SAINT RITA, 
WIDOW, AUGUSTIAN NUN

 (1386–1457)

FEAST DAY:  MAY 22ND

SAINT OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

[The following is from Butler's Lives of the Saints.]

 IF St Rita belongs to that wonderful band of elect who were holy from their cradles, it must be said that she required every available help that sanctity gives, to have enabled her to endure the trials and difficulties which most of her life was filled! She was the daughter of parents, both nearing middle age at the time of her birth, and the author of the Latin memoir of the Saint says that shortly after this event (1386), a swam bees was seen to come and go several times to and from the cradle portent which was taken as indicating that the career of the child would be marked by industry, virtue and devotion. The father and mother of  Rita were themsleves very pious, and from their laudable habit of composing the quarrels and differences among their neighbours, they were known as the " Peacemakers of Jesus Christ." Little Rita as she grew up  seems to have acquired a great deal of this spirit of the supernatural, she showed little if any inclination for games, seeking her recreation  in prayer and visits to sacred shrines—an exercise, by the way, which—granted the proper disposition—brings with it a wealth of real enjoyment and satisfaction quite wanting to other and more secular amusements. This being so, it is not surprising to learn that Rita, as she neared womanhood, felt that her vocation lay in the convent rather than in that of domestic life. We are not aware of the circumstances that led her parents to oppose this apparently obvious course, but oppose it they did, and Rita submitted, even so far as to please them by marrying a man all accounts describe as exceedingly bad-tempered and something worse. It is the teaching of the Church that the grace of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, if corresponded with by a good life, works miracles, almost, in the way of establishing and perpetuating conjugal happiness. Acerbities of temper, temperamental differences, and all the other difficulties arising out of the necessary variations of human nature, are, under God's influence, toned down and adjusted, provided always Holy Mass, prayer and the sacraments are not forgotten—for "wheresoever two or more are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Rita tamed her rough spouse, and for two-and-twenty years lived harmoniously (concorditer) with a husband who, like most quarrelsome individuals in the days when sword and stiletto ever sharp, hung from every gentleman's belt, perished in a feud. Such a death in the Italy of the Decamerone and the Republics, and, indeed, till well into our own time usually meant a prolonged vendetta, and, of course, the two sons of the dead man at once took up the quarrel. Meantime, poor Rita was in despair, and finding her expostulations useless to prevent further effusion of blood, she had recourse to prayer, earnestly beseeching God to take her boys from this world rather than permit them to live on stained by homicide. The mother's prayer was heard, and the two youths shortly after died edifying deaths, forgiving their father's slayers and resigned to God.

    The way was now clear for our Saint to satisfy her long yearning for a conventual life. After due consideration, she applied to be "accepted" by the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, but was informed that the custom was only for women who had never been married, to be received as postulants The time was to come when not only widows were to enter religious of their own sex as a matter of course, but even occasionally to found them, as in the case of St Jane Francis de Chantal and the Nuns of the Visitation. Again did Rita have recourse to prayer, and it is related that the night following her second great "storming of Heaven," St the Baptist, to whom she had a great devotion, appeared to her,  accompanied by St Augustine and St Nicholas of Tolentino, and three Saints conducted her to the convent, where the Superiors, who had been similarly warned, received her with great kindness. The postulant entered upon her life in religion with characteristic zeal and thoroughness. She disposed of her family property as alms to the poor, and in addition to the ordinary mortifications prescribed or permitted by the rule, she added others of great severity, wearing a hair shirt, fasting rigorously on bread and water and taking the discipline at intervals. The Passion of Our Lord was her constant meditation, and while recalling the manifold sufferings of the Man of Sorrows, she often seemed carried away by mingled grief and devotion.

    In the midst of such wonderful progress on the road to perfection this pattern to the community was afflicted by God after the following, mysterious manner. She was meditating one day on the Passion before the crucifix, when she apparently, accidentally, wounded her forehead striking it against some of the no doubt very realistic thorns in our Lord's crown. The injury caused by the hurt developed into a serious ulcer, one most painful and unsightly, so unsightly, in fact, that for years Sister Rita had to make her devotions alone.  She accepted this great trial in the light of an additional penance sent her by God, and it  was about this time that many spiritual and temporal favours are said to have been granted to various persons as the direct result of the prayers of this wonderful religious, the fame of whose sanctity had already extended far beyond the convent walls. The extraordinary fact, too, her garden—which, in common with the rest of the nuns, she had allotted to her—produced beautiful roses and ripe figs in the depths of an abnormally severe winter, was taken as an additional sign that the unceasing prayers and heroic virtues of Sister Rita were blessed beyond measure, even in this world. The last years of the Saint were marked by a painful and lingering illness—cancer doubtless—which as in the case of all her other seeming misfortunes she employed as another means forwarding her greater sanctification. At the approach of death, she received with wonderful fervour the last rites of the Church, and then, is piously believed, at the call of Our Lady, she breathed forth her spotless soul to God on 20th May, 1456.¹

     The sacred remains long after death yielded a most sweet and refreshing odour, and many miracles have been recorded as the fruit of her powerful intercession. The cultus of the wonderful nun of Cascia spread far and wide, notably in Spain, where she has since been known as Santa de los impossibiles !" She was Beatified by Clement XII, though as far back as 1637, a Mass and office wre granted in her honour by Urban VIII.   Finally, on 24th May, 1900, Pope Leo XIII enrolled her name among the Saints—the Saints it may be added, whose virtues shone as stars both in the world and in the cloister.

[Cardi:  Vita della B. Rita de Cascia.  (Foligno, 1805.)  Messenger of the Sacred Heart, 1902.  Roman Breviary :  Pro Aliquibus locis, 22nd May.]

 

SEE INCORRUPT OF BODY OF SAINT RITA

 

LITANY IN HONOUR OF
SAINT RITA OF CASCIA

(Mention your prayer request to Saint Rita)

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.  Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.

God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, One God,
Have mercy on us.

Immaculate Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us.

Holy Mary, Mother of purest love,
pray for us.

Holy Mary, pierced with a sword of grief,
pray for us.

Holy Mary, comforter of the afflicted, 
pray for us.

Holy Mary, Queen of all saints,
pray for us.

Holy Mary, Protectress of St. Rita,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, our advocate and protectress, 
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, predestined by the Lord,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, gift of Heaven,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, foretold by an angel,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, remarkable in childhood,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, enamored of solitude,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, example of obedience,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, united to the Divine will,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, of untiring patience,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, model of gentleness,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, type of the Christian mother, 
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, mirror of Christian spouses,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, miracle of fortitude,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, heroic in sacrifice,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, generous in forgiving,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, tender benefactress of thine enemies,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, martyr in penitence,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, abased through humility,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, embracing voluntary poverty,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, exemplary as a widow,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, beloved of Jesus,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, permitted to converse with thy Divine Spouse,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, prompt at the Divine call,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, mirror of conventual life,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, mystical rose of every virtue,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, sweet honey of the comb,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, bouquet of fragrant myrrh,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, wedded to the Passion of Christ,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, pierced with a thorn,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, deep sea of contrition,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, in ecstasies before the Blessed Sacrament,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, consumed with Divine love,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, bidden to the Bridegroom's throne,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, received in Heaven with joy,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, arrayed in unspeakable glory,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, incorrupt in thy chaste body,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, Advocate of the Impossible,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, Advocate of Desperate Cases,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, light of Holy Church,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, cure for the unfaithful,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, balm for every sorrow,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, balsam for every ill,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, persevering in prayer,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, confident in thy prayer,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, who can obtain everything from thy dying Jesus,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, who knows the way to His Sacred Heart,
pray for us.

O Saint Rita, our powerful advocate,
pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, 
Have mercy on us.

Thou hast signed Thy servant Rita
With the signs of Thy Love and Passion.

Pray for us, Saint Rita,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let Us Pray

O God, who in Thine infinite tenderness 
hast vouchsafed to regard the prayer 
of thy servant Blessed Rita 
and dost grant to her supplication 
that which is impossible to human forethought, 
skill and efforts, 
in reward of her compassionate love 
and firm reliance upon Thy promises, 
have pity upon our adversity 
and succor us in our calamities, 
that the unbeliever may know 
that Thou art the recompense of the humble, 
the defense of the helpless, 
and the strength of those who trust in Thee, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen