Isabel De Flores Y Del Oliva, commonly known as Rose, was born in Lima, Peru, in 1586, and became the first canonized saint of the Americas. Rose was the seventh of eleven children born to Oliva and Gaspar Flores, a member of the viceroy’s guard in Lima in Peru. Her parents had social prestige but little money.
Rose lived a life of many penances, done not for their own sake, but as expressions of her love for Jesus. She prayed for the conversion of the Peruvian Indians. She was taught to make herbal medicines and took great delight in distributing these remedies to long lines of the sick poor of Lima.
She believed that it was not God’s will that she enter a convent and that she was to be a Dominican tertiary and live at home, like St Catherine of Siena. At age 20 she made her profession in the Third Order of St Dominic. It was at this time that perhaps the most spectacular of Rose’s miracles occurred, when Dutch pirates invaded Lima’s harbor and defeated the Peruvian fleet. They intended not only to loot the city but also to desecrate its churches, where the women, children and religious of Lima had taken refuge. It is said that as pirates burst into the church, they were confronted with the terrifying spectacle of a young girl ablaze with light, holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. They turned, fled to their ships, and sailed away.
Speaking of the power that directed her life, she wrote, “That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of Divine Grace.” She had a special devotion to Christ in the Eucharist and to Mary, the Mother of God. Her desire to teach others the secret of prayer made her a zealous promoter of the Rosary.
Rose underwent a new season of suffering when Spanish landlords oppressed and exploited her beloved Indians. She became ill and began to have disturbing dreams. Her only support came from the Dominican saint, Brother Martin de Porres, who assured her that her visions and spiritual aridity were signs of the highest friendship with God. Other leaders had Rose examined by the Inquisition, but she was found to be enjoying God’s highest favor in the midst of her suffering and desolation. During this time, Rose received the grace of mystical marriage with Christ and had a ring engraved with the words she had heard him speak: “Rose of My Heart, be My spouse.” Not long after, in 1617, she died of fever and paralysis at the age 31.