May 21, 2017

St. Rita of Cascia, Religious, Patron of the Impossible

Saint Rita of Cascia

May 22nd, is the optional memorial of Saint Rita of Cascia. Most Catholics are familiar with Saint Jude as the patron saint of hopeless causes. What they might not know, however, is that there is another patron of the impossible, whose very life reflects faith in God despite difficult circumstances. She is St. Rita of Cascia.

Born in Italy in 1381, Rita expressed an interest in religious life at a very early age. In obedience to her parent’s wishes, she married at 18. The union was not a happy one. Her husband was a violent man, who passed his violent nature on to their twin sons. Rita did everything she could to be a model wife and mother. She was dedicated to converting her husband and sons, praying constantly for them.

After nearly 20 years of marriage, her husband was stabbed to death by an enemy and her two sons died shortly afterward. Alone, Rita decided to fulfill her lifelong wish to enter a religious order. Denied admittance three times because she was a widow, eventually the Augustinian nuns at Cascia would accept her.

One day, after hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ, Rita returned to her cell. Kneeling before her crucifix, she implored: "Let me, my Jesus share in Thy suffering, at least of one of Thy thorns". Her prayer was miraculously answered, and she received a gash on her forehead. This was a mystical yet visible mark of Jesus’ wound from the crown of thorns, symbolizing her unity with Christ in his sufferings. Rita's religious life was marked by obedience and extreme penances. 

Upon Saint Rita's death, in 1457, her face became radiant, while a fragrant odor emanated from her wound. The sweet odor is evident to this day on her incorrupt body. Also, it was reported that after her passing, her cell was bathed in heavenly light, and the bell of the monastery rang by itself. Pope Leo XIII canonized her on the Feast of the Ascension, May 24, 1900. 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. Through Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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