One of the most widely venerated saints, and one of four patrons of impossible causes, is St. Rita of Cascia. A fourteenth century Italian woman, Rita’s life was tragic in many ways, but full of miraculous interventions which often were the fruits of her own obedience, prayers and trust. She is a model of patient suffering and active intercession.
Why is St. Rita a patron of impossible causes? Her life story gives us a clue. Although Rita was attracted to the Augustinian religious life at an early age, she was obedient to her parents who had arranged a marriage for her. Married at a very young age, she bore twin sons and patiently endured her husband’s mean temperedness. Rita was a peacemaker and her kindness served to convert her husband, Paolo. When Rita’s husband was killed violently, her sons, as was customary in those days, plotted to avenge his murder. Rita pointed to the Crucified Lord, reminding them of how He forgave. She begged God not to allow her sons to commit the sin of murder. Both died young, of natural causes and after being reconciled with God, without carrying out any plan of revenge.
Bereft, but glad of the grace she was given to know her sons were taken from the world rather than committing sin, Rita was free to pursue entrance into the convent, but was turned away at first, because of her association with the warring factions of her family. Rita set out to bring peace to the families, and was successful in obtaining an end to the feud. Again, Rita placed all her trust in God’s Will, and through prayer and faithfulness, she was eventually welcomed into the Augustinian convent. There, Rita lived a holy life of prayer and meditation upon the suffering of the Crucified One. Rita was given a stigmata wound on the forehead, in union with Jesus’ suffering of the crown of thorns.
St. Rita suffered illness which kept her bedridden in her later years. A visiting cousin asked if she could bring anything to Rita, and was dismayed by Rita’s request for a blooming rose from her old home garden. Since the season was icy winter, her cousin knew this would be an impossible request to fill, but she went to the garden, so that she could say she had tried. There, she found a single, fully bloomed red rose on a withered bush, and she carefully carried it back to the holy nun, knowing it was sent from God. Roses are blessed and distributed on St. Rita’s feast day of May 22 at many of the shrines which venerate her. In these days of such strife, we should invoke the peacemaker saint of impossible causes, St. Rita. The National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia is in Philadelphia, and is a pilgrimage site of great efficacy.
May 4, 2015