Feast Day 22 May
Saint Rita (baptised Margherita Lotti) was born in 1381 in Cascia near Spoleto, Umbria, in Italy. When she was twelve her parents arranged a marriage for her, a common practice at the time, despite her repeated requests to be allowed to later enter a convent. Her husband, Paolo Mancini, was rich, but was a quick-tempered and immoral man with many enemies. Rita bore two sons, and brought them up in the Christian faith.
Rita endured Paolo’s insults, physical abuse and infidelities for many years. According to tradition, through her humility, kindness and patience, Rita was able to eventually convert her husband to a better life, more specifically persuading him to renounce a family feud, a vendetta. However, the feud between the two families became more intense, and when her husband’s allies betrayed him to the other family, he was stabbed to death. Rita gave a public pardon at Paolo’s funeral to her husband’s murderers, but her sons wanted to revenge their father’s death. Rita, fearing that her sons would lose their souls, tried to persuade them from retaliating, but to no avail.
After they both died young, Rita tried to enter the local monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene but was turned away because of her family’s reputation. However, at the ager of thirty-six, she was eventually allowed to enter the monastery, and remained there, living by the Augustinian Rule, until her death from tuberculosis in 1457. 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 from a thorn from Christ’s crown of thorn. For the next fifteen years she bore this external sign of union with Christ. Her body, which is claimed to have remained incorrupt over the centuries, is venerated today at Cascia. The September Pilgrims visited there in 2002.
Rita was beatified in 1626, but not canonized until 1900. St Rita has acquired the reputation, together with St Jude, as a saint of impossible cases. On the 100thanniversary of her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II noted her remarkable qualities as a Christian woman. Aspects of her life remain of great relevance until today, and she is seen, and her intercession sought, as a patron saint of abuse victims, loneliness, and marriage difficulties, among other needy groups.