St Rose Duchesne Healing Oil
The St Rose Duchesne healing oil is dedicated to the French religious sister and educator. She spent the last half of her life teaching and serving the people of the Midwestern United States, then the western frontier of the nation.
She was born in Grenoble, in the Kingdom of France. She was raised in an enormous family home across from in a joint house of 20 children.
After surviving a bout of smallpox which left her slightly scarred, she was schooled in Grenoble. When she began to show a strong attraction to the monastic life, her father withdrew her from the monastery school the following year and had her tutored with her cousins in the family home. In 1788 she made the decision to enter the Visitation of Holy Mary religious order, despite her family’s opposition. She convinced an aunt to accompany her on a visit to the monastery, where she immediately requested admission. Consequently leaving her aunt to return home without her.
In 1792, however, revolutionaries shut down the monastery, during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Therefore Rose returned to her family where she lived at their country home. She attempted to continue living the Rule of Life of her Order. With the Catholic Church again able to operate openly in France under Napoleon, in 1801 Duchesne attempted to re-establish the Visitation monastery, acquiring the buildings from its new owner.
Society of the Sacred Heart
During this time Madeleine Sophie Barat was founding the new Society of the Sacred Heart. She wanted to establish a new foundation in Grenoble. Rose’s order was floundering in post revolutionary France and had only 3 members with her. Barat’s offered to merge the Visitation community into the Society of the Sacred Heart. Wisely Rose accepted this offer. The two women became immediate and lifelong friends.
In 1815, after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Duchesne followed Barat’s instructions and established a Convent of the Sacred Heart in Paris.
Missionary in America
After a meeting with a missionary Rose wished to travel to America to help evangelise among the natives. So she begged permission for Barat to serve in a new diocese in America.
In 1818, with Barat’s blessing, Duchesne headed out to the United States with four other Sisters of the Society. After they had rested briefly with the Ursuline nuns, they took advantage of the newly established steamboat service up the Mississippi River to travel to St. Louis, and finally settled in St. Charles. She was later to describe the location as “the remotest village in the U.S. Nonetheless the community established a new Sacred Heart convent in a log cabin there, known as the Duquette Mansion. Being the first house of the Society ever built outside France. Notably the first free school west of the Mississippi. “Poverty and Christian heroism are here”, she wrote of the site, “and trials are the riches of priests in this land.
The United States had purchased the area from France only fifteen years earlier. Settlers, many poor but others with money and slaves, were streaming in from the East Coast of the United States. Their new foundation faced many struggles. Notably including lack of funds, inadequate housing, hunger and very cold weather. Also the Sisters struggled to learn English. By 1828, the Society’s first five members in America had grown to six communities, operating several schools. In 1826 Pope Leo XII, through formally approved the Society of the Sacred Heart. The sisters were requested by the Jesuits to conduct the parish school. They dutifully did.
In 1841 at age seventy-one, Rose joined a new mission with the Porawatomi tribe in eastern Kansas. She was not among those initially selected for the trip. Father Verhaegen insisted, “She may not be able to do much work, but she will assure success to the mission by praying for us.” Unable to master their language, she was not able to teach. Instead she would spend long periods in prayer. The children named her Quahkahkanumad, which translates as Woman Who Prays Always.
Death/St Rose Duchense healing oil
In 1842, after a year among the Potawatomi, it was clear that Duchesne’s health could not sustain the regime of village life and she returned to St Charles. She spent the last decade of her life living there in a tiny room under a stairway near the chapel. Toward the end of her life, she was alone, going blind, feeble, and yearned for letters from Mother Barat. She died on November 18, 1852, aged 83.
Initially buried in the convent cemetery, St. Rose’s remains were exhumed three years later and found to be incorrupt. . She was then reburied in a crypt within a small shrine on the convent grounds. The cause for Duchesne’s canonisation was introduced in 1895. She was declared Venerable in 1909 by Pope Pius X and was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1940. Pope John Paul II canonized her on July 3, 1988.
St Rose Duchesne healing oil/Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.