Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saintly Saturday: Saint Rose of Lima

Eight days ago was the feast day of Saint Rose of Lima (August 23rd), but I'm choosing to write about her now because she is one of the patron saints of those suffering from Influenza. Given that flu season is on its way, and the fact that I've spent the last week either sleeping or in the bathroom being ill, I thought it was time to invoke the help of this most gentle friend of all good Christians.

Saint Rose was born in Lima, Peru on April 20, 1586 to a Spanish family of some means. She longed to become a nun, but her parents wanted her to marry.  They refused to allow her to enter the convent, and so instead she remained inside of the home.  She was a great beauty, but would rub her face with pepper causing her complexion to become blotchy in order to discourage suitors. Her parents eventually fell into financial trouble and so Rose would sew at night and work the gardens during the day. During this time, their pressure on her to marry increased, and it would be 10 years of struggle before she won their consent to live her life for Christ.

Although she very rarely ventured outside of her home, she was not unaware of the sufferings of those who lived nearby.  Rose spoke out against the oppression of the natives of Peru by the Spanish. She lived only to the age of 31, dying on August 23, 1617, but during the last few years of her life she opened up a room in her home to the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the orphaned.  Her work was the foundation of the first social services offered in Peru. When brought to the attention of the Inquisition Interrogators, they found only that she was moved by grace.  One of her final prayers was, "Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase thy love in my heart."

It was after her death that her widespread influence became apparent, much to the surprise of those who knew her. The press of sorrowing citizens over her death made it impossible for her to be buried for several days after her death, and reports of miracles attributed to her led to her relatively quick canonization as the Patron Saint of South America and the Philippines by Pope Clement in 1671, just 64 years after her death.

The flu may not kill you, but sometimes the suffering that results from a brush with it can make you wish it would. Instead, I offer the prayer of Saint Rose as I struggle to get over this illness - "Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase thy love in my heart!".

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