The Well (el Pozo) at the Basilica of St. Rose

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day Three - Rose of Solitude

For Christians, the tradition of hermits dates back to the third and fourth centuries when St. Jerome, St. Anthony, and thousands like them fled the towns for the desolation of the Middle Eastern desert. These Desert Fathers fasted and prayed with God alone. They believed that only solitude would help them see heaven. However, like the crowds who would find Jesus when he would slip away to pray, people would come from all over to see these ascetics. Pilgrims would hear absolute pearls of wisdom uttered by these hermits. The Church, and contemplative monks and nuns in the world today, continue to treasure their legacy.

The cloistered life is similar. While hermits live a solitary life, nuns and monks living in cloister also enjoy a communal life. They live, dine, and pray together. The Catholic cloistered life also enjoys a long tradition. St. Clare of Assisi and St. Therese of Lesuix, are just a few of the many famous Saints who lived a communal and cloistered life.

Rose of Saint Mary wanted to embrace this way of life. She loved silence and solitude; she hated idle conversations and everything which could distract her from God. Even as a child, Rose would select a corner of her room and sit for hours in contemplation, while her brothers and sisters would play. This often resulted in sibling teasing. Rose didn't mind. She enjoyed her prayerful conversations with the Lord and would have no part in filling her days with the ways of this world. St. Paul said, “Though I am in this world, I am not of this world.” St. Rose accepted these words as her own.

As she grew older, she designed a hut and invited her brother, Ferdinand, to help build an oratory in her yard. It was made of palm leaves and other branches and allowed very little light. She would remain there all day. Her family simply called it the “other home.” She longed for complete solitude with God and prevailed upon her mother to have some room in the house that would give her the solitude she desired.

As time passed, Rose developed an aversion toward visitors and family company. She was polite, but not at ease with visitors. This became even more of a problem as her popularity grew and people would come to see the hermit within the city of Peru. They would come to talk about holy things. Rose preferred not to talk about God. She wanted to talk with God. In her presence, people would tell her that she was holy and an inspiration to the people of Peru. These praises only made Rose want to go deeper into her retreat. She did not want personal attention. “I must decrease and Christ must increase.”

Her mother wanted Rose to marry and would often bring young men to the home. Rose would not have it. As a child, she had secretly made a vow to live a life of chastity. Her life was for God and God alone. She begged her mother to allow her to make a public vow to God to live a chaste life. She wished to join the Dominican order and spend the rest of her life like Mary, the sister of Martha, who sat at the feet of Jesus and enjoyed the better portion.

Maria was fed up with her daughter’s unusual ways and would persist in bringing men to the home. This made Rose want to retreat even more and to build a permanent hermitage in the yard. Her mother refused to give her a formal room for her solitary spiritual life, so Rose had no choice but to go to the priest at Santo Domingo to request permission for an oratory, a little room apart, into which no family, friends, or visitors might speak to her. The parish priest allowed the hermitage to be built on the condition that Rose would allow her confessor to visit on a regular basis. She agreed and proceeded to build for herself a five foot long and four foot wide hermitage in her family’s garden.

Eventually, Rose was allowed to join the Third-Order of Dominicans, but remained at home until her death.


Solitary Rose, the hermit of Lima,
Pray that I may retreat from the temptations of this world which lead me from a closer relationship with Christ my Lord. Your life inspires me to make time and space in my daily life for God.

Holy Spirit, you led Jesus into the desert to fast and pray. Lead me to a place of solitude. Allow me to retreat within my spiritual heart and find therein my Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Father, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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