(1381 - 1457)
Ordinary Time: May 22nd
Rita's childhood was one of happiness to her parents. To satisfy her
desire of a life of union with God by prayer, her parents fitted up a
little room in their home as an oratory, where she spent all her spare
moments. At the age of twelve, however, she desired to consecrate herself
to God in the religious state. Pious though her parents were, their
tearful pleadings to postpone her noble purpose prevailed on Rita, and
they gave her in marriage, at the age of eighteen, to an impulsive,
irascible young man, who was well fitted to try the patience and virtue
of the holy girl. Two sons were born to them, each inheriting their
father's quarrelsome temperament. Rita continued her accustomed
devotions, and her sanctity and prayers finally won her husband's heart
so that he willingly consented that she continue her acts of devotion.
Eighteen years had elapsed since her marriage, when her husband was
murdered by an old enemy; both of her sons died shortly after. Rita's
former desire to consecrate herself to God again took possession of her.
Three times she sought admittance among the Augustinian Nuns in Cascia,
but her request was refused each time, and she returned to her home in
Rocca Porrena. God Himself, however, supported her cause. One night, as
Rita was praying earnestly in her humble home, she heard herself called
by name, while someone knocked at the door. In a miraculous way, she was
conducted to the monastic enclosure, no entrance having been opened.
Astonished at the miracle, the Nuns received Rita, and soon enrolled her
among their number.
St. Rita's hidden, simple life in religion was distinguished by obedience
and charity; she performed many extreme penances. After hearing a sermon
on the Passion of Christ, she returned to her cell; kneeling before her
crucifix, she implored: "Let me, my Jesus share in Thy suffering, at
least of one of Thy thorns". Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one
of the thorns detached and fastened itself in her forehead so deeply that
she could not remove it. The wound became worse, and gangrene set in.
Because of the foul odor emanating from the wound, she was denied the
companionship of the other Sisters, and this for fifteen years.
Miraculous power was soon recognized in Rita. When Pope Nicholas IV
proclaimed a jubilee at Rome, Rita desired to attend. Permission was
granted on condition that her wound would be healed. This came about only
for the duration of the trip. Upon her return to the monastery the wound
from the thorn reappeared, and remained until her death.
As St. Rita was dying, she requested a relative to bring her a rose from
her old home at Rocca Porrena. Although it was not the season for roses,
the relative went and found a rose in full bloom. For this reason roses
are blessed in the Saint's honor.
After St. Rita's death, in 1457, her face became beautifully radiant,
while the odor from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she
loved so much. The sweet odor spread through the convent and into the
church, where it has continued ever since. Her body has remained
incorrupt to this day; the face is beautiful and well preserved.
When St. Rita died the lowly cell was aglow with heavenly light, while
the great bell of the monastery rang of itself. A relative with a
paralyzed arm, upon touching the sacred remains, was cured. A carpenter,
who had known the Saint, offered to make the coffin. Immediately, he
recovered the use of his long stiffened hands.
As one of the solemn acts of his jubilee, Pope Leo XIII canonized St.
Rita on the Feast of the Ascension, May 24, 1900.
Excerpted from Heavenly Friends, Rosalie Marie Levy.