Thought for the Day – 23 August – Friday of the Twentieth week in Ordinary Time, Year C and the Memorial of St Rose of Lima (1586-1617)
The first Canonised saint of the New World has one characteristic of all saints—the suffering of opposition—and another characteristic which is more for admiration than for imitation—excessive practice of mortification.
The saints have so great a love of God that what seems bizarre to us and is indeed sometimes imprudent, is simply a logical carrying out of a conviction, that anything that might endanger a loving relationship with God, must be rooted out. So, because her beauty was so often admired, Rose used to rub her face with pepper to produce disfiguring blotches. Later, she wore a thick circlet of silver on her head, studded on the inside, like a crown of thorns. (Scientists recently performed an analysis of her skull, which has been kept by Dominicans in Peru and created a digital reconstruction of her face. – See below).
What might have been a merely eccentric life was transfigured from the inside. If we remember some unusual penances, we should also remember the greatest thing about Ros -: a love of God so ardent, that it withstood ridicule from without, violent temptation, and lengthy periods of sickness. When she died at 31, the city turned out for her funeral. Prominent men took turns carrying her coffin.
It is easy to dismiss excessive penances of the saints as the expression of a certain culture or temperament. But a woman wearing a crown of thorns may at least prod our consciences. We enjoy the most comfort-oriented life in human history. We eat too much, drink too much, use a million gadgets, fill our eyes and ears with everything imaginable. Commerce thrives on creating useless needs on which to spend our money. It seems that when we have become most like slaves, there is the greatest talk of “freedom.” Are we willing to discipline ourselves in such an atmosphere?