st.Rose of Viterbo
Patronage: exiles; people in exile; people rejected by religious orders; tertiaries
Rose of Viterbo was born in 1235 in Viterbo, Italy, to a poor but pious family. Tradition holds that she was a miracle-worker from an early age and loved to spend time in churches praying. She was three years old when her aunt died. Rose is said to have prayed, touched the corpse and called her aunt by name, thus restoring the woman to life. By age seven, Rose lived like a recluse and gave herself penances. These practices damaged her health. During a serious illness at age eight, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared and miraculously healed her, and instructed her to join the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi and preach penance in Viterbo.
The city at that time was under the control of the anti-papal, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Germany, and was influenced by the Ghibellines, an anti-papal party. Rose did as instructed, inspired further by a vision of a wounded and bloody Christ. For two years she went about Viterbo preaching penance and denouncing the enemies of the pope. Her father threatened her, but she would not stop. A plot to murder her was hatched by the Ghibellines, and Rose and her parents were banished from the city, perhaps for her own protection. In 1250 Rose went to Sorbiano and accurately prophesied the imminent and unexpected death of the emperor.
In Sorbiano, she campaigned against pagan heresy. One of her miracles consisted of standing for three hours in the flames of a burning pyre. When papal power was restored in 1251, Rose returned to Viterbo. She tried several times to enter the convent of St. Mary of the Roses, but was refused because she had no dowry. She told them, “You will not have me now, but perhaps you will be more willing when I am dead.” She returned to her father’s house, where she died on March 6, 1252, at the age of 17.
Rose was buried in the Church of Santa Maria in Podio, but six years later Pope Alexander IX (r. 1254–61) ordered her remains translated to St. Mary of the Roses in return for her support of the papacy. In 1357 the church was destroyed by fire, but her incorrupt body remained unharmed. It was enshrined in the Monasterio Clarisse S. Rosa in Viterbo. In 1921, her incorrupt heart was placed in a reliquary and was afterward paraded through the city every September 4, her feast day. Her incorrupt body, now dark but still flexible, is exposed in a reliquary. Numerous miracles were attested to Rose.
She communicated with animals, especially birds. Once while preaching in Viterbo, she and the stone platform on which she stood levitated into the air before spectators. Rose remained suspended in the air while she spoke to the crowd.