St. Rose of Lima was a contemporary of St. Martin de Porres. They most likely knew each other and worked closely together. St. Rose was known for being extremely penitential—which makes her less popular today than St. Martin—but that was only one aspect of her life. She also did a lot of charity work and was very competent at treating the sick with her knowledge of herbs and natural medicines. It is said that her prayers saved the city of Lima from an invasion by the Dutch.
She was more contemplative than active, however. She bears a similarity to St. Catherine of Siena, to whom she had a devotion. Both St. Rose and St. Catherine lived penitential lives, and both died young, in their thirties.
Even though St. Rose’s life is very different from ours, we all share with her a desire to do God’s will, even if people around us don’t understand us or know what we are doing. We should all try to have St. Rose’s radical love of God, piety, charity, obedience to God and family, and humility.
We should also strive to be penitential—although our penitential acts need not necessarily be so harsh, or self-imposed as St. Rose’s were. Penitence can be as simple as just offering up and being grateful for life’s trials, using them as an opportunity to grow. The black part of the Dominican habit symbolizes penitence and serves as a reminder that we are all to live penitential lives.
St. Rose was the first person born in the Americas to be canonized a saint.