SAINT RITA OF CASCIA (1381-1457), widow and religious – Patron saint of impossible causes, widows, victims of abuse, parenthood, and those suffering from illness, wounds and sterility.
Today, the Church honors Saint Rita of Cascia, whom Pope St. John Paul II called “a disciple of the Crucified One” and an “expert in suffering.”
Known in Spain as “La Santa de los imposibles (the Saint of impossible causes)”, Saint Rita has become immensely popular throughout the centuries. She is invoked by people in all situations and stations of life, since she had embraced suffering with charity and wrongs with forgiveness in the many trials she experienced throughout her lifetime: as a wife, widow, a mother surviving the death of her children, and as a religious sister.
Born in 1381 in Roccaporena, in the central region of Umbria, Italy, Rita was pressured into marrying at the age of twelve to a violent and ill-tempered husband. He was murdered 18 years later and she forgave his murderers, praying that her twin sons, who had sworn to avenge their father’s death, might not carry out their threats, and would seek forgiveness from God for their thoughts and words of anger. She was granted this grace, and her sons, who died young, died reconciled to God.
Now living alone, Rita felt the call to become a nun in the Augustinian Order, which had a convent in the city of Cascia, but was refused entry at first. She prayed for the intercession of Saints Augustine, Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist, and was finally allowed to enter the convent where she lived the last 40 years of her life in prayer, mortification and service to the people of Cascia.
For the last 15 years of her life she received a stigmata-like wound on her forehead which appeared to be from the Crown of Thorns – in answer to her prayers to be more profoundly conformed to the Passion of our Lord Jesus. Rita also worked for peace in the region and counseled those who came to the monastery seeking her advice. Rita was bedridden for the last four years of her life, consuming almost nothing except the Eucharist for both bodily and spiritual nourishment. On May 22, 1457, she died of tuberculosis at the age of seventy.
Saint Rita was canonized on May 24, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII. And on the 100th anniversary of her canonization in the year 2000, Pope St. John Paul II noted her remarkable qualities as a Christian woman: “Rita well interpreted the ‘feminine genius’ by living it intensely in both physical and spiritual motherhood.”
We commemorate her feastday on May 22.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Collect of the Roman Missal from the Proper for Saint Rita of Cascia)
“Bestow on us, we pray, O Lord, the wisdom and strength of the Cross, with which You were pleased to endow Saint Rita, so that, suffering in every tribulation with Christ, we may participate ever more deeply in His Paschal Mystery.
“Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”