St. Rose of Lima was born in 1586 as Isabel Flores de Olivia. When she was an infant, her grandmother had a vision of a beautiful rose just over the child’s face, which is where she got the name ‘Rose.’ Her grandmother called her Rose from that day on; however, her mother never addressed her by this name. It was at her confirmation that she officially took the name Rose.
From a young age, Rose chose to consecrate her entire life to God. She desired to become a nun, but her family refused, always wanting her to marry into a better life. While she was very beautiful, she would make herself unattractive by rubbing her face with pepper and cutting her hair extremely short. She even made and wore a chastity belt.
After many years of persisting, her parents finally permitted her to join the Third Order of Dominicans. Rose was dedicated to prayer, so much so that she built a small hut out of clay and mud in her parents’ yard and would reside there day and night to pray. It is believed that while she was praying fervently in her hut, she would be transported to Mass somewhere else in the world to receive Holy Communion when it was not available to her in Lima.
St. Rose is also known for her heavy penances. She would only permit herself 2-3 hours of sleep each night. To ensure this, she would tie her hair to a nail on the wall while she would pray, so when she would begin to fall asleep the nail would pull her head, helping to keep her awake. She was also known to have worn a metal crown of thorns underneath a crown of roses, which she wore for so long and so tightly that it took a very long time to pry it off her head.
“Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”
In addition to her fervent prayer, Rose was known to care for the sick and hungry in Lima. She would open her family’s home to them and would care for them in her own room. She would even sell her own lace and embroidery as well as the flowers in her garden to raise funds for the poor and to help provide for her own family.
“When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus.”
She lived right around the corner from St. Martin de Porres who became a very dear friend and confidant. She was also friends with St. John Macias as well.
In 1615, savage pirates were outside Lima intending to raid the city. St. Rose was warned by God in a vision to pray unceasingly for 24 hours in order for Lima and the Blessed Sacrament to be spared. She gathered all the Catholics in Lima to pray for this cause day and night – and the city of Lima was saved.
When St. Rose died in 1617 at the young age of 31, her funeral was a major event that was attended by all the city authorities. Her body had to be reburied a total of three times since many people knew her to be holy and kept trying to take her clothing and hair as relics. The third burial had to take place in secret and in the middle of the night, and to this day no one knows her actual burial location.
Feast Day: August 23