Saint Rose of Lima – her spiritual roots
Down through the centuries a strain of Catholicism ran all through the Indian religious beliefs. For example, the Incas believed in Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. They had what they called Huacas, Holy Things. They believed in the Resurrection; they fasted; there was a sense of sin; they believed in confession and penance. But after the great evangelist left, they lost the values of the teachings. The Cross on the hill remained, but nobody knew why it was there or what the Cross meant. They lost the sense of what suffering and adversity meant. They believed, much like the Biblical Job, that suffering and adversity, misfortune of any kind, were punishments from the good God for sins committed.
This was the spiritual society into which Rose Flores was born on her mother’s side. Her father was a Spanish soldier. Gaspar Flores was born in 1531, (the year that Our Lady came to Tepeyac Hill in Mexico) while his parents were en-route to Puerto Rico from Spain. It is believed Gaspar was possibly born on a ship, or right after the family arrived in Puerto Rico. From his earliest days, his life was filled with stories of conquistadors and battles between the Spaniards and the Incas. He grew up with a thirst for combat. At fifteen, he left Puerto Rico and went to Panama to take part in the battle on the side of the Spanish conquistadors. He had been very involved in most of the wars in Central and South America for Spain, either against the natives, or the British, or the French. From as far back as he could remember, there was always a war or the intrigue of a war, or the spoils of a war going on somewhere in his world. Gaspar spent his life in the military until there were no more battles to be fought, or until he was judged too old to take part in them.
He finally settled in Peru after having traveled and lived in most of the New World of the time. He met a beautiful girl, Oliva, who was sixteen when he was forty five. She was completely feminine, with none of what we would consider the special spiritual qualities necessary to be the mother of a Saint, much less a mystic like St. Rose of Lima. She was completely wrapped up in the social life of Lima of the Sixteenth century. She also possessed the exact qualities Gaspar Flores wanted. He fell in love with her and asked for her hand in marriage. He was considered a great catch to Oliva’s family, despite the age difference.
Planning their married life became Oliva’s entire life. She fantasized how it would be. While Gaspar, her betrothed, was not rich, he held a noble position. Oliva envisioned them as becoming a part of the social gentility of Lima. That called for a special house in a great neighborhood with all the trappings of middle-class Lima. One day, while they were house-hunting, they came across a little parcel of land owned by the Church of St. Dominic. Oliva fell in love with some rose bushes in the back of the property. Gaspar told her that if they bought this land for their home, the rose bushes would be part of their property. She became ecstatic. He further told her that the roses were from the first seeds planted in Peru. She went out of control, as any sixteen year old girl would. The decision was made on the spot; they had to have that property for their house.
But Whose decision was it really? We don’t believe in coincidence, unless it’s Holy Coincidence. Who chose Dominican property, with roses playing a dominant part in the landscape, which would be the home of a powerful Third Order Dominican whose name would be Rose? The Lord had a plan for Rose of Lima from before she was born. He knew what part she would play in the lives of the people of Lima, but especially the poor slaves who came to Lima from Africa. Everything was planned in advance. We’re reminded of the inspired words of St. Paul the Apostle as he wrote in his letter to the Romans,
“We know that in everything God works for good, with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.
For those whom He foreknew He also predestined
to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order
that he might be the first-born among many brethren.
And those whom He predestined, He also called;
and those whom He called, He also justified,
and those whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Reference: “Visionaries, Mystics and Stigmatists.”