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

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day Two - Rose of Saint Mary

In 16th century Christian Europe, due to the discovery of the New World, the economic climate was improving and people could afford to have large families. In many ways, a large family was a sign of wealth and prosperity. Unfortunately, not wanting to be under-classed, it was common for poorer couples to have ten or more children as well.

Isabella de Flores was one of thirteen children born in poverty. Her father, Gaspar de Flores, was born in Puerto Rico and had entered the Spanish military at the age of fifteen. His military travels took him to Panama and eventually to Lima where he served the rest of his career as a member of the viceroy’s private guard. This was a prominent and envious position, but not prosperous.

Isabella’s mother, Maria d’ Olivia, was born into poverty. Her father, Francisco de Olivia, was Spanish and served in the military. Her mother, Isabel de Herrera, was mestiza – Spanish and Incan. Isabel de Herrera was a dress designer by trade. Unfortunately, these two worthy occupations were not enough to keep their family out of poverty.

Although poor in treasure, Gaspar and Maria were rich in children. Unfortunately, the first three of their children died, but their faith was strong enough to continue trying to raise a family. By the grace of God, a daughter was born and baptized Bernardina. Five more children were born, then Isabella, then three subsequently.

Gaspar would leave the disciplining of children to Maria who was more than strict. Bearing tremendous faith in the Lord and in the Church, she would expect absolute reverence in the home. She was a tremendous teacher and had opened a home school for children.

How did Isabella receive the name of Rose?

The story goes that Isabella was baptized by the same priest who baptized Martin de Porres. She was given her baptismal name in honor of her grandmother Isabel. However, shortly after her baptism, a miracle occurred that resulted in her mother naming her Rose.

Isabella’s mother and sisters and Mariana, an Incan servant girl, were in the patio of their home. Isabella, just three months old, was in her cradle. Mariana was looking over the baby, when she discovered the miraculous event. She called to Maria and her daughters who saw the same vision. A rose was resting – floating – just above the head of the infant. When the rose had vanished, Maria picked up the child and said, “Rose! Her name must be Rose, not Isabella. It is a sign from God.”

Maria’s mother, Isabel, protested when she heard of the new name. She reminded Maria that the baby was baptized Isabella and that nothing could change her name.

Isabel’s protest was not without merit. When a name is to be given at baptism, the name remains – it becomes concrete. However, this is reminiscent of the story of how John the Baptist received his name. Elizabeth, through a vision, calls him John. However, Zechariah was to be his name, because tradition has it that the first born would be named after the father of the child. When Elizabeth said, “His name is John,” all looked to Zechariah for an answer. Zechariah responded in writing, “His name is John.” Tradition, rules, and regulations are important. But, if God wants to change the rules, God trumps tradition.

Isabel carried her protest to the Archbishop of Lima, Toribius. After hearing about the miracle, Toribius allowed the name to be used as a sort of “nick-name.” This satisfied both Maria and Isabel.

However, as for the child, this name would be a stumbling block on her spiritual “way of perfection.” As Rose grew, she embraced an austere spirituality. Drawing attention to herself and away from the Glory of God was an insult to God. The thorns she wore, the cross she carried, the insults she bore as a part of her austerity were accepted as a way “to decrease so that Christ may increase.” The name of Rose, a word that reflected her beauty, was not acceptable to her. Only Jesus was beautiful. All beauty rested with God.

While in her teens, Rose brought this issue of her name to prayer. At the Church of Santo Domingo, she entered the Chapel of the Rosary and cast herself before the Blessed Virgin. She revealed her fear that vanity was the cause for her name. In a vision, Rose received an answer. She heard Mary say, “The Divine Infant [Jesus] approves of the name Rose. But he wishes you to add to this the name of his Mother. You are Rosa de Santa Maria.”

Though satisfied, Rose of Saint Mary waited for her Confirmation day to receive the official name. If the archbishop were to seal her with Chrism and utter her name, this sanction of the Church would satisfy any arguments about the divine intervention.

After laying hands on her head, he sealed her with the words, “Rose, be sealed with the gifts of the holy Spirit.”


Rose of Saint Mary, your name is blessed by God. You were uniquely chosen by God to a life of holiness. By your prayers, help me to celebrate my name as a gift from heaven. Inspire me, with your way of life, to achieve a holy way of life.

Jesus, you have called me by name, and I am yours. May I never bring shame to the name I have received in baptism. I choose to accept my name, my character, my very being, as holy. Help me to continue on the path of holiness and give you honor, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God for ever and ever. Amen.

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