Feast Day: 22 May
St Rita was an Augustinian nun from 14th-century Cascia, Italy. She is the patroness of impossible causes and hopeless circumstances because of her difficult and disappointing life.
Through her trials God used her in remarkable ways. Now she assists from heaven those who plead for her intercession for their own seemingly impossible and hopeless circumstances.
Abuse and murder
From an early age St Rita desired to become a nun, but her parents insisted that she marry. Out of obedience to her parents’ wishes, St Rita entered an arranged marriage at the age of twelve. Adding to her disappointment, her husband was cruel and harsh; she spent eighteen years in a very difficult relationship. Her husband eventually became physically abusive, yet Rita met his cruelty with kindness and patience. After many years of prayer, patience, and trust in God, she eventually won her husband over to greater civility and kindness. She also bore two sons whom she loved deeply.
In the 14th century, Italy was rampant with warring families caught in a vicious circle of assassinations and bloody vendettas (think Romeo and Juliet). St Rita’s family was caught up in this strife that was so entrenched in society at that time. Her husband was murdered as a result of the infamous rivalry between the aristocratic families of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. St Rita mourned her husband’s death and interceded for his soul with great earnest.
Rita’s two young sons, in keeping with the vice of the day, talked of avenging their father’s death. She did all she could to guide her children into forgiveness, but was unable to dissuade them from their evil intentions of violence and revenge. Prayer was her only hope. She pleaded with God that he would prevent the evil swelling up in the hearts of her sons, or allow them to die before they had the chance to commit a mortal sin and be separated from God forever in hell.
God granted her prayers. Both of her sons fell sick and died within a year, and in a state of grace; God intervened and prevented them from following the evil path of their father.
After the death of her husband and her two sons, St Rita was all alone in the world. She again sought to enter the convent, as had been her desire from childhood. However, she was turned away because of her family’s association with the civil strife; some of the sisters living in the convent were family relations of the men who were responsible for killing her husband. To maintain peace in the convent, she was denied entry.
St Rita, again facing crushing disappointment and yet another impossible situation, had recourse to prayer and the intercession of the saints. St Rita’s sincerity and spirit of charity and forgiveness prevailed, and she was eventually granted entry into the convent. She became known as a holy and prayerful nun, often meditating on the sufferings of the crucified Christ.
One day, while praying before a crucifix, St Rita received a visible wound on her forehead. This was a mystical yet visible mark (stigmata) of Jesus’ wound from the crown of thorns, symbolising St Rita’s unity with Christ in his sufferings. She also enjoyed many mystical experiences with Christ during the forty years she lived in the convent. She died on 22 May when she was in her seventies.