St. Rita of Cascia
The parents of this saint were peasants in the Appennine Mountains of Umbria (Italy), deeply devoted to our Lord's passion and affectionately called the "peace-makers of Jesus Christ" by their neighbours. Their daughter, Margherita (Rita), an answer to their fervent prayer when they were already advanced in years, early developed a sympathetic and recollected disposition and a love for solitude. At 18 she desired to enter the Augustinian convent at Cascia, but her parents, for some obscure reason, wished her to marry a tempestuous and quarrelsome suitor, Paul Ferdinand, and she meekly accepted their wish as God's will.
Rita's husband derided her piety and inflicted tremendous suffering on her by his drunken rages, but her two sons were her consolation and accompanied her to daily Mass. Her fervent prayers, severe penances and loving visits to the poor and the sick finally touched God's heart, and he granted her husband the grace of a complete conversion. But a few years later he was found stabbed to death on a mountain path. Rita's grief in that sad hour was intensified by an anxiety over the fate of his soul and, while multiplying her mortifications, she strove to forgive the murderer from her heart. Not so, however, her two sons who, on growing to boyhood, caused her grave concern by their wayward lives and their avowal to avenge their father's death in accordance with the temper of the times. No reasoning, no appeals on her part were of avail and so she besought God to take them to himself rather than permit them to commit such a sin - within the year both sons were dead.
Now aged 30, Rita's original desire to enter the convent reasserted itself. But to her dismay she was twice refused on account of the fact that the order's rules permitted the entry only of virgins. God, however, indicated his express wishes by a miracle, when her prayerful vigil preceding the feast of the Assumption was interrupted by the arrival of her three patron saints at her door: Sts Augustine, John the Baptist and Nicholas of Tolentino, who conducted her to Cascia and placed her at the foot of the Blessed Sacrament in the convent chapel, and there he nuns found her at the hour of Matins. The untouched locks on the convent doors convinced them of the truthfulness of her simple explanation and she was accepted.
Following her novitiate and profession St Rita continued to grow in holiness. She had spent 25 years there in holy tranquillity of soul, when in 1442, deeply moved by the Lenten preaching of St James of the Marches, she sensed a great desire to share in Christ's agony as depicted in a fresco on the convent wall. And behold, a shaft of brilliant light shot from the Crown of Thorns to her forehead, a thorn piercing her brow. The wound that formed refused to heal and became putrid, compelling her to spend eight long years in the isolation of her cell an ordeal she bore with exemplary patience and cheerfulness.
Then came the Jubilee year of 1450, when Bemardine of Siena was to be canonized and Rita longed to join the Sisters on their pilgrimage. God showed his approval by causing the immediate healing of the offensive wound, and the 69-year-old nun set out on foot for the Eternal City, 90 miles away. Four other future saints attended that Jubilee: Catherine of Bologna, John Capistran, James of the Marches and Diego of Cadiz.
Canonized by Pope Leo XIII on 24 May 1900, the innumerable favours obtained through her intercession in desperate cases since her death on 22 May 1457 have procured for her the title of the "Saint of the Impossible".
Reflection :"Being poor, and caring little for our physical needs, rather, having no regards for ourselves, helps immensely in restraining our sensuality" (St Rita of Cascia).