NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Thursday, September 3, 2015

St. Rose of Lima - She Really Was Beautiful!

A stylized portrait of St. Rose of Lima,
as depicted on an old holy card.

St. Rose of Lima.  Just saying the name evokes images in my mind of a woman whose beauty was perhaps comparable to that of her namesake - the Rose - which is, without dispute, one of the loveliest of all flowers, if not the most beautiful.  For readers out there who are not familiar with her incredible life, Isabel [Rose] Flores y de Oliva was a laywoman and mystic from Peru; the daughter of a Spanish soldier and a mixed-race native woman.  She was a stigmatic who lived and died in the city of Lima, where she became well-known for her charitable service towards the sick and the poor; her ascetic lifestyle; and the many miracles she performed.  Rose died on August 24, 1617, being only 31-years-old, and was canonized a Saint in April 1671; the first canonized person of the Americas.

I've read several biographies about St. Rose, and besides commonly mentioning the loftiness of her personal sanctity and the quirky things about her voluntary penances (self-flagellation, extreme fasting, sleep deprivation, etc.) there was another thing that was often written about her - she was described as having been an exceptionally beautiful woman.

Of course, back in St. Rose's time, there was no such thing as a camera... and the painting style in old Peru seems to have been somewhat rustic; nice... but not doing true justice to the painted subjects. The fact is St. Rose never sat for an artist during her lifetime; she was adamant about not making any fuss over her looks.  The lone portrait in existence (left), that is reported to preserve her true features, was painted by an artist who was summoned to her deathbed shortly after the Saint passed away. Her eyes did not completely close after she died and the artist captured this on his canvas. Again, it's a nice portrait - decent - but I'm sure the rustic style of it doesn't fully capture the loveliness that was said to grace St. Rose's features.  Now fast-forward to 2015...

Once again, modern science and technology, working with religion, have harmoniously come together to bring us something remarkable!  Using the sacred relic of St. Rose's skull, preserved and venerated in the Basilica of Lima, a team of South American forensic experts were able to reconstruct the probable features of the Saint, which was recently unveiled for the entire world to see... and guess what?  St. Rose was indeed beautiful; stunning, in fact.  So the Saint's biographers had it right all along with no exaggeration on their part.  The computer-generated portrait of St. Rose of Lima is shown below so readers can judge for themselves as to what they think of it.  Whatever the reader's opinion, it's definitely a big improvement to the holy card image seen above and the 1617 portrait.

To view forensic reconstructions of the features of other famous Saints, click here and here.  I personally think, we Catholics, owe the respective scientists who made these facial reconstructions possible, a debt of gratitude for allowing us to see the unique "faces of holiness" of our spiritual heroes, as they truly were - human and totally relatable... but exceptional temples of the Holy Spirit.  Thanks be to God.

The skull of St. Rose of Lima, as venerated in the Basilica of Lima.
It was used by forensic experts to reconstruct the probable features of the
Peruvian Saint who is so loved throughout the world.

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