Today is the feast of Saint Rita of Cascia, a saint of impossible cases, like Saint Jude. I recall that devotion to her was strong in the Italian-American Catholic community of my youth.
But there is something about Saint Rita that I think is much more important for our world than her miracles or even the mark of a thorn on her forehead, recalling Christ’s crown of thorns.
Saint Rita was married to a man who did not share her piety. He was brash, a womanizer, and a brawler. Together they had two sons who shared their father’s character.
Rite persisted in prayer and her husband experienced a conversion, but shortly after he was killed by members of a rival family.
She forgave those who killed her husband, but her sons wanted to avenge his death. Saint Rita prayed that they would die rather than murder their adversaries. They finally ended up giving up their desire for revenge. But they died.
Rita was then free to pursue her earlier dream of being a nun and applied to the local Augustinian convent.
They rejected her, supposedly because she was not a virgin. But the real reason might have been that there were sisters in the convent who were members of the family that killed her husband. They were afraid of the consequences and the potential conflict.
Not one to be easily dissuaded, Rita started talking with members of her husband’s family as well as with the family of the man who had killed him. Her efforts resulted in an agreement between them to not pursue any violence or retribution.
That done, she was accepted into the convent.
I discovered this story when I went one Sunday to preside at a village church dedicated to Santa Rita a few days before her feast day. They were going to have a Mass and a celebration for that whole sector of the parish, in which there had been a death a few months ago as an act of retribution, not uncommon here in Honduras, where the “justice” system does not function and so people take the “law” in their own hands.
Saint Rita is one of those who broke the cycle of violence, seeking reconciliation. I pray that she may intercede here in Honduras, as well as in other prats of the world where revenge causes deaths.
I especially pray for two men killed a few days ago here in our parish – probably as acts of retribution.
Photo taken from this site.