Sometimes a saint exists as an example of what’s possible and not exactly as an example for us to strictly follow. St. Rose of Lima is one of these saints.
Born in Lima, Peru in 1586 to good parents of Spanish heritage and of modest means, by all accounts she was an attractive young lady who had a deep spiritual life inspired by St. Catherine of Siena. However, young Rose engaged in severe, self-imposed penances many of which were not good for her physical, emotional, or mental health, and she was told as much by not just family and friends but by several priests at the time. Nevertheless, what drove her was the deep desire to be close to her beloved Jesus.
Though it was a rare practice for her time, she attended Mass and received the Eucharist daily. Though she and her parents didn’t see eye-to-eye about her future, she was always obedient to them within due reason. Once, as a result of a bad business deal that put the family’s finances in severe strain, she started working on embroidery and in the garden to sell products in the market. When she wasn’t working, she was praying.
When her parents tried to force her to marry, she resisted them for ten years pleading her love of Jesus. They finally gave in, and her father provided her a shed at the back of their property to be just hers. She sought to become a Dominican nun, but after her father forbade that, she became a Third Order Dominican and took a vow of perpetual virginity just like St. Catherine of Siena. She ate rarely, and when she did it was always meatless. She slept only two hours a night in order to be able to devote more time for prayer. And, after her family’s finances had become more stable, she stopped the work that took her to the market, she donned the clothing of a sister and left her little shed in the back of her parent’s property only to go to church.
St. Rose of Lima died on August 24, 1617 at the age of 31 in the home of a government official’s family who had taken her in. Immediately upon her death, many miracles occurred. She was canonized in 1671, the first canonized saint of the Western Hemisphere.
Almost none of us are called to live the life of St. Rose of Lima, at least not in terms of the severe penances and austerities that she undertook. Rather, good St. Rose is an example of the purity of purpose that we all ought to have when it comes to following the will of God. For her, nothing mattered in this world more than doing His will. She lived IN the world, supporting her family and was obedient to her parents, resisting them when they overstepped their bounds. But she was not OF the world. She did everything for Jesus for she was his beloved.
On her deathbed, during a long illness, she is reported to have said, “Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase thy love in my heart.” Her goal wasn’t the sufferings for their own sake. It was closeness to Christ. May we be inspired, not to do all that she did, but to ask ourselves how focused we are in striving to be closer to Jesus. St. Rose of Lima, intercede for our own striving to be close to our beloved Lord.