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Rita of Cascia, Saint

Rita of Cascia

Saint Rita of Cascia (1381 – May 22 1457) is an Italian Augustinian saint.

Early life

St. Rita was born at Roccaporena near Cascia, Umbria, Italy. The name is perhaps a shortening of Margherita, the Italian version of the name "Margaret."

She married at age 12 to Paolo Mancini. Her parents arranged her marriage, despite the fact that she repeatedly begged them to allow her to enter a convent. Mancini was a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who made many enemies in the region. St. Rita endured his insults, abuse, and infidelities for 18 years, and bore two sons with Mancini, Giangiacomo Antonio and Paolo Maria. Although she tried to raise them with Catholic values, her sons grew to be like their father.

Toward the end of her husband's life, St. Rita helped convert him to live in a more pious manner. Although Mancini became more congenial, his allies betrayed him, and he was violently stabbed to death. Before his death, he repented to St. Rita and the Church, and she forgave him for his transgressions against her.

After Mancini's murder, her sons wished to exact revenge on their father's murderers. Knowing murder was wrong, she tried to persuade them from retaliating, but to no avail. She, instead, prayed to God for Him to take away the lives of her sons instead of seeing them commit such a terrible sin. God heard St. Rita's words and her sons died of natural causes sickness a year later.

Entering the monastery

After the deaths of her husband and sons, St. Rita desired to enter the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene at Cascia but was spurned for being a widow, as virginity was a requirement for entry into the convent. However, she persisted in her cause and was given a condition before the convent could accept her; the difficult task of reconciling her family with her husband's murderers. She was able to resolve the conflicts between the families at the age of 36, and was allowed to enter the monastery.

However, her actual entrance into the monastery has been described as a miracle. During the night, when the doors to the monastery were locked and the sisters were asleep, St. Rita was miraculously transported into the convent by her patron saints Saint John the Baptist, Saint Augustine, and Saint Nicholas of Tolentino. When she was found inside the convent in the morning and the sisters learned of how she entered, they could not turn her away.

She remained at the monastery, living by the Augustinian Rule, until her death in 1457.

Beatification and canonization

St. Rita was beatified by Urban VIII in 1627, to whose private secretary Fausto Cardinal Poli, born less than ten miles (16 km) from her birthplace, much of the impetus behind her cult is due; she was canonized on May 24, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII. Her feast day is on May 22.

Symbols

The forehead wound

One day, while living at the convent Rita said, "Please let me suffer like you, Divine Saviour". Suddenly, a thorn from a figure of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ fell from the crown of thorns and wounded Rita's forehead. As a result, depictions of St. Rita show a forehead wound to represent this event.

The rose

The rose is the symbol most often associated with St. Rita.

One of the common versions of the story about the importance of the rose is set before St. Rita's entry into the convent. St. Rita regularly brought food to the poor, which her husband prohibited. One day, her husband confronted her as she was leaving to bring bread to the poor. She concealed the bread in her robes, and when she uncovered the bread under her husband's demand, the bread became roses and she was spared her husband's wrath. The legend of the miracle of the roses is also attributed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) wife of Ludwig IV of Thuringia, and to her grandniece, Queen St. Elizabeth of Aragon (1271–1336, "Raínha Santa" Isabel), wife of Denis of Portugal.

Another version is set near the end of her life, when St. Rita was bedridden in the convent. A friend from her hometown visited her and asked her if she desired anything from her old home. St. Rita responded by asking for a rose from the garden. It was January and her friend did not expect to find anything due to the weather. However, when her friend went to the house, a single blooming rose was found in the garden, and her friend brought the rose back to St. Rita at the convent.

The rose is thought to represent God's love for Rita and Rita's ability to intercede on behalf of lost causes or impossible cases. Rita is often depicted holding roses or with roses nearby. On her feast day, churches and shrines of St. Rita provide roses to the congregation that are blessed by priests during mass.

The bees

In the parish church of Laarne, near Ghent, there is a statue of Saint Rita in which several bees are featured. This depiction originates from the story of St. Rita's baptism as an infant. On the day after her baptism, her family noticed a swarm of white bees flying around her as she slept in her crib. However, the bees peacefully entered and exited her mouth without causing her any harm or injury. Instead of being alarmed for her safety, her family was mystified by this sight.

Interpretations of the story believe the bees represented her subsequent beatification by Pope Urban VIII.

Legacy

A large sanctuary of Saint Rita was built in the early 20th century in Cascia. The sanctuary and the house where she was born are among the most active pilgrimage sites of Umbria. Saint Rita is the patron saint of "impossible or lost causes."

Recently, St. Rita has been referred to as the patron saint of baseball, due to the several references made to her in the Walt Disney movie The Rookie, in which the chances of Dennis Quaid's character of playing professional baseball is considered a lost cause. This has sparked a small movement in Roman Catholic baseball circles of considering St. Rita the patron saint of the sport: in support of the connection religious medals have been printed with an image of St. Rita on one side and a batter on the other.

See also

External links

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