Rise of the Roses!

Image taken from
This past week, a familiar tune drifted through the televisions of many Irish households and through the internet for many other international followers. As a tenor belted out the words “The pale moon was rising…” this haunting melody signaled that the new Rose of Tralee had been crowned. The Rose of Tralee International Festival is a festival which runs from the 15th to the 19th of August and is one of Ireland's largest and longest running festivals. It is based around the selection of the Rose of Tralee, an international event that encompasses young women of Irish descent from Ireland and around the world. People sometimes ask if the Rose of Tralee Festival is a beauty pageant. As their website states, “The Rose of Tralee Festival is a multifaceted event that celebrates the many attributes of modern young Irish women.”

When we were younger, we all wanted to be a ‘Rose’, to dress up in a beautiful dress and share our story with the world. It was the time to celebrate being Irish and to let one’s personality shine through. It also meant that the school holidays were coming to an end and I have memories of watching the Rose of Tralee with my sisters as my Mam ‘wallpapered’ our schoolbooks. This year the Festival was blessed to have a young woman called Nicola Corcoran as the Galway Rose. She is actively involved in youth ministry, namely through her involvement with the parish youth group in Renmore. She also led  the Easter Way of the Cross in Galway Cathedral this year and opening the Youth Gathering at the Diocesan Canonisation celebration in Ballybrit in April. Nicola was not afraid even to bring Saint John Bosco into the discussion down in the Dome in Tralee!

St. Rose of Lima
Moving from one rose to another! On Saturday we celebrated the liturgical memorial of Saint Rose of Lima, a great friend of the Dominican Family and many others. She is the patroness of Latin America and the Philippines. Her original name was Isabel, but apparently she was such a beautiful baby that she was called Rose, and that name remained. As she grew older, she became more and more beautiful, and one day, her mother put a wreath of flowers on her head to show off her loveliness to friends. But Rose had no desire to be admired, for her heart had been given to Jesus. So she put a long pin into that wreath and it pierced her so deeply, that she had a hard time getting the wreath off afterward. As a young girl, in emulation of the noted Dominican tertiary, St. Catherine of Siena, she began to fast three times a week and performed severe penances in secret. When she was admired for her beauty, Rose cut off her hair and smeared pepper on her face, upset that suitors were beginning to take notice of her. She wanted to become a nun, but her father forbade it, so she instead entered the Third Order of St. Dominic while living in her parents' home. In her twentieth year she donned the habit of a tertiary and took a vow of perpetual virginity. She lived a further eleven years demonstrating a profound life of prayer and offering. She was an artist who wrote poetry, sang songs, played the guitar and embroidered. Who knows, if the Disciples of the Divine Master were around in the 1600's, maybe Rose would have been a PDDM! She also raised flowers to support her family and medicinal herbs to cure the poor and sick people of Lima. Rose was a friend of St. Martin de Porres and, like Martin, helped to bring healing among peoples of different races. She died at the young age of thirty-one and was the first saint from the Americas to be canonized. She died in 1617 and it wasn’t long before many miracles were attributed to her intercession.

Image taken from
But the roses continue to flourish especially those planted and pruned by the Divine Gardener. A new group has come into being called ‘Rise of the Roses’. Their mission is to rediscover the beauty of a life promised to God. These are not nuns but young vibrant women who love who they are! You can check out their website here to read more about exactly who they are and what they do. But here is a taster! In their mission statement we read: “We believe that the Ireland is ripe for a new generation of young women (Irish Roses) to ‘rise up’ and answer the call to holiness. We are passionate about our home country, its people, culture and its rich Christian heritage. We want to show that the fire of faith still burns brightly in Ireland. The young people of our country have a tremendous opportunity, at this point in our history, to do something amazing for God - to 'rise and shine', spreading the joy and hope that comes from being a follower of Christ. We believe in power through ‘unity’. We aim to reconnect all the branches of our 'family tree' of believers so, rooted in Christ, the Catholic Church in Ireland can grow strong again and be a beacon of hope and shelter for all.” 

The girls themselves write: “There is so much to learn about the different orders of religious life in Ireland. We hope that through the Rise of the Roses tour will meet nuns from ten different orders who will show us around their home, share with us the story of their founders, the saints that inspired them and their unique charism. We will listen to their personal testimonies and learn how they spend their time. We aim to show the world that there are so many different personalities, gifts and talents amongst the consecrated women of Ireland.” I for one am seriously excited about this new initiative that the Holy Spirit has sown in the hearts of these amazing young women and look forward to collaborating with them, especially with my prayer and Adoration!

Celebrating Sr. Cassie's Golden Jubilee
Irish Delegation- Disciples of the Divine Master

This past week as members of the Church in Ireland, we celebrated the feast of our Lady of Knock, fondly known as the Golden Rose of Ireland. In this apparition Mary does not speak, her message was a silent one but she pointed to the Lamb of God. This year, over 250,000 people were drawn to the shrine of Knock for prayer and pilgrimage and Marian devotion. Mary, Queen of Knock keeps her mantle of motherly love over the ‘Rise of the Roses’ too and there is a lovely prayer on the website to renew one’s commitment to her. Mary’s ‘YES’ continues to ripple down throughout the centuries. Yesterday we celebrated the Golden Jubilee of our sister, Sr. M. Cassie Mascarenhas. Our parish priest who was the main celebrant for the Eucharist, Canon Liam Devine, had this to say: “Sr. Cassie is not a person who ‘shouts from the rooftops but one who brings people to Christ with her quiet presence. It is like a rose that attracts people to it by its beauty and its fragrance.” This is a lovely image to use. As Disciples of the Divine Master, we are called to a certain silence and hiddeness in our lifestyle. When people see us and our lives, they should praise the Creator. Just as when people acknowledge the beauty of a rose, it should lead them to lift a thought to the Creator who composed every single petal of the rose. 

Roses from my Dad's garden
For me, there is a thread which is woven through all of the above. Beauty is something which runs a lot deeper than the surface. I wrote about this before in a previous post entitled 'P.S You're Beautiful' which you can read here. There is so much pressure on young women to mask anything which is not ‘perfect’ according to the world’s perception. To be beautiful’, you must have a tiny waist and look good, without any blemishes. As we look at the 'Rise of the Roses', the Rose of Tralee, St. Rose of Lima, in each one we can celebrate the beauty and dignity of being a woman and the gift that femininity and motherhood is to our world. Anne Bronte wrote: “But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.”We often hear the experience that ‘life is not a bed of roses’. The thorns of life are always there, they are part of the rose. I remember when I used to go to the flower-sellers to buy the flowers, they would ‘de-thorn’ the roses as they wrapped them in paper for me to bring home. But there was something very unnatural about this. In life we take the rose and the thorns together and keep the tweezers handy!
Other related posts from this blog:
St. Therese, Pope Francis and the White Rose
The Princess and the Tulip