Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Rose in the garden of God

Today's saint (on the Church calendar) is from down south... waaaay down south. As in South America. Born in 1586 in Peru and named Isabel, she garnered a reputation for holiness from a very young age. At her Confirmation, she formally took her nickname - the name by which we all know her as a saint: Rose.

St. Rose of Lima lived a life of austerity for the sake of the kingdom of God. She fasted, performed severe penances and spent hours in intense prayer each day. All of this, she selflessly offered up to God for the good of all. So severe were her penances, that she died at the age of 31. By the time of her death, the fame of her holiness was so widespread that her funeral Mass was held in the cathedral of the city. All government officials attended and the archbishop celebrated the Mass himself. She was canonized (i.e. proclaimed a "saint") in 1671 by Pope Clement X. St. Rose was the first person from the Americas to be canonized.

In some ways, the story of St. Rose might be a little off-putting. Very few are called to a life of such rigorous extremes of devotion and prayer. The details of her life might even cause some to conclude that they could "never be a saint" because they could not imitate the sort of life that she lived.

But the truth is, that we are all called to be roses in God's garden. Very few will grow to great heights, profuse with blooms that attract the notice of the world. Most of us will grow quite unnoticed, covered in thorns and without apparent blooms for the world to observe. Our lives may be spent in a quiet and humble holiness of service to those around us and of offering up our day-to-day activities to the glory of God. Our prayers may be prayed in secret. Our sacrifices may be personal and internal -- known to God alone. Day in and day out, we can (and are called to) live a life with an eye toward sanctity - serving God in our own still, small ways. 

It is not an easy calling. But God's garden of roses is planted just as he intends - not as we intend. We should praise God for tall and shining examples of holiness such as St. Rose of Lima. But let us never forget the unseen roses - growing quietly in the shadows of daily life. All are beautiful in God's eyes.