We celebrate the feast of St. Rosa of Lima, the first saint in Latin America, a laywoman and Dominican missionary.
A lay Dominican out of love and to serve to the most needy
In Colonial Lima, near a Dominican monastery, Isabel Flores de Oliva was born in 1586. She was the daughter of Don Gaspar, arquebusier in the Spanish army and smallholder, and Doña María, housewife and seamstress. Isabel grew up in a context of social class division, slavery and exploitation of Indians and blacks. From an early age, she was known for her strong faith, devotion and solidarity with the needy. She wanted to give herself completely to the service of the Church, but her parents were anxious for her to get married and did not allow her to enter any congregation at the time; so after a long discernment and motivated by the example of St. Catherine of Siena, Rosa decided at the age of 20 to become a Dominican laywoman and consecrated virgin; and from her home, she began a mystical and missionary life.
In her garden she prepared a small cell where she confined herself in fervent prayer and contemplation; at all times she sought to please God and prayed for the conversion of those closest to her, so much that she self-inflicted severe flagellations. On the other hand, her tasks included teaching children, cultivating her garden, sewing and diligently helping the sick, among them Creoles, Indians and black people. In this way, Rosa responded with courage to what her heart most desired: to serve God in the midst of her people, in the midst of a hermitage, among children, among Creoles, Indians and blacks; among threads, needles and medicines. Her sacrifices reflected her passion to become like Christ by seeking her own conversion and of those she encountered.
Married forever to the beloved
Rosa suffered from tuberculosis for several years, during this time she found herself loved and embraced by the Lord. At the age of 31, in the midst of prayer before the image of the Virgin with the Child, she felt that the Child was saying to her: "Rosa of my heart, be my wife", to which she responded: "Yes, Lord, I will"; and so a week later on the Feast of Easter Sunday, the ceremony took place in the church of the Dominicans, where a friar placed a ring on Rosa’s hand as a sign of eternal alliance with her beloved.
Rosa de Santa María, gift of dedication and service to the Universal Church
Saint Rose of Lima continues to be an example of a woman of faith, who touches the hearts and inspires the journeys of many faithful people. She knew how to understand the signs of her time and discern the suffering of Jesus in the Indian, the black, the slave, the children, the sick and the marginalized. Today, there are various forms of marginalization and slavery, how do we respond to these signs and faces of the Lord’s suffering? What thoughts and spaces for dialogue arise within us to offer ourselves like Rosa? What "sacrifices" do I feel invited to make for my own conversion and for the brothers and sisters of my church family and social community?
May the flower of Peru and Latin America continue to encourage our journey and that of so many good-hearted believers who in this time of the pandemic selflessly servie their community and the most needy.
"Santa Rosa de Lima": Pray for the whole world
Resources to learn more about Santa Rosa de Lima
Castillo, C (2017) Rosa de Lima, enraizamiento y misticismo. Revista Pastores de Nuevo Milenio. Recuperado de https://www.arzobispadodelima.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/003-Carlos-Castillo-Rosa-de-Lima-17-74.pdf
De Coz, J. OP (2019). La Oración del Amor. La experiencia mística de Santa Rosa de Lima según las fuentes documentales. Recuperado de. https://www.dominicos.org/media/uploads/recursos/libros/la_experiencia_mistica_de_santa_rosa_de_lima_fray_julian_de_cos_2020.pdf
In German: www.heiligenlexikon.de