Monday, August 31, 2009

Rose and Fiacre, yesterday's

If you have not found yourself disturbed by the mortifications and mutilations that young virgin saints willfully self-inflicted, …well, if you have not, then I really do not know what to say.
But I will point out that today (now yesterday) is the feast of Rose of Lima.
Rose was born in Lima, Peru in 1586, to “decent folks of moderate means”. They were quite pleased with their beautiful daughter, so it must have been rather distressing when young Rose decided that her beauty was an occasion for temptation, and did something about it: she rubbed her face with pepper to produce blotches and rubbed her hands so aggressively with lime that she couldn’t dress herself for a month. Later when she joined the Dominicans, the silver circle she wore on her head had sharp nails on the inside that constantly pricked her, like the crown of thorns. She died at the age of 31.

It is interesting to note, that for all her self- disfigurement, in art she is always represented as beautiful. And for all her adamant virginity, she is most often pictured with a babe. I have found no painting in which her skin is other than lily white, her hands other than fair and graceful; she is never portrayed unadorned by flowers.

Meanwhile, Saint Fiacre is a cheerier sort. This 7th century Irish monk was a gifted gardener and especially wise in the art of healing herbs. He has a particularly interesting and (apparently) random collection of patronages: cabdrivers, gardeners, costermongers, and against hemorrhoids.

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