no paid sufficient honor to her memory; and it was resolved in the council of state, that a service should be performed for her with greater pomp and magnificence than at first.  The archbishop and the viceroy had some little difficulty in fixing the day, that they might both be able to be present; at last they chose the 4th of September, without reflecting that it was consecrated to honor S. Rose of Viterbo, in Italy.  The people all came to the church on the appointed day, and while the archbishop, the clergy, and the religious communities recommended aloud the soul of S. Rose to God, the people begged her prayers by tears and groans as a great servant of God, the fame of whose sanctity had already spread over all the towns and villages of Peru.  The famous town of Pontozzi, which is about three hundred leagues from Lima, was one of the first to show its respect for the memory of S. Rose, by the ringing of bells, the thunder of artillery, and by placing a great number of lights at the windows. The other towns of Peru vied with each other in showing their confidence in our Saint by the prayers they offered up at her tomb.

 

The miracles which Almighty God worked there every day to honor her, who, during life, had immolated herself entirely to His service, drew thither a number of persons from all parts, some to return thanks for the health which they had received from heaven by her intercession, others to implore her suffrages with God to be cured of their infirmities.  This fervor never relaxed, as is usually the case with these popular devotions which begin warmly, but insensibly diminish in their progress, till in time they are quite extinguished.  On the contrary, it increased so much by the quantity of miracles which were witnessed at her tomb, that almost all he order of the city, ecclesiastical or secular, with the principal officers of the council and police, concluded, that the body of S. Rose being the precious treasure with which God had enriched the town of Lima, it ought to be made public, and withdrawn from the cloister where it had been buried, to be placed in an honorable position in their church, to satisfy the devotion of the people.  The archbishop joyfully consented; and having given the necessary orders for this august ceremony, he took from the earth the body of S. Rose on the 27th of February, in the year 1619, in the presence of all the orders of the town, of the clergy, the nobility, and the people.  As soon as the grave was opened, an agreeable odor issued from it, which appeared miraculous to this numerous assemblage; and they redoubled their joy and respect when they saw this holy body as entire, and the complexion as fresh, as when it was put into the coffin.  It was transported from the cloister of the religious into their church, with all the pomp and magnificence that this great servant of God merited, and that could be imagined by the people to show their respect and affection.  Father Louis  Bilboa, a religious of the order, a doctor in theology, and a very celebrated preacher, who had long been her confessor, pronounced her panegyric, and extolled, with great eloquence, the admirable virtues of our Saint.  When her eulogium was finished, she was carried to a little vault on the right side of the high altar; but as the crowd continually hastened thither, as to a second arc, to implore assistance, and persons of all ranks and ages were seen praying there, and offering presents, and leaving their sticks and crutches as glorious trophies of their gratitude for having been cured by her intercession, they were obliged, out of reverence to the adorable Sacrament, to remove these precious relics to the Chapel of S. Catherine of Sienna, where the people could satisfy their devotion more conveniently, and without fear of irreverence.

 

In the year 1630, on the 17th of May, an Apostolic Brief was received at Lima, by which the Sacred Congregation of rites established a tribunal, and allowed the Father Inquisitors to examine canonically into the life, actions, and miracles of the servant of God, Sister Rose of S. Mary, religious of the third order of S. Dominic.  Two years were employed in hearing, judicially, a hundred and eighty persons, who presented themselves, and deposed what they had seen.  Nothing more remained to terminate the proceedings but to visit the relics.  They went to her tomb, and having opened it fifteen years after her death, they found her bones entire, covered with dry flesh, which exhaled a delightful odor like that of roses; from thence they went to the chapter, where she had been at first interred, to see the rave from which the people took earth every day, to which God had communicated virtue to cure fever and other diseases.  They found it quite full, with the exception of about five pounds’ weight of soil, though several bushels had been carried away during these fifteen years.

 

In 1640, the Procurator General of the Order of Friar Preachers hearing of the extraordinary devotion of the people, and the public veneration shown to the relics of this Spouse of Jesus Christ, wrote the fathers of the Convent at Lima, telling them to prevent this exterior honor, for fear of incurring the censures which Pope Urban the VIIIth had fulminated in 1634 against those who should public show marks of veneration before the tomb of those who had died in the odor of sanctity, before the Holy See had declared them blessed.  In consequence of this order, they resolved, to abolish the honor which was shown in their church to S. Rose.  As soon as this resolution was known in the town, a number of people ran tumultuously to the church, where they loudly complained of this proceeding; and as a rumor was spread that the body of S. Rose had been secretly taken away to be transported from Lima into Spain, the religious were in danger of being murdered, their lives were threatened, and whatever they could say to the people to undeceive them had no effect, for they were not at first capable of hearing their excuses, or understanding their innocence; but their fury having subsided a little, they were told that they had been misinformed; that the body of S. Rose was still in the chapel of S. Catherine of Sienna, and that what was done was in obedience to the commands of the sovereign Pontiff, and to merit greater honor for this servant of Jesus Christ in a more canonical manner, that hey might proceed to her Beatification in the forms prescribed by the Church, which they must obey in order to obtain the favor which all the people requested for their fellow-citizen.


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

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