Born into a wealthy family in Grenoble, France, Rose learned political skills from her father and a love of the poor from her mother. At age 8, it became her dream to go to America and work with Native Americans after hearing a Jesuit missionary speak of his work there. Rose joined the convent of the Visitation nuns against her family’s wishes. When the French Revolution broke out, the convent was closed; so Rose took care of the poor, opened a school for homeless children, and risked her life helping priests in the underground. In 1804 she joined the Religious of the Sacred Heart. At 49 years old, St. Rose finally received permission to travel to St. Louis, Missouri, with four companions, and established the first convent of the Society at St. Charles. Cold, hunger, illness, poverty, and opposition did not diminish Rose’s vision and courage. She opened the first free school west of the Mississippi for Indians and whites. Rose was 71 years old when she finally obtained permission to work among the Potawatomi Indians. With three companions, she traveled by boat and oxcart to Sugar Creek, Kansas. Their convent was a wigwam, they slept on bare ground, and food was coarse. They opened a school for Indian girls and taught them sewing, weaving, and other household arts. Rose thought herself a failure because she could not master English or the Indian language, but her holiness made a deep impression on the Indians. Saint Rose prayed so incessantly that she was on her knees before the tabernacle when the Indians went to sleep and would still be kneeling there when they awoke. Wondering at this, some children put pebbles on the train of her habit one night. Next morning, the pebbles were still there. She hadn’t budged all night. This earned St. Rose the nickname Quahkahkanumad, meaning “She Who Prays Always.” The nuns cared for the sick and prayed with the dying. The Indians were deeply touched by their kindness and souls were won for Christ. Severe winters and lack of proper food sapped her health and Rose was sent back to St. Charles. She spent the last years of her life praying “for her Indians” and the rapidly growing Society she had established. She died at the age of 83, the first missionary nun to the Indians. St. Rose is the patron saint of perseverance amid adversity. She was canonized by St. Pope John Paul II in 1988.
“We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self. The truest crosses are those we do not choose ourselves. He who has Jesus has everything.” – Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne
Ideas for celebrating this feast day at home:
- St. Rose taught Indian girls sewing and weaving. Here is an idea for paper weaving with children. OR, you could weave a paper Christmas tree in preparation of the upcoming season! Idea here and here.
- Today’s menu should include Native American Food. This cuisine’s defining theme is that most foods are locally sourced with seasonal ingredients. Some ideas: salmon (or other favorite fish), bison, turkey, or deer meat; veggies, cranberry sauce, corn, grits, succotash, beans, squash, or potatoes; corn bread and pumpkin pie. Click here for a dinner recipe idea.
- Pray to St. Rose Philippine Duchesne for the grace of becoming a prayerful soul. St. Rose was most known for her prayer life; perhaps the best way to honor her today is to spend time in prayer.
- St. Philippine did not convert people by speeches, but by prayer and great charity. Today, pray for someone who is your “enemy” and if possible perform some kindness for this person.