St. Rita

After my parents passed away, my siblings and I were burdened with the task of sorting through all their belongings from the home they lived in for over 40 years.

Deciding what to keep, throw, and donate to charity was difficult for each of us.

Walking back into my old bedroom was like walking back into a time warp. Everything was the same- the wallpaper, carpet, bedding, pillows, and pictures on the wall. As I went through each drawer and book shelf, I noticed a small wooden plaque that I hadn’t seen before. It was on top of the dresser next to my bed. On it was a picture of a saint whom I wasn’t familiar with- St. Rita of Cascia.

I wasn’t sure of her story or where the plaque came from, so I left it there for weeks during the clean-out.

As time drew near for the room to be completely emptied of the large pieces of furniture, I decided it was time either to keep it or donate it. I decided to keep it and to learn about the saint who was on the plaque that was mysteriously housed on the dresser in my old bedroom.
In 1381, St. Rita was born in Cascia, Italy to parents who were both advanced in years. For this reason, they considered her a very special gift from God. As a young child, she yearned to become an Augustinian Nun of St. Mary Magdalene Monastery and frequently visited their convent in Cascia. Her parents, however, desired for her to be married, and arranged a marriage for her to a wealthy man with whom she bore twin sons. She loved her sons and her husband.

However, the marriage was plagued with great turmoil, difficulty, and hardship.

During the 14th century, there was much rivalry between aristocratic families. St. Rita’s family was involved in the strife, and as a result, her husband was murdered. Much to her dismay, her sons vowed to avenge their father’s death with violence. St. Rita prayed earnestly that her sons would not commit such a crime and if so, prayed that God would allow both sons to die prior to any act of violence. Because of her holiness and trust in God, he granted her prayer and both sons fell ill dying before implementing their plan of revenge.

Thus, their souls were spared from mortal sin.

St. Rita eventually joined the Augustinian Nuns and was known for her spiritual and contemplative life of self sacrifice, redemptive suffering, perseverance, humility, and kindness. While in deep prayer she received the stigmata of suffering with a thorn from the crown of the crucified Christ piercing her forehead. She is often depicted in paintings and pictures with a thorn in her forehead. This stigmata remained with her until her death 15 years later.

Before she died, she asked a relative who came to visit her to bring a rose from her parents’ garden.

Though a simple request, it was unlikely to be granted since it was the middle of winter in January. When the relative arrived at the home of St. Rita’s parents, there was a single, beautiful rose in the garden. She brought it to St. Rita who knew it was a sign of God’s love for her. St. Rita died on May 22, 1457 and her body remains incorrupt today in the Basilica of Cascia.
St. Rita is the saint of the impossible and the model for women, widows, and nuns. She is also an intercessor for difficult marriages, challenges in motherhood, spiritual motherhood, divorce, parenthood, and bodily ills. Her feast day is celebrated on May 22.
I am grateful for this incredible and beautiful saint. I’m not sure where that plaque of St. Rita came from, but I do know why I was meant to know and love her!
St. Rita of Cascia, pray for me and pray for us!

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Angie Elser

Angie Elser

Angie writes from Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the mother of six children and co-founder of the MOMMS (Mothers of Major and Minor Seminarians) Prayer watch for the Diocese of Little Rock.

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