Honduras is plagued with violent killings. In the big cities these are often related to gangs or to crime. But there are a significant number of killings that are related to vengeance.
In our area of Honduras there have been a number of vengeance killings in the last year. Two villages have been deeply affected.
At a recent meeting of catechists I heard a story from a few years ago of a feud within a family that started with a dog killing a chicken and ended with deaths of members of the family.
So I was surprised to learn of a saint who should be the patron of those who seek to end violence based in vengeance.
Last Sunday I was in the village of El Zapote de Dulce Nombre to lead a Celebration of the Word with Communion. They noted that they will celebrate Saint Rita of Cascia, their patron saint, on Friday with a procession, Mass, and baptisms.
I have heard of Saint Rita and know that she is revered by many Italians and Italian Americans, but I didn’t know much about her. As I sat listening to the village’s plans, I looked up her short biography in the missal I had with me and was surprised about a few details of her life.
Saint Rita lived between 1381 and 1457. I know that she is often invoked as the saint of impossible cases, but she really should be the patron saint of peacemakers within families.
Though she wanted to become a sister, Rita was forced into a marriage with a man who was not very faithful. They had twin sons.
After several years of marriage, he was killed by some members of a rival family. His sons wanted to take vengeance on the family of the assassins but their mother forbid it. There is even a story that she prayed to God that it would be better for them to die than to take the lives of others in vengeance.
They did die and she decided that now was the time to follow her dream of becoming a sister.
She applied to the town’s convent of Augustinians sisters. She was refused because the sisters were afraid that vengeance killings – or at least disharmony – would follow her into the convent, since some of the sisters were members of the rival family that had killed her husband.
As Michael Di Gregorio, OSA, put it here:
…inspired by her three patron saints (Augustine, Nicholas of Tolentino and John the Baptist), Rita set out to make peace between the families. She went to her husband’s family and exhorted them to put aside their hostility and stubbornness. They were convinced by her courage and agreed. The rival family, astounded by this overture of peace, also agreed. The two families exchanged a peace embrace and signed a written agreement, putting the vendetta to rest forever.
There are other details of Saint Rita’s life which are fascinating but I really think that she needs to be looked upon as an example of how to live the loving reconciliation of Christ and as an intercessor for those places where vengeance and vendettas lead to death.
And so today I pray to Saint Rita to help us find ways to stop the cycle of violence that so often plagues us here in Honduras and many other places of the world.
“S. Rita”. Tramite Wikipedia – http://scn.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:S._Rita.jpg#/media/File:S._Rita.jpg