About St. Rita
1381 — 1457
Feast Day May 22
Patron Saint of lost, desperate and impossible causes, heartbroken women, abuse victims, sterility, loneliness, sickness, wounds, marital problems, mothers and widows.
Like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Rita was a wife, mother, widow, and member of a religious community. Her holiness was reflected in each phase of her life.
Born in Roccaporena in central Italy, Margherita Lotti (simply known as Rita) wanted to become a nun but her elderly parents insisted that she be married at the age of twelve to a man described in accounts of her life as cruel and harsh. Her husband, Paolo Mancini, was known to be a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who had many enemies in the region of Cascia. Rita endured his insults, physical abuse, and infidelities for many years.
During her 18-year marriage, she bore and raised two sons. When her husband was stabbed to death in a brawl, Rita's sons wished to avenge their father's murder. Rita, fearing that her sons would lose their souls, tried to persuade them from retaliating, but to no avail. Accordingly, she petitioned God to take her sons rather than submit them to possible mortal sin and murder. Her sons died of dysentery a year later, which pious Catholics believe was God's answer to her prayer, taking them by natural death rather than risk them committing a mortal sin punishable by Hell.
After her husband and son's deaths, Rita tried to join the Augustinian nuns in Cascia. Unsuccessful at first because she was a widow, Rita eventually succeeded.
Over the years, her austerity, prayerfulness, and charity became legendary. When Rita was approximately sixty years of age, she was meditating before an image of Christ crucified. Suddenly, a small wound appeared on her forehead, as though a thorn from the crown that encircled Christ’s head had loosened itself and penetrated her own flesh. For the next fifteen years she bore this external sign of union with Christ. She meditated frequently on Christ’s passion. Her care for the sick nuns was especially loving. She also counseled lay people who came to her monastery.
Rita was beatified in 1626, but was not canonized until 1900. She has acquired the reputation, together with Saint Jude, as a saint of impossible cases.