Words by Michelle Fabio
One of the most beloved Italian saints is St. Rita of Cascia, a native of Umbria who died in Cascia in 1456. Santa Rita is widely celebrated not only in the Green Heart of Italy but also throughout the country on her feast day, 22 May, with Mass, processions, and other festivities. St. Rita has a most interesting tale for a saint as she was married and had children.
Although St. Rita had always wanted to be a nun, she obeyed her elderly parents’ wishes to marry a harsh, immoral man when she was just 12 years old. She was a loyal wife and mother of twin sons for 18 years, but family life went sour when her husband was murdered and her sons sought revenge.
St. Rita tried to persuade them to change their minds, but when she realized nothing could stop them, she prayed they would be taken from Earth so they couldn’t commit murder themselves; they died of natural causes a year later. Alone in the world, St. Rita sought admission to the Augustinian convent in Cascia, but was refused because she was a widow. Eventually she was admitted, though--her entrance itself a miracle as she claimed to have been transported inside by her own patron saints, John the Baptist, Augustine, and Nicholas of Tolentino.
St. Rita is often portrayed holding roses and/or figs and sometimes with an injury to her head because when she had asked to suffer as Jesus had, a thorn from the Crown of Thorns on a figure of the crucifixion fell on her forehead and cut her. She is the patron saint of hopeless causes, abused women, and parenthood.