St Rita of Cascia Patron Saint of the impossible

St Rita of Cascia is one of two patron saints of impossible causes. While St Jude is better known, those who know and love St Rita know that her life is a wonderful example of how trust in God and absolute abandon to His will can make anything possible.

Let's take a look at her life by looking at one of the most beautiful sacred sites in the United States, dedicated to sharing the amazing truths of her life and intercession: the National Shrine of St Rita of Cascia, in Philadelphia, PA.

Rita Lotti's Early Life

Born in Roccaporena, Italy, in 1381, Rita Lotti was always drawn to the church. Her devout parents brought her with them when they went to the nearby town of Cascia to celebrate Mass and receive the sacraments at St Augustine Church, run by Augustinian nuns. When Rita told them that she wanted to enter the convent, they were not surprised. But because of the instability of the Church and the country at the time, they felt it would be better for Rita to marry instead.

Roccaporena, Italy

While Rita was disappointed, she trusted that her parents had her best interests at heart, so she married Paolo Mancini and bore him two sons.

At the time, Italy was a violent place, where murder was met with vendetta in an unending cycle of violence. When Rita's husband was murdered, her sons wanted to exact revenge on his killers. Rita prayed that God would prevent them from committing murder, and while her prayers were answered, Rita still suffered a loss. Before they could commit this horrific sin, Rita's sons both died form illness.

Entering the Convent

Rita was once more able to pursue her desire to enter the convent, but the Augustinian nuns were hesitant to take her. With the violence that surrounded her life, and the fact that she had been a wife and mother, Rita wasn't the ideal candidate. Still, no matter how many times the nuns rejected her, her prayer led her to believe that it was God's will that she enter the convent.

Rita prayed to her three patron saints--St Augustine, St John the Baptist, and Nicholas of Tolentino (an Augustinian priest who was not yet a saint).

St Augustine

St Nicholas Tolentino

St John the Baptist, by Anthony Visco

Finally, after being rejected from the convent time, after time, Rita came up with a plan. She would broker a peace treaty between the family members involved in the murder of her husband, and get them to promise to end the violence once, and for all. She got them to sign a pact, but still had to get into the convent to present it. For this, she prayed to her patron saints.

St Rita enters the convent

As legend has it, with the help of her patron saints, Augustine, John the Baptist, and Nicholas of Tolentino, the doors of the convent were unbarred, and Rita was allowed inside, able to present to the Mother Superior the peace pact signed by her family members. It worked, and Rita was allowed to enter the convent.

Rita presents the peace treaty to Mother Superior

Once she was where she knew she belonged, Rita flourished. In fact, to test her obedience, Mother Superior asked Rita to water a dead rosebush every day. Rita did as she was told. The rose bush returned to life, and the rose has been a flower tied to St Rita ever since.

The Stigmata

Rita is one of few saints who have received the stigmata--the visible wounds that Christ bore during His Passion. While most saints, like St Francis of Assisi and St Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, bore the wounds of Christ in their hands and feet, and sometimes even their shoulder, St Rita was given one thorn from Christ's Crown of Thorns. This is how she got it.

On Good Friday in 1442, Rita was reflecting on an image of Christ called Christ of Holy Saturday, or the Resurgent Christ.

The Resurgent Christ, by Anthony Visco

Still crowned with thorns, he shows us his pierced hands, his eyes just beginning to open as his Resurrection begins. She was so moved by his pain and sacrifice, that she asked if she could help relieve even the smallest part of his pain. Jesus answered her prayers by allowing one of the thorns from His Crown to create a wound in her forehead. That wound stayed there for the last 15 years of her life.

This beautiful statue of St Rita receiving her stigmata was created by local artist, Anthony Visco, and can be seen at the National Shrine of St Rita of Cascia in Philadelphia. It shows St Rita, surrounded by her patron saints. The pain and love is so clear on her face.

Rita bore the pain and humiliation of this stigmata for the rest of her life. But on one occasion, she received a favor that caused the wound to disappear. It was the canonization of her patron saint, Nicholas of Tolentino.

St Nicholas of Tolentino, by Anthony Visco

She was so excited to celebrate, but because of her wound, she would not be permitted to leave the convent. She asked God for a favor, and the next day, her wound was gone and she was able to attend the festivities. The next day, the wound reappeared, and Rita continued to bear it with love.

The Miracle of the Rose

Near the end of Rita’s life, a cousin visited her and asked if she could send Rita something from her hometown of Roccaporena. Although it was the middle of winter, Rita asked for a rose from her old garden. When her cousin returned to Rita’s house, she was surprised to find a single rose growing on an otherwise dry and barren bush. She sent that rose to Rita who saw in it a sign that God had answered her prayers for the salvation of her husband and her two sons.

This gift is commemorated on St Rita’s feast day--May 22--when the faithful bring roses to the shrine to be blessed. We can see them as a sign of God’s gift of love for us, and we can certainly look toward St. Rita’s life for inspiration to forgive and to make peace in all of our relationships.

The National Shrine on St Rita's Feast Day

For centuries, Catholics believed--incorrectly--that St Rita was abused by her husband. But recent discoveries by Augustinian scholars have taught us that that legend is based on faulty information, stemming from a misreading of Rita's coffin.

Rita's coffin

The coffin tells the story of Rita's life, and includes one line that uses the words "tantu feroce", or very ferocious, in reference to the pain caused by Rita's stigmata. However, over the years, as pilgrims came to pray to St Rita and light candles near her coffin, the smoke from the candles caused damage to the coffin, making the words difficult to read. The word "tantu" was later misread to be "maritu"--or husband--and the legend of Rita's ferocious husband was born. It was only after Rita's coffin was restored and cleaned that the truth was revealed. (So, yes, that movie is wrong.)

Of course, even though she wasn't abused, St Rita's life is filled with impossible things being overcome with faith and trust in God. (And abused wives and husbands can continue to pray to her for intercession!) Her life is a wonderful testament to the power of prayer, trust, and obedience.

The Peace Mural, by Anthony Visco

Her ability to make peace in the face of hatred and anger is also an inspiration to us today. Let us pray to St Rita, and ask her to ask God on our behalf for a life of peace and love, that we might trust in Him and bring peace to the world through our love of our neighbor.

St Rita of Cascia, Pray for us!

For more information on the National Shrine of St Rita of Cascia, visit www.saintritashrine.org.

For more information on The Faithful Traveler, visit www.thefaithfultraveler.com.

(All photos and videos copyright The Faithful Traveler.)

Please visit the National Shrine of St Rita of Cascia the next time you're in Philadelphia. Our shrines rely on our support, without which, they cannot survive.

Created By
Diana von Glahn


The Faithful Traveler, LLC

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