21 May 2013

St. Rita of Cascia


St. Rita was born into a happy and faithful Catholic family, and from the time of her childhood she had a very deep desire to live a life pleasing to God. In fact, her parents gave her a little room in their home as an oratory, where she spent all her spare moments. At the age of twelve, however, she wanted to consecrate herself to God by joining a religious community. As pious as her parents were, they pleaded with Rita not to do that, and instead they arranged for her to be married, at the age of eighteen, to an impulsive, disagreeable young man, who was a great trial to young Rita. They had two sons who had both inherited their father's quarrelsome nature. Throughout that time, however, Rita continued in her devotional life, and eventually her holiness and prayers won her husband's heart, so that he was not only willing for her to continue her religious practices, but he himself began to turn towards God.

They had been married for eighteen years, when her husband was murdered. No sooner had that happened, than both of her sons died shortly after. Rita's former desire to consecrate herself to God in the religious life came back even more strongly. Three times she tried to join the Augustinian nuns in Cascia, but her request was refused each time, and each time she returned to her home. But God had plans for her. One night as Rita was praying in her home she heard herself called by name, while someone knocked at the door. In a miraculous way she found she was in the nuns’ enclosure, even though it was completely locked. Needless to say, the nuns were astonished at this miracle, and took her in as a member of the monastery.

St. Rita's hidden, simple life in religion was defined by her obedience and charity, and she lived a life filled with penances. One day, after hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ she returned to her cell. Kneeling before the crucifix, she asked the Lord to let her share in His sufferings. Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one of the thorns detached from the image on the cross, and embedded itself in her forehead so deeply that she couldn’t remove it. The wound became worse, and it became horribly infected. Because of the foul odor coming from the wound, she wasn’t allowed to be near the other sisters, and this went on for fifteen years.

One day the Pope proclaimed a jubilee at Rome. Rita wanted nothing more than to attend. She was given permission, but only if the wound in her forehead had healed. Miraculously, it was healed, but only for as long as the pilgrimage lasted. When she returned to the monastery, the wound reappeared, and remained until her death.

As the time of her death approached, St. Rita asked for a rose from the garden of her old home. Although it wasn’t the season for roses, a rose was found in full bloom and it was brought to her. After St. Rita's death in 1457, her face took on a radiance, and the odor from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she loved so much. The smell of roses spread through the convent and into the church, where it has continued ever since. At the time of her death, witnesses saw her cell fill with light, and the bells in the tower rang by themselves. Immediately there were miracles of healing, and the world then knew that a saint had lived in their midst.

O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Rita of Cascia, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with her attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.