The Well (el Pozo) at the Basilica of St. Rose

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day Five - Rose of Compassion

If we want to see an example of how love begets love, we ought to look to Rose of Saint Mary. Rose was a lover of God. No one could deny this. But, her love, like a cup running over, poured out on God’s people. She took to heart the words, “The one who says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20-21)

As a child, this ascetic would carry out her domestic duties and surpass her mother’s expectations. Her mother never had to call on her to complete her chores. In fact, Rose would often take it upon herself, as a sort of spiritual cross, to finish the household duties of her older brother. Work never bothered Rose. In fact, the more work placed upon her shoulders, the better. It was her cross. Selfless giving, without expectation of return, was her way of the cross. Of course, she preferred her solitary moments, but if Rose could work and befriend Jesus at the same time, she was happy.

Rose was a charitable person outside of the home, as well. Mariana, the servant girl for the Flores family, taught Rose about the indigenousness plants and herbs that were used for healing. Many of these herbs are used even today by the Quechua people and most hospitals in Peru have gardens with these plants; partly because they work and partly because today’s doctors know that many of the Quechua people will only take western medicine if they are first prescribed traditional remedies. Soon, Rose saw this as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with the poor.

Rose had an ulterior motive for helping the poor. She had a tremendous love for the native people of Peru and had a desire to teach them about the Lord. She lived in the day of the Spanish Inquisition and, like the rest of the Christian world of her day, assumed that only those who were converted to Christ would be saved. She was not in favor of the inquisition. Neither was her father, who taught her to be cautious of the clergy in Lima. He would point out to her the priests who were pastoral and those who were sent by Spain to chastise the unbelievers. It should be noted that the majority of those who were on trial by the Office of the inquisition were clergy themselves. Certainly, Muslims and Jews in Europe, as well as natives in the New World were tried, but the majority of those who were condemned were Christian “apostates” and “heretics”, most of whom where Catholic clergy.

Rather than attempting to find spiritual fault with the Quechua people living in Lima, Rose had a longing to bring them to Jesus. She did want them to be saved, not out of fear, but with the love of Christ. To bring this message of Jesus to the people, she would offer them the medicines grown in her garden. Rose saw this as an opportunity to heal body and soul.

Before long, Rose would give everything she had to the poor. Indeed, she would fast for days without food, knowing that what she could have consumed would be shared with others. After an appeal from her mother, the priest confessor urged Rose to avoid fasting too long. Rose obeyed, and tempered her fasting.

One day, when Rose had nothing to give, she took a cloak, belonging to her mother, and gave it to a poor woman to clothe her children. Maria became indignant, but Rose assured her that Maria would receive in return from the Lord more than the coat was worth. Within a week, a stranger came to the door and gave Maria fifty pieces of money, Dame Mary of Sala gave her material for another cloak, and the Dominicans gave her more yards of fabric than she knew what do with.

On another occasion, Rose reached out to a cancer victim. This young orphan woman had no place to stay and was left to die. Rose quietly found a room for the woman, paid for by Rose herself, and nursed her back to health. How her health was restored was nothing short of miraculous. It was miraculous enough to gain the attention of Maria who allowed Rose to open up a small infirmary in the family home. Rose spent her days caring for the women and young girls living in the streets of Lima. If she wasn’t caring for them at home, she would make regular visits to the hospital.

With every patient, Rose would pray to Jesus, the Divine Physician. In her words, “Prayer is the great pharmacy where we can find the medicine for all our ills.” Many miracles are attributed to the prayers of this great saint.


Compassionate Rose,

Your love for Jesus overflowed and filled the little town of Lima, Peru. Your compassion for the poor and needy is a reflection of your love for God. The answer to your prayers for the poor is a reflection of God’s love for you.
Pray for the people in your homeland still living in poverty. Patron Saint of the Americas and the Philippines, pray for those living on the streets. Pray too for me that my love for Jesus may be expressed in my love for the poor.

Jesus, friend of the poor and healer of the sick, help me to serve your people and reflect on your words, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”


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