The first canonized saint of the western hemisphere was St. Rose of Lima (1586-1617). Isabel de Flores y del Oliva was the daughter of Spanish parents in Peru. Because her family was poor, young Rose helped support them by growing flowers and doing embroidery and other needlework.
At an early age Rose was attracted by the spirituality and mysticism of St. Catherine of Siena, but her attempts to imitate her brought only opposition and criticism from her family and friends. (Rose sometimes went to what others considered extreme lengths. For instance, because she feared that the admiration of her beautiful face by young men might distract her from serving God, she used to rub her cheeks with pepper to produce disfiguring blotches.)
Rose’s parents wanted her to marry, and for ten years they tried in vain to arrange this. Rose refused. Her parents in turn refused to let her enter a convent, so she became a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic (intended specifically for lay persons) and lived at home, continuing her life of solitude and penance.
A few years before her death, Rose used a room in the family home to care for the elderly, the homeless, and the sick (particularly Indians and slaves). She is today considered the originator of social services in Peru. After years of poor health and violent temptations by Satan, St. Rose of Lima died at the age of thirty-one. Most of the city’s inhabitants attended her funeral, with prominent men taking turns carrying her casket.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Philip Benizi (1285), Priest, Religious