Rita was born in 1381 in a little Italian village. Her parents, who were elderly, had begged God to send them a child. They loved Rita and brought her up well. When she was twelve, Rita wanted to enter the convent, but her parents decided that she should marry instead. The man they chose for Rita turned out to be a cruel and angry husband. He had such a violent temper that everyone in the neighborhood was afraid of him. Yet for eighteen years his wife patiently put up with his insults. Her prayers, gentleness and goodness finally won his heart. He apologized to Rita for the way he had treated her and he was very sorry. Rita’s happiness over her husband’s conversion did not last long. One day, shortly after, he was murdered. Rita was shocked and heartbroken. But she forgave the murderers, and tried to make her two sons forgive them too. She saw that the boys, instead, were determined to avenge their father’s death. Rita prayed that they would not commit murder. Within several months, both boys became seriously ill. Rita nursed them lovingly. During their illness, she persuaded them to forgive, and to ask God’s forgiveness for themselves. They did, and both died peacefully.
Now that her husband and her children were dead, Rita asked several times to enter the convent of the Augustinian nuns in Cascia. But the rules of the convent did not permit a woman who had been married to join even if her husband had died. Rita didn’t give up, however. At last the nuns made an exception for her. In the convent, Rita stood out for her prayer, mortification and charity. She had great devotion to the crucified Jesus. Once, while praying in front of a crucifix, she asked Jesus to let her share some of his pain. One thorn from Jesus’ crown of thorns pierced her forehead and made a wound that never healed. In fact, it grew so bad that Rita had to stay away from the other sisters, who were afraid of contagion. But she was happy to suffer to show her love for Jesus.
Rita died on May 22, 1457, when she was seventy-six. Like St. Jude, St. Rita is often called the “Saint of the Impossible.”
Maybe someone we know and love is not living close to God. We can ask St. Rita to help us know how to pray for that person. Our kindness and understanding can be a reflection of God’s love for that person.
-Daughters of St Paul