St Rose was born in Lima, at the end of the sixteenth century, of rich and honoured parents. At her christening she was named Isabel, but, as she lay so rose-leaf fair in her cradle, her mother, calling her "my rose," renamed her.
She grew up beautiful as the day, but from childhood her hatred of vanity was as remarkable as her beauty, as also was the severity with which she ruled herself. For food she chose herbs bitter as wormwood, for bed she took the hard ground. When her mother bade her wear roses in her hair to enhance her loveliness—for her skin rivaled the roses in its brilliance and delicacy—she so arranged the wreath that it became a crown of thorns, which kept her constantly reminded of her Saviour's sufferings.
In vain a host of suitors sighed for her hand; she would listen to no word of love, and when their pleadings and her parents' importunities had become insistent, she disfigured her too charming visage by the application of a mixture of pepper and quick-lime.
She early took the habit of the Third Order of St Dominic, and after this her life became one long chapter of patient service and filial devotion, for her parents became poor and she toiled early and late to provide for them. All day she worked in her garden, and all night she plied her needle. Throughout these hardships, uncomplainingly borne, she was upheld and strengthened by ecstatic visions and visitations; the Infant Jesus was with her among the roses of her garden, His Blessed Mother was her companion during the watches of the night.
Hearing of these wonders, doctors and divines questioned and examined her to discover if she were sane or mad, but she stood their tests in such wise that they decided that her visions were from God.
She died after a long illness when she was thirty-one years old.
Then it was that the people of Peru realized that in very truth a Saint had dwelt among them, and many years after her death a company of devout believers in the holy maid's sanctity sailed for Rome to entreat Pope Clement X to canonize their cherished compatriot.
The Pope listened sceptically to the one hundred and eighty who bore witness to the wonders performed both before and after her death by their candidate for canonization. It may be that he was not convinced that what he heard fulfilled the requirements; perhaps he did not discern among Rose's achievements the three miracles of the first magnitude of which he must have proof; mayhap he found in the annals but two! At all events he finally summed up his general unbelief in the fitness of one who had lived away off there in the outland of the Western hemisphere, . . . in the Indies . . . in the wilds . . . in the unknown . . . in one exclamation: "India and Saint! As likely as that it should rain roses!"
No sooner had the words left his lips than a heavenly fragrance filled the air, heralding the fall of a shower of roses—they had far to come from the heavens, and their perfume preceded them.
And then came the flowers, thick and fast and soft and sweet. Both the puzzled Pontiff and the enraptured witnesses were filled with wonder at the marvel. Down they came—red and white—the roses of Paradise—emblems of love and purity—covering the floor of the Vatican with an ever deepening carpet of velvety petals.
Not at once could Clement bring himself to yield his point, but as long as he hesitated, just so long the shower continued. At last, seeing no other way to stop the gentle insistence of the perfumed flood, the Pope acknowledged his incredulity mistaken, and confessed himself convinced.
Thus we of the Western world came by our one ewe-lamb, St Rose of Lima!