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Who is the patron saint of South America?

On August 23, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Rose of Lima, the patroness of South America. Fondly referred to as “the New World’s first flower of holiness,” Rose was the first named saint in the Western Hemisphere. Instead of using her beauty and social position to pursue a life of luxury, she dedicated her life to serving the poor and underprivileged. Today, we invite you to learn more about Rose’s life and legacy and discover where she is portrayed in the Basilica.

Saint Rose of Lima depicted in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel

Early Life

Born as Isabel de Flores to Spanish parents in Peru in 1586, she was extraordinarily beautiful even as an infant, earning her the name “Rose.” As she grew older, she only became more and more lovely, which was a great source of pride for her parents. After losing much of their fortune in mining speculation, they were eager to have their beautiful daughter snatched up by a rich suitor. But while countless young men sought Rose’s affections, she eschewed them for spiritual pursuits.

A Quiet Ministry

Despite her parents’ wishes, Rose took a vow of virginity and joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. At one point, she decided to move into a garden hut, where she dedicated herself to prayer and supported her family through needlework and gardening. She also used a room in her family’s house to care for the ill and elderly, and soon attracted many visitors for the peace and respite she offered. The faithful flocked to Rose for advice, prayer, and healing, and some even credited her with saving Lima from earthquakes in the surrounding region.

Saint Rose of Lima depicted in the West Portico

Final Years

In her final years, Rose grew ill and lived under the care of a local official and his wife for three years until her death in 1617 at age 31. After she passed, so many people rushed to Lima for her funeral that it had to be delayed some days.

When reflecting on Rose’s ministry in 2016, Pope Francis shared about how her life provides a faithful example of how to love others as Christ loves us:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in discussing the works of mercy, tells us that ‘when her mother reproached her for care for the poor and the sick at home, Saint Rose of Lima said to her: “When we serve the poor and the sick, we are the good [fragrance] of Christ’” (No. 2449, Latin). That good [fragrance] of Christ – the care of the poor – is, and always has been, the hallmark of the Church.”

You can find Saint Rose of Lima portrayed in the Basilica in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, the Trinity Dome, and the West Portico.


Butler’s Lives of Saints, ed. Bernard Bangley

The Way of Saints, by Tom Cowan

Rohling, Geraldine M., PhD, MAEd. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Guide and Tour BookWashington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 2018.

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