St. Rosa of Lima – the “unknown” Patroness of our Congregation!?

Every year in the August 23, we celebrate the Day of Remembrance of St. Rosa of Lima, which is one of our patron saints. She is one of the saints most of whom most of us do not know much about and thus have no special relationship with her. Some of us may have wondered why our founder so revered her and gave us as our patroness.

A few years ago, this led us in the German Province to deal with it a little more intensively on one sister’s afternoon.

In conversation with the sisters, we first gathered, what we knew about her:

  • She lived from the end of 1586 to 1617 and was the first Saint of South America
  • She belonged to the 3rd Order of St. Dominic
  • She had mystical experiences
  • She tried to convert people, especially young people, to a truly Christian life.
  • She cared about the poor, the sick and the marginalized
  • She fasted and forned a lot.

As we continued to study her CV, we came across some notable details that made us better understand her actions.

She was a child of Spanish colonists and saw how inhuman the Spanish conquerors were with the native Indians. She suffered from this and she was looking for ways to do something about it. As a woman, she was forbidden to preach, but she tried, “with heavenly eloquent, to win over all the people with whom she dealt, that she loved the virtues, but loathed the   vices.” “This quote is from St. Antonio Maria Claret, who also honored St. Rosa.

In a contribution by Dr. Markus Büning I also found the following text on these thoughts:

Blessed Pope Innocent XI (1611-1689) said of her (St. Rosa) the following remarkable sentences:  ‘There was probably no missionary in America who would have achieved more conversions with his sermons than Rosa of Lima through her prayers and penitential exercises. ‘This is perhaps the key to understanding their self-castrations. Rosa was outraged by the lives of her Spanish compatriots in the colonies. Sexual debauchery, greed for gold and money, the contempt for the native Indians and the implausible way of life of many clerics were a thorn in her side. She intuitively sensed that with such a way of life, one cannot convince an Indian of the love of the Crucified One. On the contrary, the lives of the invaders were deterred and blocked the eyes of the locals on faith in the Redeemer. She wanted to demonstrate the program of contrast with her example: in poverty and in the mystical union with the Crucified One, she wanted to show the people of Peru who this Jesus really was.”

Here we can clearly see what St. Rosa has leaved us. There is still a great deal of inhumanity and injustice in our society today. Often, we can do something about this through our actions. But often our hands are tied and we are “only” left with the prayer and witness of our lives. Above all, we are called to mission with our lives, to be salt of the earth.

Antonia Maria Claret says: “Where has our missionary spirit remained?  … Rosa expresses her displeasure at not being allowed to be apostolate herself. She would like to be allowed to move from country to country and proclaim the faith to convert all unbelievers. She would prefer to walk through the streets, the cross in her hand, clothed with a belt of penance, to awaken sinners with loud shouting and to make them repent.”

St. Rosa of Lima has become the patroness of Latin America, not through great works, but through her penitentness, her intimate relationship with Christ and her self-evident devotion to the poor. For me, and I think also for a large part of the sisters who took part in these meetings in Germany, she has become a model for our spiritual life and a true patron of our Congregation. She can teach us that we can only lead people to Christ’s love and follow through our lived example and the commitment of our own lives. Each of us, where we live and work, can become apostolate of everyday life and make it fruitful through works of love.


Sr. Petra Ladig