Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we tell the story of the first saint canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in the Western Hemisphere.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 24th of August 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Alright- another peculiar story today- but unlike poor Heilwige Bloemaerts, who is relatively obscure, today’s remarkable woman in the church is also the patron saint of South America, the indigenous people of the Americas, embroiderers, gardeners, and of Santa Rosa, California- the home of the mayor of Flavor town: Guy Fieri.

So, yes- it is “Saint Rose,” more specifically Rose of Lima- born in 1586 to a Spanish explorer, Gaspar Flores, and creole native of Lima, Maria de Oliva y Herrera.

The first bit of trouble with the young girl came with her name- she was initially called Isabel, but a story was told by her mother that once when she was in the crib, a miraculous image of a rose covered her face. So, the mother started calling her daughter “rose” while the grandmother- who she was named after- Isabel- would only call her granddaughter Isabel. This was such an issue that the local priest had to intervene, giving her the name Rose.

This story gives us a picture of early trouble in the household as well as the idea that perhaps she was somehow marked by God for religious work.

Her father and mother were keen to marry her off- as one of many children, she would be expected to marry and bring a dowry. Stories are told of her beauty, making her even more attractive for collecting a large dowry. But she was determined to go into religious work- perhaps on account of the story of the miraculous rose and also her love of Catherine of Sienna. This frustrated her parents, who wanted to marry her off- the story is told in various ways as to how she rebuffed suitors- from merely cutting her hair off to look unattractive to rubbing chili peppers in her eyelids and scrubbing her face with lye to disfigure it. At any rate, her parents got the idea, and she was allowed to live at home.

She wanted to join a nunnery, but her parents refused that as well- she instead became a Dominican Tertiary- a “tertiary” means “3rd,” and it represents the 3rd way of religious orders beyond becoming a monk or a nun- instead, you could live in community and serve God and neighbors there.

Nonetheless, her family built her a small hut in the family garden, where she is said to have lived most of the time- she had compassion for the sick and would visit them, but spent most of her time doing embroidery work, gardening, and practicing increasingly extreme methods of penance. It is the strangest part of her story, for whatever turmoil she had in her youth, she continued to punish her own body- she would wear a silver crown with thorns inlaid to press against her flesh. She fasted 3 times a week, never ate meat, and is said to have lived for a time using only the Sacrament of the Altar for sustenance.

She became something of a local legend- and you might not be surprised based on the story of the rose, her extreme methods of self-flagellation, and being a mestizo- that is, of European and Indigenous heritage. And this made her a quality candidate for sainthood- a pious young girl, someone with a mixed ethnicity but compassion for the indigenous people. She died young (which helps insofar as legends are more easily made then).

Her indigenous status and being a female has made her a favorite across Latin America, where the 30th of August- one of her feast days- is a national holiday in many countries.

Hers is a story hard to confirm with traditional sources and thus also a good candidate for an ever-expanding hagiography (that is, the writing about the lives of saints). Today we remember this very popular Latin American saint and the first saint in the Roman Catholic Church who was born in the Western Hemisphere. Born in 1586, she was 31 when she died on this day in 1617.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Luke 6:

6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.

9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of August 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who reminds you that “flagellants” is a term meaning someone who subjects themselves to religious disciple- it just sounds like someone who might pass wind. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man with nothing against Guy Fieri- I’m more of a Bobby Flay guy… I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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