The saint and the sisters of St. Rose

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Affiliate Emily Dawson works at St. Rose Convent in vocation ministry. She was asked to write about the correlation between St. Rose of Viterbo, the patron saint of the FSPA (whose feast day is today), and life in the convent.

When I asked a FSPA in the know about St. Rose of Viterbo and how the saint relates to life in St. Rose Convent, she gave me one of those deep, quizzical looks that made me question every ounce of my education. Then, after sharing a brief historical synopsis; the knowledge that the patron saint was bestowed (not necessarily chosen); and the promise of literature in an email, she sarcastically wished me luck with making this connection and bid me on my way.

Oh, now it’s on. Now it’s more than just historical reflection. This is a battle of the minds, people, and I am no theologian (so please be kind).

It turns out that St. Rose wasn’t a theologian either. Well, how could she be? She was 17 during her mid-12th century heyday and a woman to boot. There was very little text meant for her. Yet, she was dangerous.

Real life image of Rose of Viterbo
Contributed by FSPA

And, might I add, seemingly crazy. I actually mean no disrespect. Crazy is a subjective term we give to things we don’t understand. And St. Rose was so mystical, so obstinate and so progressive that people didn’t quite know what to do with her. So, they stuck around to watch.

Her danger came in her ability to organize people—but not the right people. She organized women publicly (!!!). She taught others the road to salvation: something heavily debated at that time (with little theological background) which made those scholars nervous. She taught from the heart and had this intense passion for God that had to be shared with others.

Despite threats to her family, their eventual exile, the cold they embraced living in the snow and her unexpected death, St. Rose’s short life and ministry—while not entirely documented (due to a fire that destroyed several documents)—made enough of an impact to live on for centuries. Her body did too, apparently (blech!).

Rose of Viterbo window2-LZ-crop
Photo by FSPA

But no, I don’t know how there would be any similarities between Rose–an obstinate, progressive, mystical young woman; and the FSPA of St. Rose Convent–a group of (lovingly) obstinate, progressive, mystically minded, lovable wave makers. These women are theologically grounded yet continue to reach out to teach the way of salvation to God’s people—all because of this deep-seated passion for God. Nope. No idea.

I guess all that’s left is to embrace my little rebel St. Rose inside and defy defeat. Happy Saint Rose Feast Day everyone!

Note: In my first paragraph, I’m being facetious about my “FSPA in the know,” Sister Jean. She’s a fabulously sassy Sister whom I very much admire. Thank you, Sister Jean, for your insight into St. Rose!

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  1. I like what you have written, Emily. I’m not so sure Rose was “obstinate”, but the other descriptors are good ones, I think. Rose was a young woman of deep conviction and always in the spirit of knowing and understanding the life of Jesus, and what that meant in terms of personal witness. That led her to do some rather extreme and yes, “crazy” things, especially to herself. At that time in history, such things lilke flagellating oneself was for the sake of a literal imitation of Jesus. We surely don’t recommend it anymore, for there are enough other ways that we can accept suffering in the daily events of life. Much of the time it happens through the irritations and disrespect we heap on one another. Oh well — enough preaching! Do celebrate this lovely woman who has much to teach us. . . . Marlene Weisenbeck FSPA

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