St. Rita
Picture by our parishioner, Bill Mc Covick

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Saint Rita of Cascia (Born Margherita Lotti 1381 - May 22, 1457) was an Italian Augustinian nun, widow and saint venerated in the Roman Catholic Church. Rita was married at an early age. The marriage lasted for 18 years, during which she is remembered for her Christian values as a model wife and mother who made efforts to convert her husband from his abusive behavior. Upon the murder of her husband by another feuding family, she sought to dissuade her sons from revenge before their calamitous death.

She subsequently joined an Augustinian community of religious sisters, where she was known both for practicing mortification of the flesh[1] and for the apparent efficacy of her prayers. St. Rita is venerated due to various miracles attributed to her intercession, and is often portrayed with a bleeding wound on her forehead, which the Roman Catholic Church claims to have been a partial stigmata.

The Roman Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII officially canonized Rita on May 24, 1900, while her feast day is celebrated every May 22. In many pious Catholic countries, Rita is known to be a patroness for abused wives and mourning women.

Early life[edit]

Saint Rita was born as Margherita in 1381 in the city of Roccaporena (near Spoleto, Umbria, Italy)[2] where various sites connected with her are at present the focus of pilgrimage. At the time of her birth, her parents were known to be noble charitable persons, who gained the epithet Conciliatore di Cristo (English: Peacemakers of Christ).[1] According to pious sources, Rita was married at age 12 to a nobleman named Paolo Mancini. Her parents (Antonio Lotti and Amata Ferri) arranged her marriage, a common practice at the time, despite her repeated requests to be allowed to enter a convent of religious sisters. Her husband, Paolo Mancini, was known to be a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who had many enemies in the region of Cascia. Rita had her first child at the age of twelve.

Rita endured his insults, physical abuse and infidelities for many years. According to popular tales, through humility, kindness and patience, Rita was able to convert her husband into a better person, more specifically renouncing a family feud known at the time as La Vendetta. Rita eventually bore two sons, Giangiacomo (Giovanni) Antonio and Paulo Maria, and brought them up in the Christian faith which Rita closely followed. As time went by and the family feud between the Chiqui and Mancini families became more intense, Paolo Mancini became congenial, but his allies betrayed him and he was violently stabbed to death[2] by Guido Chiqui, a member of the feuding family.

Paolo Mancini's brother, Bernardo, was said to have been responsible for continuing the blood family feud in hopes of convincing Rita's sons to seek revenge. Rita gave a public pardon at Paolo's funeral to her husbands' murderers.[2] As her sons advanced in years (one now 16), their characters began to change as Bernardo became their tutor. Later on, Bernardo convinced Rita's sons to leave their manor and live at the Mancini villa and ancestral home. Rita's sons wished to revenge their father's murder. Rita, fearing that her sons would lose their souls, tried to persuade them from retaliating, but to no avail. Her sons died of dysentery a year later, which pious Catholic beliefs claim was God's act to take them by natural death rather than risk them committing a mortal sin punishable by Hell.

After the deaths of her husband and sons, Rita desired to enter the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene in Cascia but was turned away. Although the convent acknowledged Rita's good character and piety, the nuns were afraid of being associated with her due to the scandal of her husband's violent death. However, she persisted in her cause and was given a condition before the convent could accept her: the difficult task of reconciling her family with her husband's murderers, a public act that ideally nullified the conflict. She was able to resolve the conflicts between the families and, at the age of 36, was allowed to enter the monastery.[3] Popular religious tales recall that the bubonic plague which ravaged Italy at the time, infected Bernardo Mancini, causing him to relinquish his desire to feud any longer with the Chiqui family.

She implored her three patron saints (John the Baptist, Augustine of Hippo, and Nicholas of Tolentino) to assist her, and she set about the task of establishing peace between the hostile parties of Cascia with such success that her entry into the monastery was assured.[4] She remained at the monastery, living by the Augustinian Rule, until her death on May 22, 1457.[5]

Veneration

The "Acta" or life story of Saint Rita was compiled by the Augustinian priest, Father Jacob Carelicci.[6] Rita was beatified under the Pontificate of Pope Urban VIII in 1626.[7] The pope's own private personal secretary, Cardinal Fausto Poli, had been born some 15 kilometers (9 miles) from her birthplace and much of the impetus behind her cult is due to his enthusiasm. She was canonized on May 24, 1900[1] under the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII and her feast day was instituted on May 22.

She has acquired the reputation, together with St. Jude, as a saint of impossible cases. Many people visit her tomb each year.[7]

Her body, which has remained incorrupt over the centuries, is venerated today in the shrine at Cascia, which bears her name.[5]