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Friday, 23 August 2013

Rose of Lima, Young Saints and The Way of Perfection

For most of us, especially in these times of chaos in the Church regarding liturgy and catechesis, the road to perfection, to the Unitive State, which is the mark of the saint, will be long and arduous. Many of us are climbing out of lives of sin and disobedience.  However, in the long history of the Church, excluding martyrs for the purpose of this post, there have been saints, who have reached that Unitive State while still young, some even as children.

One thinks of Blessed Gemma Galgani, who died at 25, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati who died at 24, St. Rose of Lima, whose feast day it is today, who died at 32, St. Therese the Little Flower, who died at 24, St. Bernadette, who died at 35, and St. Catherine of Siena, who died at 33.

One must ask the question, how is it that these holy people achieved the Unitive State, at such young ages?

I think there are many reasons.

Firstly, grace determines the growth of holiness and grace is a free gift from God. God decides to whom He gives graces to early in life. Like the workers in the famous parable, who received wages for one hour of work, these young saints received the same reward of heaven as did those saints who lived to venerable old ages, working in God's field and sometimes not entering that union with God on earth until shortly before death.

One thinks of the great suffering of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or St. Augustine, who obviously took awhile to get through the Dark Night, Illuminative State, and into the Unitive State.

Secondly, formation can occur in childhood, and if parents recognized this, they would take a much more active role in helping their children to holiness. This is so obvious in the Martin household, where Blessed Louis and Blessed Zelie Martin raised their children in an atmosphere of holiness, which demands discipline, love, and orthodoxy.

Interestingly, so many times parents tried to hinder the journey of holiness in their children, and some, like Blessed Giorgio, came out of a godless household. Still, formation of character can occur in a family where rules of behaviour and discipline create a child who desires something more.

Thirdly, these young saints endured suffering. The suffering of Gemma Galgani, Therese, the Little Flower, and Rose of Lima provide us with great examples of purgation moving towards union with Christ in love.

In fact, without suffering, perfection is almost impossible, as all people have to struggle with sin and concupiscence, except for our dear Blessed Mother.

Fourthly, what is clear in all the lives of young saints is their tremendous love of God, and love of the life of virtue. Love impelled them to become holy, to cooperate with grace.

Fifthly, they all share a great love of prayer and penance, taking on penances outside of the suffering sent by God.

Lastly, and this is not an exhaustive list, these young saints preserved their virginity. This state of purity enabled them to advance quickly up the ladder to perfection.

St. Rose of Lima is my Confirmation patron saint. I chose her at the age of twelve for several reasons. The first was that she was the first American born saint, from the New World. I could identify with that. Secondly, she was misunderstood by her family, and I could and still do experience that same problem. Thirdly, she was extreme in her love for Christ, and in her penances. I wanted to emulate her in those qualities. Fourthly, she was a third order Dominican, but a lay person. This also made her interesting to me, as I was intrigued with religious life. Another thing which attracted me to her at my young age was her exotic place of birth. I had a holy card of her praying next to a cactus, the exact one as shown below. I was fascinated with a saint coming from such a non-European setting. And, lastly, she was a recluse, which I am. I pray that she may intercede for me, as I chose her to help me on my way.

At the time I chose her, I did not know she had mystical experiences of Christ. The nuns and the biographies available to me at the time did not note this. But, like Catherine of Siena, Rose had intense graces of union with Christ, as I learned later.

May God raise up more young saints, and encourage us older Catholics to persevere in our love of Him.

Rose of Lima is a patron saint of many, many different peoples. May she bless all.