by Maria Morera Johnson
Today is the optional memorial of St. Rose of Lima, patroness of gardeners and florists, embroiderers, and people who suffer from ridicule because of their faith. Four years ago I had a barely passing knowledge of St. Rose of Lima, namely that she was a Saint and from Lima, Peru. Three years ago I started reading about her in earnest as I started to compile a list of female Saints for a book I was writing, My Badass Book of Saints. Two years ago my husband and I took a leap of faith, retired, and decided to move to the Gulf Coast.
What precipitated such a bold move? St. Rose of Lima. We weren’t even looking in the neighborhood when we stopped to pray at the church with her name. My husband hadn’t seen the For Sale sign next to where we parked until I pointed it out to him. In less than a week we had put in an offer for the bay front property and had a closing date.
We just celebrated our first anniversary in our new home, across the street from our spiritual home at St. Rose.
It’s a whirlwind story of trust and abandonment, sacrifice and adventure. The story begins with my husband’s devastating diagnosis of ALS. The news stopped us cold. Once we recovered from the shock, and with God’s grace, we eventually began to see a future filled with hope instead of despair. We decided that we couldn’t live our lives anticipating death. Instead, we committed to living every day as the gift it is.
The adventure brought us to our cozy cottage where we greet each sunrise with a prayer of thanksgiving for another day together.
We owe this little slice of heaven on earth to the prayerful intercession of this most gentle but formidable Saint. I often prayed a self-styled litany of saints to the holy women I included in my book. I came to think of them as my friends, women who surrounded me and lifted me up in prayer as I was going through a difficult period of adjustment, both personally and professionally. I found myself talking to them throughout my days, sometimes distractedly speaking out loud and suddenly and loudly being startled out of my reveries by a question from across the house from my husband, “Are you talking to me?”
I imagine St. Rose giggling at the answer, “Um, no. I was talking to St. Teresa of Avila.”
It’s less weird than it sounds. After all, I spent months with these women, at the page, in my office, in the car, in the shower, and standing in line at the grocery store. I thought I was busy with pre-writing and writing—what I was really doing was forging relationships with these Saints.
It taught me a great lesson: the saints are regular people like you and me. Oh sure, we might get caught up in their martyrdom or exemplary piety and feel we could never emulate them, but really, we’re made for this holiness, too. We are called by Christ, too. And through their example, we can learn how to better answer the call.
St. Rose fascinated me because of her fortitude in the face of her parents’ desire to marry her to a wealthy suitor. She had already given over her life to Christ, and rejected marriage offers. Her parents denied her when she asked to become a nun. Her father, frustrated with Rose’s decision to pursue a life of chastity, finally let her have a room to herself and allowed her to join the Third Order of St. Dominic. She spent her life in prayer and fasting, and caring for the sick in her community.
I’ve learned a great deal about fortitude through her. Some days I get it right. Some days I fall short. But every day, she is like my next door neighbor. St. Rose prays for me. She encourages me. She is my friend in Heaven, and I am her friend on Earth. Together, we are part of the Communion of Saints.
About the Author:
Maria Morera Johnson just published her second book about Saints, Super Girls and Halos: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice and Heroic Virtue. She writes about the saints when she isn’t taking pictures of pelicans or star-gazing across the Bay of the Holy Spirit. Follow her other writing at mariamjohnson.com.
St. Rose of Lima photo courtesy of Maria Morera Johnson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.