St Rita of Cascia was a wife and mother, then later in life a nun. She endured abuse and the death of her husband and two sons but heroically remained faithful throughout it.
The Life of St. Rita
Rita, whose birth name was Margherita Lotti, was born in 1381 in Roccaporena, near Cascia in Umbria, Italy.
Rita wished to enter religious life from an early age, but her parents arranged her marriage–common at the time–at age twelve to Paolo Mancini. Paolo was wealthy, quick to anger, and viceful.
Rita’s Difficult Family Life
Rita bore Paolo two sons, but Paolo treated her harshly. He was physically and emotionally abusive, unfaithful, and had entangled himself in the ongoing feud between the Guelph and Ghibelline factions. (This is the same political feud that Dante Alighieri wrote about.)
Rita responded to these evils with heroic endurance and kind patience. Through her prayers and witness, her husband Paolo repented of his evil life and embarked on changing himself. He refused to participate any longer in the Mancini-Chiqui family feud, but in spite of this, he was ambushed and killed by a Chiqui family member.
Rita publicly forgave her husband’s murderers and sought to end any revenge attacks from the Mancini family. But Bernardo, Paolo’s brother, instigated her two sons to join the feud and avenge their father. Rita’s sons went to live with Bernardo and began to imitate their father’s pre-conversion life of vice.
Fearing that her sons would follow their father and die a violent death, Rita beseeched God to prevent their taking revenge. A short time later, her sons died of dysentery, an answer to Rita’s prayers that they would not die in mortal sin.
Rita’s Second Vocation, to Religious Life
Rita was now freed to enter the Augustinian convent in Cascia, but her application was at first denied, because some of the nuns there were members of the family that had killed her husband. Undeterred, Rita stormed Heaven and enlisted the saints to obtain the grace for her to be admitted to the religious life.
She worked to make peace between the feuding families in Cascia, and in return, at 36 years of age, she was granted entrance to the convent.
For the following four decades she was an exemplary nun, growing in holiness through prayer and acts of charity. She wished to be united to the redemptive suffering of Christ, and our Lord granted this desire miraculously through the stigmata.
Rita Receives the Stigmata
While she was in mental prayer before a crucifix, a thorn from Christ’s Crown of Thorns pierced her forehead. She united this constant suffering to our Lord’s on the Cross, as a prayer for peace and harmony in Cascia and the world. She bore the stigmata for over 15 years.
Near the end of her life, a relative asked her what she wished for, and Rita made an impossible request: that a rose from her parents’ old garden be picked for her. Since it was in the dead of winter, this favor was not naturally possible.
Her relative went to her parents old home and found a single rose on the bush where St. Rita said it would be. She plucked the rose and gave it to St. Rita, who adored our Lord in thanksgiving for this gentle miracle to his beloved daughter.
With this miracle, and the others that St. Rita had obtained during her life, she joined St. Jude in becoming the patron saint of impossible causes.
Rita’s final words to her fellow nuns were, “Remain in the holy love of Jesus. Remain in obedience to the holy Roman Church. Remain in peace and fraternal charity.”
At 76 years of age, Rita entered eternal life on May 22, 1457. Her body is incorrupt and can be venerated in the shrine of Cascia.
More Resources on St. Rita
Ignatius Press sells a DVD movie of St. Rita. It is in Italian with English subtitles, is well-acted and worth watching.
Note that this movie is not for little children, since it depicts the violence of her husband Paolo, as well as a few other adult themes. Most teenage children could watch it with their parents though.
Answered Prayers Through St. Rita’s Intercession
“I teach at a school dedicated to St. Rita, and there have been several recent years that our outdoor graduation has been saved from seemingly certain rain—sometimes at the last minute!—through the intercession of our patroness, St. Rita!”
“We have been devoted to St. Rita for many years, seeking her intercession in helping my husband deal with an unpleasant employer and seeking new employment. He is now unemployed the past 3 months. I do believe she is interceding for us with God, but things will be done according to His will and time. We leave all in His hands. My husband faithfully wears a St. Rita medal as a reminder of her intercession for us.”
“Our dear friends took their children to Rome last fall. They went to witness her brother’s ordination to the diaconate and explore Italy, and they put their trip under the patronage of St. Rita.
We were eager to hear stories when they returned. They shared about amazing places they visited, Masses they attended, etc. And they also shared that they were hit with the stomach flu (likely contracted when the unattended young son drank out of multiple strangers’ cups at a party and then passed from one parent to another by accidentally shared travel toothbrushes!). It cycled through the large family for most of their time abroad and manifested itself on the plane ride home as well. Yikes!
After sharing their story, our friends remarked that St. Rita often sends a penance when she answers one’s request for intercession. They attribute their illness ordeal to that, but like St. Rita united their sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross. What an amazing faith they have!”
“Last year my Father was only given a 10 per cent chance of surviving. He was 88 years old at the time and had sepsis. I prayed to St Rita every day that my Dad would be well enough to return home. He came home a month later. I am certain that St Rita made it possible for this to happen.
Unfortunately my Dad passed away last September. But thanks to St Rita we had another 7 months with him and his death was very peaceful at home.”
“My nephew has been on the path to sobriety since having prayer to St. Rita.”
“I had a wonderful aunt whose name was Rita and my parents had told me the story that she had prayed to St. Rita for a child – she already had a son who was in his late teens/early twenties and she wanted more children. After many years of praying to St. Rita, she was blessed with another two children, a boy and a girl about 18 months apart and this after about 15 years. We have long regarded St. Rita as the patron saint of the impossible and her life story is quite remarkable.”
“I had prayers answered by St. Rita. My son was unemployed for quite a while. I started saying prayers to her, and on the sixth day of the novena my son was called for an interview and has been employed up to this day. I give thanks to God through St. Rita’s intercession!”
“Saint Rita was instrumental in helping me get out of two unholy relationships. Also, I have seen figs on my tree in the winter when it was barren except for three figs and roses in the winter and even though I live in California I attribute them to Saint Rita due to the timing and season in my life. Whenever I see a bee, I think of her and know she is near (Note: when she was born, white bees were seen flying into and out of St. Rita’s mouth, a symbol of purity and industriousness) and it reminds me that she is one of my biggest cheerleaders, you see, I only have boys, only sons and I know she understands. She is my sister in Christ.”
“I prayed for a married couple, whose children were friends with my children. I first heard of the difficulties in their marriage from my daughter. Their children are close to my daughter and were always hanging out at our home, eating here, going to church with us and going everywhere with us.
Finally my daughter told me that these children don’t like going home to their own house, because their parents were always fighting, both parents were each having an affair and were on the verge of a divorce. My daughter told me that the children asked if I would pray for their parents, and so I had been praying novenas for them through the novena to Saint Rita.
I felt very strongly about telling my daughter that their marriage will be saved, she told me their fights were pretty bad, physical sometimes. I told her nothing was impossible with God. So it was just after the novena completed when they finally talked and agreed to work on their marriage because they didn’t like how it was affecting their children as well.
Today, they are still together, and do everything for their children. The two younger children are doing well in school; their daughter, second oldest is now married. And their oldest son is marrying my daughter this year!”
“I prayed the St. Rita novena for my son who was very sick with high fever, chills, body and head aches. Second day of my novena, he was much better.”