By Kelly Wise Valdes
A canonized saint that is honored as a special protector is known as a patron saint. A patron saint may also be a benefactor of persons in a certain occupation or a guardian of those who bear the saint’s name. A patron saint may be invoked to intercede with God for help in a time of special need.
This month we are learning some interesting history about Saint Rita of Cascia. Rita was born in 1381 in a village near Cascia, Italy. As a young girl, Rita visited the convent of the Augustinian Nuns and dreamed of one day becoming a nun. However, her parents had promised her in marriage, according to the custom of the day. Rita was married at the age of 12 to a man described as cruel and harsh. She was married for 18 years, had two sons and was finally widowed when her husband was killed in a brawl. Both sons also died of natural causes soon after. Rita found herself at this time of mourning drawn even more so to her calling to serve Christ.
Anxious to become a nun, she tried unsuccessfully to enter the Augustinian Nuns of Saint Mary Magdalene Monastery. She was refused because she was a widow and because of the requirement that all sisters should be virgins. Finally, the nuns welcomed her as she had proven her unwavering devotion to prayer and charity.
Rita’s desire was to understand fully the suffering of Jesus. One day when Rita was 60 years old, she was meditating before an image of the crucifixion when suddenly a small wound appeared on her forehead, as though a thorn from Christ’s crucifixion crown penetrated her own flesh. For the next 15 years she wore this external sign of union with the crucifixion.
During the last four years of her life, Rita suffered from chronic illnesses and was confined to bed. It was during this suffering that it was said that Rita received divine visions from the Lord. In spite of the pain she constantly experienced, she offered herself courageously for the physical and spiritual well being of others.
She died at the age of 76 at Cascia and many miracles were reported instantly. Canonized in 1900, she is honored in Spain as a patron saint of hopeless causes. Her body has remained incorrupt over the centuries, at times giving off a sweet fragrance. Much of her body is still incorrupt; including her forehead where the wound can be seen. Today it is in a sealed glass coffin in a church of St. Augustine in Cascia, Italy, where Christians come to pray and ask for a miracle.
Stay tuned next month while we explore the life of Saint Luigi Scrosoppi.