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About St. Rita of Cascia

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St. Rita of Cascia

St. Rita of Cascia is a unique saint, in that during her life she was a wife, a mother, and later, a nun. Many saints we learn about were called by God to either marriage and children or the consecrated religious life; however, there have been some throughout time who have been blessed with living out both vocations. St. Rita is one such saint.

Born in 1381 in the city of Roccaporena in Cascia, a republic in the Umbrian valley of Italy, Margherita Lotti was the daughter of noble parents. Her mother, Amata Ferri, and her father, Antonio Lotti, were members of Conciliatore di Cristo (Peacemakers of Christ), who served through charitable works. Given the nickname of “Rita” from her youth, St. Rita was baptized in the church of St. Augustine and became familiar with the Augustinian nuns of St. Mary Magdalene during her youth. She was attracted to their way of life; however, she was unable to pursue this vocation. Her parents arranged a marriage for her to Paolo Mancini, a nobleman who would provide her with safety and security. They married when St. Rita was twelve years old.

Paolo Mancini’s wealth may have been attractive to St. Rita’s parents, since they wanted to be sure she would be provided for in the future. However, in addition to being wealthy, Paolo was also quick-tempered and immoral, gaining for himself many enemies in the area. He treated St. Rita very poorly - insulting her, physically abusing her, and being unfaithful to her. Yet, St. Rita endured these pains with humility, kindness, and patience, hoping her virtuous example would both glorify God and lead to the conversion of her husband. St. Rita bore Paolo two sons: Giangiacomo (Giovanni) Antonio and Paulo Maria. She raised her boys in the Christian faith, praying that they would be able to avoid the fighting and feuding that were a major part of the culture in which they lived.

St. Rita’s prayer and example did break through Paolo’s brutish exterior, and he began to accept the Christian faith of his wife, amending his ways to become a better person. However, the feud between the Chiqui and Mancini families became more intense, and Paolo was stabbed to death by Guido Chiqui, a member of the feuding family. At this time, St. Rita’s sons vowed to avenge the death of their father. St. Rita was terrified at the thought of her sons committing murder (and therefore, a mortal sin) and prayed that God would prevent them from carrying out their plan. Before they were able to kill in an act of revenge, both of her sons died of dysentery. Though her heart was broken over the loss of her family, she thanked God that her boys had not died with malice and mortal sins on their souls.

Now a 30-year-old childless widow, St. Rita turned her eyes to the Augustinian monastery she had felt called to join prior to marrying Paolo. She asked to be allowed to enter the convent; however, the sisters were hesitant due to the history of violence and scandal associated with her husband and sons. She continued to pray to be given permission to enter the Augustinians, and was granted an opportunity: If she publicly denounced the feud between the Mancini and Chiqui families, thus nullifying the conflict, she would be able to join the convent. At age 36, St. Rita was finally able to put the feud to rest, which allowed for her to enter the Augustinian community. A fresco of the two families making peace is on the wall of the Church of St. Francis in Cascia - a testament to the power of goodness and forgiveness.

St. Rita lived the life of an Augustinian nun, her days filled with prayer, contemplation, and spiritual reading according to the Rule of St. Augustine. Then, on Good Friday in 1442, an extraordinary event took place. St. Rita was praying before an image of Christ crucified, contemplating His love that was so great He accepted such physical and spiritual suffering in order to save humanity. She prayed to be able to share in Christ’s suffering, offering her heart in compassion and love. God heard her prayer, and St. Rita was struck in the forehead with a thorn from the crown with which Christ was crucified. This wound remained open and visible for the next 15 years, until her death. As such, St. Rita was graced with the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ for the conversion of sinners throughout the world.

Toward the end of St. Rita’s life her health worsened and she became quite weak. She was visited by a cousin who asked her if she would like anything from her old home. St. Rita asked that she bring her a rose from her garden. Her cousin was perplexed, since it was January - certainly there would not be any flowers growing in the middle of winter! Yet, when upon arriving at St. Rita’s old home, she was astonished to find a single rose blooming amid the snow-covered bush. She returned to present the rose to St. Rita, who accepted it with quiet assurance.

St. Rita spent her years in the convent praying for the souls of her husband and sons, that they may find repose in the arms of God. As if to reassure St. Rita that her prayers had been answered, the cold ground in which her family was buried became unseasonably beautiful and spring-like. St. Rita felt that God sent her this warmth and splendor as a sign that her family had entered into eternal life, and that she would soon be reunited with them there.

St. Rita died peacefully on May 22, 1457. The bells in the church in Cascia began to sound on their own, without the help of human hands. As the nuns prepared for her burial in a simple wooden coffin, the carpenter lamented that had he not suffered a stroke he would have been able to make a more beautiful coffin in which to lay such a holy woman. Soon after speaking these words, the carpenter was healed, and he was able to carve an ornate and elaborately decorated coffin to be the final resting place of St. Rita’s body. Yet, she was never buried in it. Soon after her death she was kept on display, as so many local people came to look on the face of the “Peacemaker of Cascia.” As her burial became more and more delayed, it was noticed that St. Rita’s remains were not suffering nature’s usual course of decay; rather, her body was perfectly preserved as though she had just passed away. To this day the body of St. Rita is on display in a glass enclosure in the basilica in Cascia.

Patronage of St. Rita

St. Rita is the patron saint of abused women (especially wives/mothers), the ill/wounded, difficult marriages, and lost and impossible causes. It is because of the steadfastness and grace with which she bore the pains and challenges of her marriage, her motherhood, and her family’s violent feud that she has been chosen the patron over those who face similar struggles.

St. Rita is also considered an “unofficial” patron saint of baseball players due to the reference made to her in the 2002 film, “The Rookie.”

St. Rita in Art

In art, St. Rita is shown wearing the habit of an Augustinian nun. In some depictions the habit is black, while in others it is brown. The historically accurate color is brown, though the most well-known images of St. Rita show her in the black habit. She may be kneeling before a crucifix or standing, and the wound from the thorn in her forehead will be shown. Also, it is common to see roses near St. Rita, a reminder of the story of the rose that bloomed in her garden in winter.

Prayers of St. Rita

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Rita

Holy Patroness of those in need, Saint Rita, so humble, pure and patient, whose pleadings with thy Divine Spouse are irresistible, obtain for me from thy Crucified Christ my request (mention it here). Be kind to me, for the greater glory of God, and I promise to honor thee and to sing thy praises forever.

Oh glorious St. Rita, who didst miraculously participate in the sorrowful Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for me the grace to suffer with resignation the troubles of this life, and

protect me in all my needs. Amen

Prayer for Healing to St. Rita

Dear Rita, model wife and widow, you yourself suffered in a long illness showing patience out of love for God. Teach us to pray as you did. Many invoke you for help, full of confidence in your intercession. Deign to come now to our aid for the relief and cure of (name). To God all things are possible; may this healing give glory to the Lord. Amen.

Chaplet of St. Rita

O Holy St. Rita, exemplary Augustinian Sister, we honor you for your devotion to the Passion of Christ. Although your early life was filled with disappointment, frustration, and unceasing tragedy, you never lost faith and trust in God. For this you are the patroness of the impossible, and our inspiration and advocate in desperate circumstances.

Say 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys, and 3 Glorias.

The Prayer of the Roses

O Blessed Saint Rita, my powerful advocate, behold me prostrate before thy Divine Spouse, Jesus, thy Lord, thy God, and  thy All. Behold me recalling His favors to thee, that thou mayst plead for me. May this blessed Rose, sweet with the memories of thy daily acts of love before the image of the Crucified Savior, and of the wonders wrought for thee in thy dying moments, give me confidence that thou in Heaven wilt plead that I, too, may share in the good things God has in store for thy clients.

Saint Rita, mystical Rose of every virtue, pray for us.

Novena of St. Rita

O holy protectress of those who art in greatest need, thou who shineth as a star of hope in the midst of darkness, blessed Saint Rita, bright mirror of God's grace, in patience and fortitude thou art a model of all the states in life. I unite my will with the will of God through the merits of my Savior Jesus Christ, and in particular through his patient wearing of the crown of thorns, which with tender devotion thou didst daily contemplate. Through the merits of the holy Virgin Mary and thine own graces and virtues, I ask thee to obtain my earnest petition, provided it be for the greater glory of God and my own sanctification. Guide and purify my intention, O holy protectress and advocate, so that I may obtain the pardon of all my sins and the grace to persevere daily, as thou didst in walking with courage, generosity, and fidelity down the path of life. [Mention your request.]

Saint Rita, advocate of the impossible, pray for us.  

Saint Rita, advocate of the helpless, pray for us.

Pray 3 times: 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary, and 1 Glory Be