Rosa, not Rose

I was confirmed a month after my ninth birthday. Back then, our archbishop used to visit parishes every three or four years, and one consequence was that all the children aged eight or more would be scooped up into one large confirmation group, in which the oldest were probably twelve. I have a few vague and disjointed memories of our preparation, but can remember very little of the Mass itself. I know I wore a rather nice, trendy-looking dress I'd been given for my birthday, and can recall my friend Deirdre sitting in front of me, wearing her veil from her First Communion. But I do remember the moment of my Confirmation - though not for the right reasons...

I had chosen Rosa as my Confirmation name. This wasn't due to any great devotion to Santa Rosa: in fact, when we were asked to research and talk about our chosen saints, I had to look her up in our local library's reference section. The entry about her was somewhat brief, and didn't dwell on her severely penitential, austere life, which I only found out about - somewhat uneasily - when I was an adult. No; my choice of this name was simply because I liked it, and because my parents had heavily hinted that my Nonna Rosa - my maternal grandmother- would be delighted by this choice. (Strangely, I cannot remember my father dropping hints about Giuseppa or Giuseppina, or even Josephine, on behalf of his mother, my Nonna Pina - I really hope she didn't mind this bit of bias from her only grandchild).

But back to Rosa... That was my chosen confirmation name, with - of course - full Italian pronunciation. But alas, at the moment of conferring the sacrament, the very English Archbishop Cyril Cowderoy addressed me as Rose. But... I'd chosen Rosa, not Rose - and this distinction mattered! And thus, irritated and inwardly fuming, I received this wonderful sacrament, by which my baptism was sealed, I was anointed for maturity and God's service, and the Holy Spirit descended on me, pouring out his sevenfold gifts of grace... onto a little girl sullenly muttering It's ROSA, NOT Rose!

There are times when I envy people who choose to be confirmed as adults, or even as more mature teens, and thus are fully cognisant of this great sacrament's power and gifts. But I can also rejoice in how it was for me, because of what this tells me about God. I was an irritated, largely uncomprehending child, and God's Spirit still abounded onto me, and came to dwell within me, as much as onto the most mature, or fervently pious among us. St Paul assured the Romans that God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice; and indeed, this God is all generosity and love, never withholding gifts because of our own ignorance or fallibility. 

Today is the feast of Santa Rosa. I cannot admire her extreme asceticism, fasting and many penances, but I am in awe and admiration of her generosity, and single-minded, whole-hearted commitment to God, and to the service of the poor, especially in the face of family opposition and ridicule, sickness and temptations. In a time and culture in which young unmarried women were strongly controlled, and subject to parental authority, she dared to remain true to the intense love and desire for God which had first taken possession of her as a child. And God, for whom no behaviour is ever too bizarre or excessive, and who knows our hearts better than we do, consoled and inhabited her, unimpeded... Which of course, is what I, in my far, far less fervent ways, most deeply desire, too... 

May Santa Rosa pray for this for us all...


  1. I picked St.Michael and my Cardinal called me Michelle. I felt as you did and told him St. Michael, but my granddaughter three years ago picked Luke! I pray we go forward.

    1. Oh my! And as far as I know, there isn't even a St Michelle, so it's not like confusing St Louis with St Louise - he must have known you meant Michael.

  2. Santa Rosa, pray for us. 🙏🏼


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