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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Saint of the Month - September 2017: Saint Rose of Viterbo

St. Rose of Viterbo
The Little Rose of Viterbo ~ Feast: September 4

This Italian Saint died in the flower of her youth; she was just about 18 when she left this world for a better one.  Yet, what she accomplished within her brief lifetime is astonishing and go way beyond her years.

The chronological details of her life are uncertain but biographers state the year of Rose's birth, as circa 1233. At a very early age, it seems, God was already showing signs of her spiritual greatness - the little girl allegedly performed the first of her many miracles when she was only 3-years-old.  She raised a dead maternal aunt to life by laying hands on her and calling her by name.

Rose was also reported to possess an inclination to the practice of voluntary penances and mortification, and by age 7, lived a near-hermetical life within her home. She would only step out for church and to attend to the needs of the less fortunate. Things changed dramatically for her after she experienced heavenly visitations at age 10. She had been seriously ill for a time and experienced a series of visions of Our Lady who had come to cure her, and Christ Crucified who came to commission her. Rose was directed in these divine encounters to enter the Franciscan Third Order, as well as to preach penance to the people. The child did as she was told and, clothed in the rough sackcloth habit of the Franciscans, set about preaching in the streets with a crucifix in hand.  Stupendous wonders were said to accompany her impromptu sermons.

One great miracle often recounted about Rose occurred while she was speaking to a large assembly of curious onlookers and had stood upon a boulder in order to be seen and heard. At one point in her preaching, an unseen power lifted the boulder along with Rose into the air to the amazement of all who were present. The phenomena lasted the duration of the sermon and, needless to say, many, if not all, were moved to repentance at the sight of it.

Two great miracles associated with St. Rose of Viterbo - the miracles
of the levitated boulder and the trial by fire in Vitorchiano.

It's relevant to note that during Rose's life time, Viterbo had fallen under the rule of the excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, who was involved in an ongoing dispute with the reigning Pope... and during her public missions Rose staunchly defended the Papacy and the Church. The news of her successful evangelizing efforts, along with her reported spiritual gifts, incurred the enmity of the Emperor's supporters who were in power. The Saint and her family were consequently exiled and took refuge in Soriano then Vitorchiano, where Rose continued her mission of leading sinners back to God.

In Vitorchiano, another public miracle occurred, which is often narrated in the life of St. Rose. There was apparently a sorceress in the city who was either revered by the population or highly feared. Either way, she had great influence over the people. Rose immediately discerned that in order to win over Vitorchiano, she had to defeat the sorceress first... so she challenged her to a trial by fire in order to prove whose power was truly greater - God's or the devil's. The little Saint caused a bonfire to be built and, after it was lit, proceeded to enter into the fire unharmed. She then turned to the sorceress and called for her to enter the fire, too, but the woman was filled with terror. Rose then preached from the center of the flames and easily converted the massive crowd of spectators, including the sorceress, herself.

Circa 1248, control of Viterbo was once again restored to the Papacy. Rose and her family were able to return home in peace, and the youthful prophetess attempted to enter the local convent of Poor Clares. She was refused for the lack of a dowry and perhaps because of her celebrity status as a wonder-worker. Rose accepted the nuns' rejection with resignation, but prophesied that they would come to accept her after her death. She then unsuccessfully tried to establish her own religious community before returning to her father's home to resume a routine of prayer, penance, and charitable work.

In early December 1250, Rose announced that the Emperor Frederick II would soon meet his demise. He died a few days later on December 13th, as predicted. Just a few months after, on March 6, 1251, Rose also unexpectedly passed from what we now know today was a congenital heart defect. Two years after her death, she appeared to Pope Alexander IV who was in Viterbo at the time, with a request that he arrange for the transfer her body to the Poor Clare convent.  It was during the exhumation Rose's body was found in a perfect state of preservation.  She was eventually canonized in 1457 and designated as the Patron Saint of Viterbo.

This drawing of St. Rose's lovely features was based on forensic studies conducted
on her miraculously incorrupt body, enshrined in Viterbo.

The incorrupt relic of St. Rose still rests in the loving custody of the Poor Clares, as was also prophesied by the Saint before her death. Blessings and favors of all sorts continue to be reported through the intercession of this extraordinary young woman, and the entire city of Viterbo turns out yearly in September to celebrate the life and legacy of their beloved Patroness.  St. Rose of Viterbo, pray for us!

A Reflection
In these times of increasing animosity towards the Church and the teachings of Christ, which it upholds, the world is in need of new apostles.

A Short Prayer
Lord, grant us the courage and zeal of St. Rose in defending your Divine Cause.  Amen.

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