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St Rose of Lima
Virgin (entered heaven in 1617)
I’m not one to deprecate beauty pageants, so I gladly congratulate you on winning the Miss Atlanta contest. (I guess your piano lessons paid off.) Nevertheless, now that you are heading off to college, it is my responsibility to remind you that many dangers await you there, so you need to be prepared. I speak not only of the obvious temptations (drinking, drugs, sex, etc.), but also of another sort. God has gifted you with an attractive appearance, a magnetic personality, and numerous other talents. How will you deploy these gifts during your college years? Of course, only you can decide, but you will at times (maybe often) be tempted to use them for selfish and vain pursuits. You should always reflect on why God gave you these many gifts, and what purpose they are meant to serve in his Kingdom. Up until now, Father Paul and Sister Rita have been there to remind you of this perspective, and you have responded admirably. It may not be so easy at the university.
You may want to stay spiritually close to today’s saint as a way to keep on track. Rose of Lima (born of middle-class parents in Peru) is the first American (in the broad sense) to be canonized, and she has a lot to teach us. Admittedly, hers was an extraordinary calling, but sound principles of holiness undergirded her abnormal austerities. She was strikingly beautiful in all her features, and of a charming personality. Frequent compliments alerted her to this and fearing that her beauty might be an occasion of sin for someone, she used to rub her face with pepper to make blotches appear on her skin. Once she rubbed her hands with lime for the same reason and was so burned by the acid that she couldn’t dress herself for a month. She eventually made a vow of virginity to dissuade her parents from marrying her off and spent not a few of her 31 years living in seclusion in a little hut she erected in the family garden. There she was granted many spiritual consolations but was also beset by temptations and mockery. She longed to share the sufferings of Christ, and whenever she spoke of him to others, or whenever she received him in Holy Communion, her face visibly glowed. When her family fell on hard times, she gardened all day and sewed all night to keep them from destitution, but in the end, her sacrifices weakened her, and she spent the last three years of her life enduring a long, drawn-out illness, which answered her prayer for suffering.
We live in different times and a different place, but Christ remains the same, and his love for you is no less than his love for St Rose. May you put all your gifts and talents at his service with the same love and purity that she did – and may you be fast friends forever in heaven.