When a Saint Challenges You

Once in awhile we come across a saint that challenges us.  I had read the story of Saint Rose of Lima a few times, but it never really seemed to strike me negatively until one day a few years ago.

Saint Rose was born in Lima, Peru in 1586.  Named Isabel Flores de Olivia she was so beautiful that her family nicknamed her Rose, a name she took at her confirmation.  She was a very pious young woman and wanted nothing more than to dedicate her life to Jesus, despite her parents wishes.  Eventually they relented and let her dedicate her life to fasting and prayer, eventually joining the Third Order of St. Dominic.

Nothing here would make you think that I could possibly feel challenged, right?  The hard part for me was that St. Rose was so beautiful that she would actually harm herself in order to scar her beauty.  She rubbed her face with pepper and lye in order to mar her beauty.  She wore a silver crown of thorns that would pierce her head so deeply that it would be hard to remove.  She even burned her own hands in an act of self-imposed penance.

Even now I read these things and I am so saddened that this woman who loved God so much would actually harm the temple of the Holy Spirit that God had given her.  To this day I can not wrap my mind around the example this could give to impressionable young women in a world that encourages them to hate themselves.

Those few years back when her story presented itself, we were facing a very challenging time.  Our family was struggling, I was dealing with extreme perinatal depression, and things truly felt hopeless.  St. Rose showed up on my radar and I actually got really mad at her.  Why then of all times?  Why did she come to me and demand my attention in a time when I was in so dark of a place?  It hurt my faith and my heart.  It seemed just like one more thing pushing me.

I knew that there was a reason for all of this.  It was bothering me so deeply that I had even begun to dream about it.  I remember one night throwing up my hands in prayer and saying, "Fine!  What do you want exactly?  God, why is this bothering me so much?"

So I decided that I would have to do something about it.  I decided the first thing I needed to do was pray a novena to her.  Then, I researched her and found that she was the patron saint of struggling families.  I read that people would often stop and stare openly at her when she walked by because of her beauty.  That it made her terribly uncomfortable and even afraid.  She wanted God to be the center of attention, not herself.  She wanted the world to see God not her.

Facial reconstruction of the true Saint Rose of Lima
It became clear to me that I may not have understood her methods, I doubt I ever will, but I understood her reasons.  The more I read about her and the more I prayed about it, the clearer it became to me and that while I struggle with much of her story, it was an important one because of her absolute love for God.

Before the end of my pregnancy, I knew that we would name our baby after this saint.  Even though I was challenged by her story, or maybe because of it, she was perfect patron saint for my child.

When faced with a saint or a teaching that challenges us, it is never the right thing to try and ignore it.  Don't turn your back on that saint that makes you uncomfortable.  Find out why they did the things that challenge you or perhaps look even more deeply at your own life and see if that saint is drawing attention to something you need to work on.

God works in wonderful ways, using the stories of the saints to bring us into a deeper and more beautiful relationship with Him.  Challenges are often the pre-cursor to something great, if we take it head on.  Don't run.  Embrace your challenges and see where they take you.  Above all trust in God and do not be afraid.

“Apart from the cross, 
there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”
~Saint Rose of Lima

For more on Saint Rose:


  1. I did not know this about st rose. How very sad. I love magnificat and they showcase a saint every so often after the daily readings and I like learning more about saints I know and don't know!! the young martyr virgin ones are in my mind just babies! 14 years old and already challenged by life...

    1. It is incredible how many of those young saints have made such an impact on the world. Karen, have you heard of Blessed Antonietta Meo (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cevang/p_missionary_works/infantia/documents/rc_ic_infantia_doc_20090324_boletin15p12_en.html)? I believe she was only 8 when she passed.


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