May is the month of roses, for these flowers only bloom in late spring in the Mediterranean. May is the month of rosaries, of Our Lady, of honouring the Mystic Rose, is one of the Loreto litanies, but also of the candid rose, the luminous outcome of Dante’s journey, or perhaps more simply the month of Mary, the steadfast maiden of Nazareth.
The scent of roses, like that of spikenard, emanates from other women’s lives too; for example, Theresa, Rita, Rose of Lima, Elizabeth, all of whom are icons of the mysterious link with this flower.
In her ardent desire not to remain inactive, even when facing her impending death, Little Therese of the Child Jesus made the following promise, “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will send down a shower of roses!” With her roses, those flames of the Spirit, together with her “little way” to holiness, saw her become a Doctor of the Church.
Rita of Cascia. At the end of her incredible life as a wife, a mother, an ambassador of peace, a widow, a traveller, and a nun, saw her last impossible wish fulfilled; in the middle of winter, two figs and a rose growing there in her garden. The rose sprouting in the snow became her symbol. Rita, the Saint of “impossible” graces, the advocate of desperate cases.
Rosa da Lima was born with the name Isabel. The nanny who saw her so beautiful named her Rosa, the name of a flower in accordance with Indian tradition.
Neither a bride nor a cloistered nun, her life as a woman, as a “blessed” woman who was rejected by the inquisitorial climate of the conquistadors, led her to become the patron saint of Latin America.
Elizabeth of Hungary, and Elizabeth of Portugal are two women of noble origins with the same Visitation name. A single destiny of wealth, married life, widowhood, but also the choice to dedicate their lives to the poor, and who were united by the same miracle.
When both of them were caught in the act of suspicious distribution, and asked to reveal what was hidden under their cloaks, instead of the bread they had kept to give to the poor, they revealed a womb full of roses.
A prophecy of many women’s gestures, and even struggles that in the much more recent interweaving of bread and roses have left a sign, marked a difference. When the textile workers sang “The worker must have bread but also roses” in the 1912 Massachusetts strike, they had been inspired by the words of another Rose, the socialist and suffragist Rose Scheirdermann, and here roses meant the right to vote. (Grazia Villa)