Rose was born as Isabella in Lima, Peru, in a family of small landowners. She was so beautiful that she received the nickname Rose, which she officially took as her name at confirmation. Already as a child she wanted to become a religious sister. Rose’s family wanted her to marry, but she remained true to the desire of her childhood. She became an external member (tertiary) of the Dominican order. Thus she was not officially a religious, but closely connected to the spirituality of Saint Dominic while continuing to live at home. At the age of 21 she formally vowed to live a life of virginity and prayer for the sake of Jesus and started to wear a religious habit.
Prayer and Penance
Rose regularly withdrew to a small cabin behind her house to contemplate and pray. She wanted to be with Jesus at every moment, especially in his ultimate suffering on the cross. Therefore she chose a life of prayer, poverty, penance, and charity to those who needed her help. At a young age, when she started to attract suitors because of her great beauty, she marred her face with pepper and caused it to blister. You could say that this is self-harm, but her reasons were different. She wanted to place not herself, but God at the centre of her life. Be aware, however, that the great penance she chose to inflict on herself is not for everyone. There is no need for you to do the same. In today’s world there is so much suffering that there is little need to add more! By accepting with faith the unavoidable suffering we encounter in our life and that of others, we can share in the saving suffering of Jesus.
Communicating with God
Prayer is communicating with God. There is no set way in which you should do this, and no need for complicated phrases. Keep it simple (Mt 6:7-8). Basically, every form of prayer consists of opening your heart to God as Rose did. You can talk, shout, ask, tweet… Do not worry when you do not know what to say: God also understands you without words. Alternatively, you can always use the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, the Our Father (Lk 11:2-4). Do not give up too soon, and persevere in telling God your deepest desire (Lk 11:5-13). The most important thing is to dedicate time to him in silence and prayer (Mt 6:6). You can pray alone, or with others (Mt 18:20). Also, you can ask the saints and Mary our Mother to join you in your prayer, for example by praying the rosary. Whichever way of praying you choose, always ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray in such a way that not you but God is at the centre of your prayer (Rom 8:26-27). Even when you ask God to help you with his grace (see box), for example to pray better, you do not do this in the first place for your own good, but to become a better follower of Jesus.
From Prayer to Action
A life of prayer does not mean being sterile or detached from the pain and suffering of this world. Rose was successful in her vocation, precisely because it was based on her prayer life and her friendship with Jesus. She was always ready to help others and her neighbours never called on her for help in vain. The same applies to you: if you learn to pray better and abandon yourself completely to God in prayer, you will gradually discover how to discern his will for your life and live as a Christian. The important thing is to keep trying and reach out to God in your prayer every day. What would you like to pray for at this moment?
‘Let all know that after sorrow follows grace… I felt as if my soul could not be detained in the prison house of the body, but that it must burst its chains, and free and impeded, rush through the whole world calling out: “If only mortal people would know how wonderful divine grace is, how beautiful, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights!”’
[Rose of Lima, Letter to Dr Castillo]
This blog is extracted from Online With Saints, which offers a virtual encounter with hundreds of saints from all around the world and all paths of life, linking their inspirational stories to real-life modern questions and providing answers.
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