Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume VIII: August. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Rose of Lima, Virgin
From her life written by Hansen a Dominican friar, and from the elegant panegyric pronounced by F. Paul Oliva, S. J., in presence of the pope.
ASIA, Europe, and Africa had been watered with the blood of many martyrs, and adorned during many ages, with the shining examples of innumerable saints, whilst, by the inscrutable judgments of God, the vast regions of America lay barren, and, as it were, abandoned till the faith of Christ began to enlighten them, and this saint appeared on that hemisphere like a rose amidst thorns, the first-fruits of its canonized saints. She was of Spanish extraction, born at Lima, the capital of Peru, in 1586.1 She was christened Isabel; but the figure and colour of her face in the cradle seeming, in some measure, to resemble a beautiful rose, the name of Rose was given her. From her infancy her patience in suffering, and her love of mortification were extraordinary, and whilst yet a child, she ate no fruit, and fasted three days a week, allowing herself on them only bread and water, and on other days taking only unsavory herbs and pulse. When she was grown up, her garden was planted only with bitter herbs, and interspersed with figures of crosses. In her exercises she took St. Catherine of Sienna for her model. Every incentive of pride and sensuality was to her an object of abhorrence; and, for fear of taking any secret satisfaction in vanity, she studied to make those things in which it might insinuate its poison, painful to her. One day her mother having put on her head a garland of flowers, she secretly stuck in it a pin, which pricked her so deep, that the maid at night could not take off the garland without some difficulty. Hearing others frequently commend her beauty, and fearing lest it should be an occasion of temptation to any one, whenever she was to go abroad to any public place, she used, the night before, to rub her face and hands with the bark and powder of Indian pepper, which is a violent corrosive, in order to disfigure her skin with little blotches and swellings. A young man happening one day to admire the fineness of the skin of her hand, she immediately ran and thrust both her hands into hot lime, saying: Never let my hands be to any one occasion of temptation. What a confusion is this example to those who make it their study to set themselves off by their dress, to become snares to others! We admire a St. Bennet on briers, a St. Bernard freezing in the ice, and a St. Francis in the snow; these saints were cruel to themselves, not to be overcome by the devil; but Rose punishes herself to preserve others. Thus did she arm herself against her external enemies, and against the revolt of her senses. But she was aware that this victory would avail her little, unless she died to herself by crucifying in her heart inordinate self-love, which is the source of pride, and all the other passions. This is the most important and the most difficult part of our spiritual warfare; for so long as self-love reigns in the affections of the heart, it blasts with its poisonous influence even virtues themselves; it has so many little artful windings, that it easily insinuates and disguises itself every where, wears every mask, and seeks itself even in fasting and prayer. Rose triumphed over this subtle enemy by the most profound humility and the most perfect obedience and denial of her own will. She never departed wilfully from the order of her parents in the least tittle, and gave proofs of her scrupulous obedience, and invincible patience under all pains, labour, and contradictions, which surprised all who knew her.
Her parents, by the vicissitude of worldly affairs, fell from a state of opulence into great distress, and Rose was taken into the family of the treasurer Gonsalvo, by that gentlemans pious lady; and by working there all day in the garden, and late at night with her needle, she relieved them in their necessities. These employments were agreeable to her penitential spirit and humility, and afforded her an opportunity of never interrupting the interior commerce of her soul with God. She probably would never have entertained any thoughts of another state, if she had not found herself importuned by her friends to marry. To rid herself of such troublesome solicitations, and more easily to comply with the obligation she had taken upon herself by a vow of serving God in a state of holy virginity, she enrolled herself in the third Order of St. Dominic. Her love of solitude made her choose for her dwelling a little lonely cell in a garden. Extraordinary fasts, hair cloths, studded iron chains which she wore about her waist, bitter herbs mingled in the sustenance which she took, and other austerities, were the inventions of her spirit of mortification and penance. She wore upon her head a thin circle of silver, (a metal very common in Peru,) studded on the inside with little sharp pricks or nails, which wounded her head, in imitation of a crown of thorns. This she did to put her in mind of the adorable passion of Christ, which incomprehensible mystery of divine love and mercy, she desired to have always in her thoughts. She never spoke of herself but as of the basest of sinful monsters, the sink of the universe, unworthy to breathe the air, to behold the light, or to walk on the ground; and she never ceased to adore the infinite goodness and mercy of God towards her. So ardent was her love of God, that as often as she spoke of it, the accent of her voice, and the fire which sparkled in her countenance, discovered the flame which consumed her holy soul. This appeared most sensibly when she was in presence of the blessed sacrament, and when in receiving it she united her heart to her beloved in that wonderful fountain of his love; her whole life was a continual vehement thirst after that divine banquet, in which she found her greatest comfort and support during the course of her earthly pilgrimage. God favoured the fervour of her charity with many extraordinary graces: and Christ once in a vision called her soul his spouse. But for her humiliation, and the exercise of her virtue, she suffered, during fifteen years, grievous persecutions from her friends and others; and, what were much more severe trials, interior desolation, and dreadful agonies of spiritual anguish in her soul. The devil also assaulted her with violent temptations, filling her imagination with filthy phantoms. But God afterwards recompensed her fidelity and constancy in this life with extraordinary caresses. Under long and most painful sicknesses it was her prayer: Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase thy love in my heart. She happily passed to eternal bliss on the 24th of August, 1617, being thirty-one years old. The chapter, senate, and all the most honourable companies of the city, by turns, carried her body to the grave; the archbishop assisted at her funeral. Several miracles wrought by her means were juridically proved by one hundred and eighty witnesses before the apostolical commissaries. She was canonized by Clement X. in 1671, and the 30th day of August has been appointed for her festival.
The saints, whether in the world, in the desert, or in the cloister, studied to live every moment to God. If we make a pure and perfect intention of always doing His will the governing principle of our whole lives, we thus consecrate to Him all our moments, even our meals, our rest, our conversation, and whatever else we do; all our works will thus be full. To attain to this perfection we must crucify in our hearts all inordinate self-love, or it will creep into our actions, and secretly rob God of them. We must study to remove every obstacle that can hinder the perfect reign of divine love in our souls, and must pray and labour with all our strength, that this love be continually increased in us. If true charity animate our souls it will regulate and sanctify all our actions. By it we shall ardently endeavour to glorify God alone in all our works, and sincerely offer and refer ourselves and all we do to this end, repeating in the beginning of every action, Hallowed be thy name, both by me with all my powers and strength, and by all thy creatures now and for ever. Or, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; may it be always fulfilled by me, and in me, and all others, with the most ardent affection, and pure intention, as it is by the blessed angels above, O God of my heart, my God, and my All!
Note 1. It is not improbable that America was known to the ancient Carthaginians, and that it was the great island Atalantis of which Plato speaks, both in his Critias and Timæus, as larger than Asia and Africa, though he adds, that it had been swallowed up by an earthquake, with other fabulous accounts. It is well known in what manner Christopher Columbo, a Genoese, under the protection of Ferdinand, king of Spain, in 1492, first discovered the Lucay Islands in America, viz. Guanahani or The Desired Land, and afterwards Cuba, Hispaniola, &c.; also, how Americo Vespucci, a Florentine, by the authority of Emmanuel, king of Portugal, in 1501, sailing as far as Brasil, discovered that vast continent which was called from him America. Amongst the barbarous nations which inhabited it, all the rest, though united by certain laws of society and government, might justly be called savages comparatively to those which composed the two great empires of Mexico and Peru. These were both acquainted with, and very expert in the useful and necessary arts, though strangers to sciences, and even to the use of writing or an alphabet, properly so called; so that the memory of transactions was only preserved by signs and marks, made by a wonderful variation of colours and knots called Quippos, in threads or cords; and by these they expressed what they desired. The same was the manner of writing (if it may be so called) used by the ancient Chinese, before the invention of their hieroglyphical letters. F. Jos. Acosta (Natural and Moral Hist. of the Indies, b. 6, c. 8,) says, these Indians who were converted to the faith, readily wrote, or rather marked down, by a dexterous arrangement of these Quippos, the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Creed, in order to learn them more easily by heart. The Peruvians preserved by these Quippos the history of the chief actions of their Incas, on which see the accurate Inca Garcillasso de la Vega, (in Historia Incarum, l. 6, c. 8.) who was himself of the race of the Incas. The Mexicans, and ancient inhabitants of Canada, wrote, not by Quippos, but by certain hieroglyphics, that is, marks or little pictures, framed with meal, or such substances, on the barks of trees. Their figures resembled hooks, axes, cords, &c. but were never understood by any Europeans. Specimens of them are published by Olaus Wormius of Copenhagen, in Musæo Wormiano, p. 384, and by John de Laat. (Descr. Indiæ Occid. l. 5, c. 10.) The Spaniards, in the conquest of Mexico, destroyed many such books, which they at first mistook for magical charms. Certain annals of Mexico, in this manner of writing, are preserved in the Vatican library. See Jos. dAcosta (Descr. Indiæ Occid. l. 7, c. 19,) and Adrian Relandus (Diss. 12, de Linguis Americanis, t. 3, p. 166.) The Peruvians and Mexicans performed their arithmetical operations by the help of grains of mais, or Indian wheat. The polity or constitution of the two empires of Mexico and Peru, and their art of government, resembled, in some respect, those of civilized kingdoms; their cities, palaces, and temples were surprisingly magnificent and well regulated. These were richer in Peru, but the court of Mexico was supported with greater state. Their armies were exceedingly numerous; but their chief weapons were bows and arrows, stones which they threw, or sharp flints fixed on poles, instead of steel weapons. The Mexicans had a great number of fantastical idols. They were conquered under their great emperor Montezuma, in 1521, by Ferdinand Cortes, who with eight hundred Spaniards, and some thousand Indian allies, destroyed the great city of Mexico, which stood in an island in the midst of a lake. New Mexico was afterwards built upon the banks of the same water. The history of the conquest of Mexico by Cortes is most elegantly written by Don Antonio de Solis. The Incas or emperors of Peru resided in the rich and stately city of Cusco. The language of Quito was generally understood over that whole empire, the polity of which was superior to that of Mexico. The chief god of the Peruvians was the sun, to which they offered, in his great temple at Cusco, bloody victims, and fruits of the earth. Francis Pizarro, a haughty, cruel, and perfidious Spanish adventurer, conquered Peru, caused Atabalipa, the Inca, to be strangled, and built the city of Lima, in a valley of that name, in 1535. Pizarro, Almadra, and all the other Spanish adventurers or generals in Peru perished by the sword in civil wars amongst themselves. (See Histoire Générale des Voyages, &c. at Paris, 1756, t. 13, and the relations of Condamine and Bougere; also Jos. Acostas History of the Indies.) In the learned and ingenious dissertation, Upon the Peopling of America, inserted in vol. 20, of the Universal History, (which makes amends for certain defective parts of that work,) the common opinion is invincibly confirmed against Whiston, that America was chiefly peopled from north-east Tartary, and the island of Kamschatka, or Jesso, on the north of Japan, perhaps either by a continuous tract of land towards the North Pole, or by contiguous islands, only separated by small straits. Some ruins of Japanese or Chinese ships have been found on the American coasts; and in Canada the people had a tradition, that foreign merchants, clothed in silk, had formerly visited them in great ships, namely, Chinese. The names of many of the American kings, are Tartar, ending in ax; and Tatarax, who reigned anciently in Quivira, means the Tartar. Manc or Mancu, the founder of the Peruvian empire, probably came from the Manchew Tartars. Montezuma, the usual title of the emperors of Mexico, is of Japanese extraction; for Motazaiuma, according to Hornius, is the common appellation of the Japanese monarchs. F. Jartoux having obliged the world, in 1709, with an accurate description of the famous plant Gin-seng, then only found in Manchew Tartary, it has since been discovered in Canada, where the Americans called it Garentoguen, a word of the same import in their language with Gin-seng, in the Tartar or Chinese, both signifying, The thighs of a man. (See Lafitaus dissertation on the Gin-seng, printed at Paris in 1718.) In many particular customs, religious rites, institutions, species of food, &c. there is a wonderful agreement or resemblance between the Americans and the Manchew Tartars; and as these latter have no horses, so neither were there any in America, when it was first discovered, though since they were first imported by the Spaniards, they have been exceedingly propagated there. The Tartars therefore furnished this great country chiefly with its first inhabitants; some few Chinese and Japanese colonies, also settled there. Powel, in his History of Wales, informs us, that Prince Madoc, having been deprived of his right to the crown, in 1170, with a numerous colony, put to sea, discovered to the west a new world of wonderful beauty and fertility, and settled there. It is objected that there were blacks in America when that country was first discovered. But there were only a small number about Careta, whose ancestors seem to have been accidentally conveyed thither from the coasts of Congo or Nigritia, in Africa. The ancient inhabitants of Hispaniola, Canada, Mexico, and Peru, had several traditional notions alluding to Noe, the universal deluge, and some other points of the Mosaic history, as Herrera, Huet, Gemelli, and others, who have treated on this subject, assure us. America was the last peopled among all the known parts of the globe; and several migrations of Tartars into that country seem to have been made since the establishment of Christianity. See these points proved at large in the aforesaid dissertation, against the objections of Deists, and the whimsical notions of Whiston, in his Dissertation upon the Curses denounced against Cain and Lamech, pretending to prove that the Africans and Indians are their posterity. See also the learned Spanish Benedictin, F. Bennet Feyjoo, Theatro Critico, t. 5; Discurso 15, p. 320. [back]