Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Saint Rita of Cascia

Today being the feast of St Rita, many abused women are looking up to her as their patron saint. Her life story, though it happened 700 years ago, could very well be happening today.

St. Rita was born in 1381 near Spoleto, Italy. Her parents arranged her marriage to Paolo Mancini when she was only 12, despite the fact that she repeatedly begged them to allow her to enter a convent. Mancini was a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who made many enemies in the region. St. Rita endured his insults, abuse, and infidelities for 18 years, and bore him two sons whom she raised with Catholic values.

Toward the end of her husband's life, St. Rita helped convert him and although Mancini became more congenial, his allies betrayed him, and he was violently stabbed to death. Before his death, he repented to St. Rita and the Church, and she forgave him for his transgressions. Now her sons wished to exact revenge on their father's murderers. Knowing murder was wrong, she tried to persuade them from retaliating, but to no avail. She, instead, prayed to God for Him to take away the lives of her sons instead of seeing them commit such a terrible sin. God heard St. Rita's words and her sons died of natural causes a year later. Soon afterwards, St. Rita desired to enter the monastery at Cascia but was spurned for being a widow, as virginity was required for entry into the convent. However, she persisted in her cause and was allowed to enter the monastery after reconciling her family with her husband's murderers. She was 36.

Her actual entrance into the monastery has been described as a miracle. During the night, when the doors to the monastery were locked and the sisters were asleep, St. Rita was miraculously transported into the convent by her patron Saints, St John the Baptist, St Augustine and St Nicholas of Tolentino. When she was found inside the convent in the morning and the sisters could not turn her away. She remained at the monastery, living by the Augustinian rule, until her death, May 22, 1457. St. Rita was beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1627, and canonized  on May 24, 1900 bu Pope Leo XIII.

One day, while living at the convent Rita said, "Please let me suffer like you, Divine Savior". Suddenly, a thorn from a figure of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ fell from the crown of thorns and wounded Rita's forehead. The rose is the symbol most often associated with St. Rita. A cousin visited her and asked her if she desired anything from her old home. St. Rita responded by asking for a rose from the garden. It was January and her cousin did not expect to find anything due to the weather and the snow. However, when her relative went to the house, a single blooming rose was found in the garden and her cousin brought it back to St. Rita at the convent. The rose is thought to represent God's love for Rita and her ability to intercede on behalf of lost causes or impossible cases. Her intercession is also sought by abused women.

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