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SAINT RITA OF CASCIA
Professed an Augustinian nun 1417
Died 22 May 1457
Beatified 1626, by Pope Urban VIII
Canonised 1900, by Pope Leo XIII
Feast Day 22nd May
Rita of Cascia’s baptismal name is Margherita Lotti. Margherita means―pearl―and she was affectionately called Rita, the short form of Margherita. Rita was born in the Italian city of Roccaporena, a suburb of Cascia, in the province of Perugia. Her elderly parents, Antonio, and Amata Ferri Lotti, had been married 53 years when Rita was born. They were known to be charitable and pious people and earned the epithet Conciliatori di Cristo, meaning―Peacemakers of Christ.
From her parents Rita was taught scripture and learnt her prayers. Her parents led by example and were charitable to those in need. It was Rita's desire to be a nun. However, according to custom, her parents had arranged her marriage and Rita resolved to see her parents’ decision for her marriage as God’s will. At 12 years old, she was married to Paolo Mancini a quick-tempered and immoral man, who had many enemies. He was involved in a long running feud between the Chiqui and Mancini families. Rita endured his insults, physical abuse, and infidelities, with humility, kindness, and patience. They had two sons, Giangiacomo Antonio, and Paulo Maria, whom Rita raised as Christians.
The family feud, resulted in Paolo, being stabbed to death by a member of the Chiqui family. Rita pardoned her husband’s murderer at his funeral. However, Paolo’s brother, Bernardo, swore revenge and hoped to convince Rita's sons to join him.
Rita’s marriage lasted 18 years, for which she is remembered for her qualities as a Christian woman, a good wife and mother who tried her best to manage her husband’s abusive behaviour. As Rita’s sons grew, they sought to avenge their father's murder. Rita, fearing her sons would lose their souls, tried to dissuade them from retaliating, but to no avail. She asked God to remove her sons from the cycle of vendettas and stop them from committing murder. Her sons died of dysentery a year later, which many believe was God’s answer to her prayers, taking them by natural death rather than risk them committing a mortal sin.
After the deaths of her husband and sons, Rita was alone and sorrowful but not bitter. She turned to her original desire to join the Augustinian nuns of St Mary Magdalene Monastery in Cascia. Initially she was refused for fear of her association with a violent family. However, Rita persisted and in 1417, at 36 years old, she was professed as a nun. Over the next 49 years, Rita devoted herself to austerity, prayer, and charity, caring for the sick and needy, and acting as a peacemaker among the citizens of Cascia. In 1422, while Rita was meditating before an image of Jesus crucified, she received stigmatisation on her forehead, as though a thorn had penetrated her flesh. She bore this stigma for the rest of her life.
Rita contracted tuberculosis and was confined to bed for the last years of her life. Her cousin from her hometown of Roccaporena visited her some months before her death. She asked Rita if there was anything she wanted. Rita asked for a rose from her parents’ garden. It was a small favour, but an impossible one to grant in January. Nonetheless, on returning home her cousin found, a single, bright rose on the bush where Rita said it would be. She returned to the monastery and presented it to Rita, who gave thanks to God for this sign of His love.
At her canonisation, Rita was bestowed the title of Patroness of Impossible Causes. Rita’s body has remained incorrupt over the centuries and is enshrined in the Basilica of Santa Rita da Cascia.
St Rita was a woman of strength and faith. She brought peace and used her suffering and difficulties in life as an instrument of growth and beauty of Christian love. St Rita gives us her message of forgiveness, peace, love, suffering, humility, and joy.
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