Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart.

- Saint Rose of Lima

Rose has the distinction of being the first saint to have been canonized in the Americas. She was born in Peru in 1586, the tenth of thirteen children. She was named Isabel at birth, but soon everyone began to call her "Rose" because she was such a beautiful baby.

As she grew older, she became more and more beautiful. She also grew more and more pious. She had read of Catherine of Siena and taken that saint as a role model. Her life was given over to prayer and mortification (including fasting and wearing a hair shirt). She had no use for beauty: she cut off all her hair and rubbed her face with pepper until it was red and blistered and quite unattractive.

Her friends and family objected to her severe penances, but this only made her more adamant. She was an obedient daughter, except in the matter of her eventual marriage. Her family, of course, expected her to marry, but Rose had sworn to remain a virgin. The battle of wills continued for ten years before Rose's parents finally gave up and allowed her to continue her chosen way of life.

All the while, Rose worked tirelessly to support her family with her needlework, making exquisite lace. She also tended their garden. Along with the flowers and vegetables in her family's garden, Rose grew medicinal herbs, which she used to treat the sick. Many miraculous cures were attributed to her. She was especially devoted to the native Inca people, who had recently been savagely conquered by the Spanish. At night, she devoted herself fully to prayer and penance. With her brother's help, she built a hut in her parents' garden, and eventually she moved into it and became a virtual recluse.

When she was twenty years old, she became a Dominican tertiary and increased the severity and variety of her penances. She wore a metal-spiked crown concealed by roses, and an iron chain around her waist. She spent days on end fasting. When she could no longer stand, she laid her afflicted body on a bed she had constructed herself. It was covered with broken glass, stones, and potsherds. She had frequent visions of Christ visiting her, flooding her soul with peace and love. During these times, she offered her suffering to Him for the conversion of sinners.

Many miracles followed her death, in 1617, at the age of 31. She was beatified by Clement IX in 1667, and canonized in 1671 by Clement X. Her feast is celebrated August 23rd. She is the patron of the Americas, embroiderers, florists, gardeners, India, people ridiculed for their piety, Peru, and the Philippines, and her name is invoked against vanity.


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