Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Rosalia, Virgin

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Rosalia, date and artist unknown; Servite church, Schönbühel-Aggsbach, Austria; photographed on 27 September 2015 by Henry Kellner; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Rosalia was born at Palermo, in Sicily. Her father was Sinibald, lord of Quisquina and Roses, and a descendant of Charlemagne. She was educated at court, but lived in such a manner, as if she had been brought up by pious nuns. All her actions were formed according to the precepts of the Gospel, and she resembled, in her devotion to God and the Saints, more an angel than a human being. She was very retiring in her habits, and found no pleasure in the tumult of the world, in riches, or in Honors, but only in solitude, prayer, and devout reading. By this means, she preserved her innocence and purity unspotted amid so many dangers which surrounded her. When she perceived that her great beauty would surely induce many to seek her in marriage, she resolved to serve the Almighty in virginal chastity, and, therefore, secretly to leave the court. To execute this she cast herself before an image of the Blessed Virgin, beseeching her most fervently to strengthen and assist her. After this, she went away, filled with great comfort, and without acquainting any one of her intention. Guided by Providence, she came, at a considerable distance from Palermo, to a mountain, where she found a cavern in a rock, the entrance to which was very narrow. There she determined to make her dwelling. Above this cavern, she carved in the rock the words: “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, lord of Quisquina and Roses, have resolved to live in this cavern out of love to my Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Four years the pious virgin lived in this place, whilst no one knew where she was; for, she guarded herself carefully, so as not to be seen, fearing she would be taken back to her father’s residence. Her occupation consisted of prayer, praising the Most High, and contemplating the divine joys. But she was almost continually disturbed and tortured by Satan with fearful temptations. He endeavored to allure her back to her home; but the Christian heroine, aided by heaven, vanquished him happily by fasting and other austerities. She was frequently visited by Angels, by different Saints, by the Blessed Virgin, and by our Lord, all of whom comforted and animated her to continue the life she had begun.

At the end of four years, God sent her an Angel, who admonished her to leave her retreat and make her dwelling on another mountain, known by the name of Monte Pellegrino, or Mount Pilgrim, which was near Palermo, and just opposite her father’s residence. Here, with her father’s domains under her eves, she had ample opportunity to conquer the world and its vanities. In this mountain also she found a cavern, narrower and more gloomy than the other, and without any protection from the inclemency of the weather. The water, which dropped continually from the rock, gave her the greatest discomfort. No traces of any living being were to be found around her, and yet, where even an animal would not make his den, where no man dared to place his foot, the delicately nourished Rosalia made her dwelling, because God had chosen the place for her. The entrance was narrow, and although there was plenty of space inside, yet only one nook was free from the ceaselessly dropping water, and in this the high-born maiden crouched – a dove, hidden in a cleft of the rock – sighing for her heavenly spouse. There she remained in austerity and holiness during the rest of her life. Her sustenance was some wild herbs which grew near by. Lonely, sad and awful as it might have been for any other human being, it was not so for Rosalia; for she was honored more frequently than before by heavenly visitors, and was even several times strengthened by the bread of life from the hand of an Angel. She lived more happily in this dark cavern than in her father’s palace, surrounded by all the splendor of temporal greatness and wealth. It cannot be denied that, at times, she became weary of her desolate and poor existence; but in such moments, she raised her eyes to the crucifix, crying aloud: “From love to my Lord! Out of love to Thee, my God!” These words she repeated in every dark hour, and they animated her with new zeal in the service of the Most High.

At last, an Angel was sent to announce to her the hour of her death. The fervent love of God which filled her heart, the intense desire to see her Saviour in heaven, and the visible presence of the divine Mother and holy Angels, made death inexpressibly sweet to her. Hence, she laid herself down in the cavern, her head resting on her right hand, while the left held a crucifix and a rosary to her bosom; and thus she calmly expired.

God made her wonderful life known to the world by several revelations, and five hundred years afterwards He revealed the place where “her holy body was lying. It was found in its rocky tomb, covered with crystal, as the water, which for several hundred years had dropped on her, had caused her to become crystalized. This discovery was made in 1623, to the great consolation and benefit of the whole city of Palermo, at that period ravaged by a terrible pestilence, which daily carried off from seventy to a hundred persons. It was revealed to a pious inhabitant of Palermo that the city would not be relieved from this scourge, until the body of Saint Rosalia was brought within its walls. The precious relics were, therefore, brought, in solemn procession, into the city, which from that hour was free from the pestilence. On this account, Saint Rosalia is still invoked and honored as a guardian against pestilence.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Rosalia despised the pleasures, honors and riches of the world and found her only joys in solitude, prayer and devout reading. She occupied herself constantly in these pious exercises. How wonderful: The Saints delight not in that which is the greatest delight to most men They flee and hate what the children of the world seek and love, and are devoted and attached to what the others avoid and despise. They enjoy what the world considers tedious and burdensome. Can an equal ending be expected from such unequal conduct? Answer this yourself. Whence came it that Saint Rosalia rejoiced in solitude, and especially in prayer and devout read- ing? She loved God. Those who love God, love to converse with Him; and this can be done much better in solitude than in the tumult of the world. Those who love God love to speak with Him, and this is done in prayer. Those who love God, love to listen to His Word: His voice is heard in spiritual reading. It is a sure sign that you do not love God, if prayer or reading devout books is distasteful to you. You like to converse long and often with those who are dear to you: you seek opportunities to speak with them and listen to their words; time seems not to drag heavily, you become not weary when you are thus occupied. Would you not conduct yourself in the same manner towards God, if you loved Him? Act thus, at least, in future. Or, tell me does the society, the conversation of men impart greater comfort, greater benefit to you, than you would derive from God in prayer and devout reading?

• “From love to my Lord. Out of love to my God.” This was the constant cry of Saint Rosalia’s lips and heart. She loved God, and loved Him truly above everybody and everything. For Him she had left all, even those things that she might have enjoyed without sin. For love of Him, she led so austere a life, although she was a princess most tenderly brought up. You are obliged to love God above all; you have reason for it. Besides, this is His command. He is your Lord, your Creator, your Redeemer, your Benefactor, the highest Good, and in Himself worthy of all love and honor. Have you fulfilled your duty in regard to this? I hear you say, in the words of Saint Francis Xavier: “O Lord, my God! I love Thee: but I do not love Thee because Thou hast saved me, neither because whoever loves Thee not, shall burn in hell.” It is right that you speak so, and I wish you often to repeat those words: but – words are not deeds. Saint Rosalia manifested in works that she loved God above all. You must show in your actions that you love the Almighty above everybody and everything, or I cannot believe your words. I do not ask you to do all that Saint Rosalia did for her Lord; but, tell me, would it be too much if I requested of you, for the love of God, to abstain sometimes even from an allowable pleasure; to turn your eyes from this or that worldly vanity; to bear patiently the heat of the summer, the cold of the winter; to do good to your enemy; to avoid idle gossip; to give more time to prayer or to listening to the word of God; to bear, without murmur or complaint, the Cross God has seen fit to lay upon you? Your Saviour has done and suffered so much out of love to you; it was for your sake, that He abstained from all temporal enjoyments; and you refuse to do the least act of self-abnegation for Him? Oh! do not again protest that you love God, if you hesitate to follow my advice. Deeds must prove love. “Love must act and do great deeds; otherwise it is not true love says Saint Gregory. Much less is it true love, if it will not do little things for the Almighty.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Rosalia, Virgin”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 April 2018. Web. 26 September 2018. <>