Popular Recluse

Today the church remembers the first official canonized saint of the Americas: Saint Rosa of Lima, Eccentric, Vegetarian, and Caretaker of the Sick.

Born Isabel Flores de Olivia, Saint Rosa’s name came from one of her nannies who claimed to have had a vision where Isabel’s little face bloomed into a rose. They started calling her Rosie and, well, as many childhood nicknames do, it stuck. Her family was wealthy for one born in the late 16th Century in a far flung colony, and she had many siblings. When she was Confirmed in 1597 she officially took the name Rosa as her new name, and then her real work began.

Rosa was strong-willed. It seemed whatever someone else wanted her to do, she did the opposite. Suitors started to admire her beauty, so she cut her hair and rubbed spices on her face to make it break out. She started to fast three times a week, despite her wealthy family wanting her to have a full figure. She took a vow of virginity, despite her parents wanting her to marry.

She was her own woman, and knew what she wanted out of life: to give herself away.

In the quiet hours of the night she would go and find sick people on the streets, bringing them back to her room to care for them. She refused to eat meat noting that it caused harm, and instead had a crown of silver created with spikes on the inside for her to wear, mirroring the crown of thorns. She took the sacrament daily, and only slept two hours a night, devoting the rest of her time to prayer and service. She sold flowers and embroidered pieces of art (she is also the Patron Saint of Embroidery!) to help her family survive, but gave most of the monies away to the poor.

Eventually her behavior caused her to shy away from the larger world, and she functionally became a recluse.

Despite her eccentricities, her parents never allowed her to join a religious order, though she desperately wanted this for her life. Instead she took what is known as “tertiary vows,” living the life of a monastic without the formal orders, following the way of Saint Dominic in seclusion.

She was known to have visions and dream dreams, and in fits and spurts would relate these to the church.

Saint Rosa of Lima died at the age of 31 on this day in 1617. She is the Patron Saint of Lima, and her likeness can still be found on their currency. Despite her reclusiveness, she was well known, respected, and loved, especially because she was known for giving of herself and her wealth for those who had nothing. At her funeral everyone, and I mean everyone who was anyone, attended to give homage to her self-giving love.

Saint Rosa is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes people know what they want out of this life from an early age and, despite the stereotypes, young people want to give of themselves for others.

And we can let that happen, by God.

-historical bits from public sources

-icon written by Theophilia

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