Almighty God did marvelous things in the soul of St. Rose. It appears that her parents gave her that name by divine inspiration, for it was symbolic of her entire career. As long as she lived, she bloomed like a sweet-scented rose in the garden of the Church, and in full bloom was she transplanted to Paradise. Before she was able to speak, Rose attempted to pronounce the sweet names of Jesus and Mary; and as soon as she had learned to walk, she asked to be taken to church and to other retired and quiet places to pray. When religious discourses were given, she would listen with the greatest attention.
When Rose was only three years old, God showed how pleased He was with her in a most wonderful way. One of her maternal aunts died. The family were standing around the bier weeping aloud. Deeply moved by the sorrow of her relatives, little Rose went to the coffin, raised her eyes to heaven, and prayed silently. Then she placed her little hand on the body of her deceased aunt and called her by name. The dead woman immediately opened her eyes and reached out to embrace her little niece, who had raised her to life again.
The child entertained a great compassion for the poor; she always tried to save some of her food to give it to the poor. One day when she left the house with some bread in her apron, she met her father, who asked her in curt fashion what she was carrying off now. The affrighted child opened her apron and fragrant roses were found in it.
When she was seven years old, Rose retired to a little cell in her father’s house. There she spent almost all her time in contemplation and in practicing rigorous penance. She prayed much for the conversion of sinners. Meanwhile our dear Lord was preparing her for an extraordinary mission.
Rose was not yet ten years old when the Blessed Mother of God instructed her to join the Third Order of St. Francis. Shortly after, our Lord appeared to her on the Cross, wearing the crown of thorns on His head and bleeding profusely from all His wounds. Rose, aghast at the sight, called out: “O my Lord, who has reduced Thee to this state?” Our Lord replied: “My love, my deep love for men has done this.” “But,” asked Rose, “who has so pierced and torn Thee?” “The sins of men have done it,” was our Lord’s answer. “Sin, sin!” cried the saint, and she scourged herself to make atonement for the sins of the world.
By divine inspiration, Rose then took a cross in her hand and went up and down the streets and public squares of her city telling the people of the terrible tortures our Lord suffered and of the heinousness of sin. Every now and then she would emerge from her solitude to entreat the people to do penance.
The town of Viterbo, which belonged to the Papal States, had revolted against the authority of the pope. Disregard for religion and moral degradation were the order of the day. But the sermons of this little missionary had marvelous results. The people came in crowds to hear her. The stone on which she stood was seen to rise in the air, and she was sustained there by a miracle while burning words issued from her lips. The greater part of the citizenry had already resolved to do penance and to return to the legitimate papal allegiance when Rose and her parents were expelled by the civil authorities.
The result was that she now had a wider field of activity. At Soriano and later at Vitorchiano, her preaching had the same blessed results. In the latter place, a sorceress had done much harm among the inhabitants. Fearing that after her departure this woman would undo the good effected there, Rose was desirous of her conversion. Her initial efforts failed. Then our saint had an immense pile of wood prepared in the public square; fire was set to it, and Rose stepped into the fire and mounted to the top of the pile. She remained untouched for three hours in the midst of the flames, singing the praises of God. The sorceress now cast herself at Rose’s feet and was sincerely converted.
Meanwhile the rightful authority of the pope had been re-established in Viterbo, and Rose could return. She was now fifteen years old and anxious to enter the convent of the Poor Clares. As she had no dowry, she could not be admitted. “Well,” said Rose, “you will not receive me while I am alive, but you will receive me after I am dead.” She and several companions repaired to a secluded dwelling, where they intended to live as a community. The ecclesiastical authorities, however, did not approve of the plan, and Rose returned home. She died two years later, filled with the joyous desire of being united with her God.
Two and a half years after her death she appeared three times to Pope Alexander IV, who was in Viterbo at the time, told him to have her body removed to the convent of the Poor Clares. When this was done, her body was found incorrupt; and it has remained in that condition to this day. Miracles are constantly occurring at her tomb. Pope Callistus III canonized her in 1457.
ON THE OPERATIONS OF GOD IN MEN
1. Consider the marvelous operations of God in St. Rose. Entire cities that had fallen away from God and the Church and about whose conversion the greatest missionaries might have doubted, were won to a change of heart by means of a child, and a girl at that. It has often pleased God to reveal His might and wisdom by means of lowly and unimportant creatures. Thus at Milan in a trying period, when it seemed impossible to come to a decision regarding the choice of a bishop, an infant pointed out St. Ambrose as the chosen bishop; and his life story shows that none could have governed the Church at Milan in a more excellent manner. “But the foolish things of the world has God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world has God chosen, that He may confound the strong. That no flesh shall glory in his sight. But that he who glories, may glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1,27; 29; 31). — Have you ever given thought to the fact that it is God who works through human beings?
2. Consider that the operations of grace which God manifests so extraordinarily in children are also effective, generally speaking, in adults. At such time God uses the natural powers and abilities of men in order to effect good. It is not man, however, who produces the good results, but God Himself. The Prophet speaks thus to the Lord: “For Thou hast wrought all our works for us” (Is. 26,12). “God gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3,7). Whatever good, therefore, is done by men, we must recognize as the work of God and thank Him for it. In like manner, we may not ascribe to ourselves the good that we do, nor think well of ourselves on that account, but we must rather give thanks to God who has done this good through us. — Have you done this in the past?
3. Consider that in spite of the fact that God uses men to accomplish His works here on earth, He still leaves them free in their acts. If man resists, He gives him over to his own will. But he who submits himself as a useful instrument for anything God wants of him is “as the clay in the hands of the potter, who will fashion it according to his ordering” (Eccli. 33,13). He will be an instrument of much blessing. Thus it was with St. Rose. When God called her to solitude, she withdrew to her little cell; when He sent her out, she went into the streets and the market places; when He commissioned her to teach others, she undertook the work; and when, despite the fact that He had formerly permitted her to work miracles, He opposed her pious design, she willingly withdrew. — How often have we opposed the operation of God’s grace, and instead of doing His holy will, used all our efforts to gain our own ends! Such a course is more apt to bring us the curse of God than His blessing, and guilt instead of merit. May the intercession of St. Rose obtain pardon for us and her example convert us into more useful tools in the hands of God.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst deign to admit St. Rose to the company of Thy holy virgins, grant, we beseech Thee, that at her intercession and by her merits we may be cleansed from all guilt and may be admitted to the eternal presence of Thy majesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.