THE LIFE OF ST. RITA of CASCIA

Rita was born in the year 1381 in the village of Rocaporena, near Cascia , in Italy. Her Parents, Antonio and Amata Lotti, considered her birth a very special gift from God, for Rita, their only child, was born to them when they were already advancing in age. As a young girl Rita frequently visited the convent of the Augustinian Nuns in Cascia and dreamed of one day joining their community. Her parents however, had different plans for Rita and promised her in marriage, according to the custom of the day, to Paolo Mancini, a young man but of a strong and impetuous character. Though disappointed at not being able to enter the convent, Rita accepted her parents' decision, resolved to see this as God's will for her.

At the age of eighteen the young couple were joined in marriage and set up home in the house her parents had left her. Twin boys were born to them and Rita found herself occupied with the concerns of a wife, mother and homemaker, while Paolo was employed as a watchman for the town. In Cascia, as elsewhere in Italy at the time, a great rivalry existed between two popular factions, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. As a minor official of the town, Paolo often found himself drawn into the conflict, and the strain which this caused probably accounts for the tension Paolo sometimes brought into the Mancini household. By her prayer, patience and affection Rita was able to ease the stress and worry her husband experienced, but she was not able to shield him altogether from the dangers to which his work exposed him.

One day as Paolo was returning home from his work he was ambushed and killed. The pain which this unexpected and violent death inflicted upon Rita was only compounded by the fear she felt that her two teenage sons moved by the unwritten law of "vendetta", would seek to avenge the father's death. Rita's only recourse was to pray. As it happened, the death of both boys from natural causes , a short time later removed them from material and spiritual danger. Despite her great burden she could still thank God that they had died in peace, free of the poison of murder to which hatred and revenge might have otherwise drawn them.

Now alone in the world and without family responsibilities, Rita once more turned her thoughts to the desired vocation of her youth, that of joining the Augustinian Nuns of Saint Margaret Mary Monastery. Some of the religious of the community, however , were relatives of members of the political action considered responsible for Paolo's death and, so as not to tempt the harmony of the convent, Rita's request for admission was denied. Fortunately, she was not to be easily dissuaded from following what she knew to be God's plan for her. She implored her three favorite saints- John the Baptist, Augustine and Nicholas of Tolentine, a recently canonized Augustinian friar- to assist her and she set about the task of establishing peace between the hostile parties of Cascia with such success that her entry into the monastery was assured.

At the age of thirty-six Rita pledged to follow the ancient Rule of Saint Augustine and after his own example, to live with her fellow religious in unity of mind and heart as together they pursued God. For the next forty years she gave herself wholeheartedly to prayer and works of Charity, caring for the sick and needy and working especially to preserve peace and harmony among the citizens of Cascia. With a pure love she wanted more and more to be intimately joined to the redemptive suffering of Jesus and this desire of hers was satisfied in an extraordinary way. One day when she was about sixty years of age she was meditating before an image of Christ crucified, as she was accustomed to do. Suddenly, a small wound appeared on her forehead, as though a thorn from the crown that encircled Christ's head had loosed itself and penetrated her own flesh, For the next fifteen years, the remainder of her life, she bore this external sign of stigmatization and union with the Lord. In spite of the pain she constantly experienced, she offered herself courageously for the physical and spiritual well-being of others.

During the last four years of her life Rita was confined to bed and was able to eat so little that she was practically sustained on the Eucharist alone. She was, nevertheless, an inspiration to her sisters in religion and to all who came to visit her, by her patience and joyful disposition despite her great suffering.

One of those who visited her some months before her death- a relative from her hometown - was privileged to witness first-hand the extraordinary things wrought by Rita's requests. When asked whether she had any special desires , Rita asked only that a rose from the garden of her parents' home be brought to her. It was a small favor to ask, but quite an impossible one to grant in the month of January. Nevertheless, on returning home the woman discovered, to her amazement , a single brightly-colored blossom on the bush where the nun said it would be. Picking it, she returned immediately to the monastery and presented it to Rita who gave thanks to God for this sign of his love. Thus the saint of the thorn became the saint of the rose and she whose impossible requests were granted her, became the advocate of all those whose own requests seem impossible as well. As she breathed her last, Rita's final words to the sisters who gathered around her were:" Remain in the holy love of Jesus. Remain in obedience to the holy Roman Catholic Church. Remain in peace and fraternal charity."

Having faithfully and lovingly responded to God's many invitations to her in the course of her seventy-six years. Rita returned to him in peace on May 22, 1457. As a special sign of God's favor, granted to only a small number of those the Church has raised to sainthood, Rita's body has remained incorrupt over the centuries. It is venerated today in the shrine next to the monastery in Cascia . Her feast day is observed on the anniversary of her death- May 22. She is invoked as the " Saint of Impossible" because of the exemplary way in which she met with the many difficulties or crosses in her own life and turned them into instruments of growth in holiness before God.


DAILY PRAYER TO SAINT RITA

Dear Saint Rita, during your entire life on earth you found your happiness by following the will of our heavenly Father. Help me to be as trusting of God in all his designs for me., Help me this day to give myself to him as you did, without limit, without fear, without counting the cost. Help me to be generous in serving the needs of others, patient in all difficulties, forgiving toward all who injure me. Help me to learn more deeply the great mystery of the cross of Jesus, so that by embracing it as you did, I may come to experience its power to heal and to save. Amen


PRAYER TO SAINT RITA IN SPECIAL NEED

O powerful Saint Rita, rightly called Saint of the Impossible, I come to you with confidence in my great need. You know well my trials, for you yourself were many times burdened in this life. Come to my help, speak for me, pray with me, intercede on my behalf before the Father. I know that God has a most generous heart and that he is a most loving Father. Join your prayers to mine and obtain for me the grace I desire  (here mention your request). You who were so very pleasing to God on earth and are so much so now in heaven, I promise to use this favor, when granted , to better my life, to proclaim God's mercy and to make you more widely known and loved. Amen


PRAYER FOR THE SUFFERING

Lord you are close to the brokenhearted; you save those whose spirit is crushed. Give us courage and strength in time of suffering so that like Saint Rita who shared in your Son's passion, we may enter more deeply into the mystery of suffering and experience the joy of redemption that lies at its heart. Amen


PRAYER FOR FAMILIES

God of mercy and peace you gave to Saint Rita the grace to love even those who live by hatred and revenge. As you, so graciously blessed her, I ask you to bless my family. Through the intercession of Saint Rita, model of patience and fortitude, bless and protect us from all selfish ways. Make us grow strong in the Spirit of Charity and forgiveness, and like your servant Rita, may we be faithful peacemakers in our family in our neighborhood, and in our world. Amen

SAINT RITA.......PRAY FOR US