Anyone who reads the lives of the saints knows that pain and suffering often precede veneration. In the case of St. Rita of Cascia, life might be seen as a path of tears and disappointments.
But she persevered and has been called the Patron Saint of the Impossible, observed on May 22.
Margherita Lotti, later to become St. Rita, was born in 1381 in a small town in central Italy. From an early age, she wished to be a nun. But her parents had other plans and betrothed her to an older many when she was 12. For the next 18 years, she existed in an abusive, miserable marriage until her persistence in prayer and faith brought about a change in her husband. They had two sons.
Sadly, it was a time of violent family feuding in Italy and her husband was killed in a fight. Her sons planned to avenge his death, but fell ill and died before they could act.
That left St. Rita a childless widow – but with the opportunity to become a nun as she had dreamed as a girl. Ironically, the nuns in the Augustinian convent she wished to join were hesitant in light of her being from a “violent family.”
She persisted in prayer and faith and eventually was admitted. Until her death in 1457, she spent her time praying for sinners, for the suffering, for those in need, for those facing challenges that seemed impossible.
She found deep consolation in uniting her suffering to others and especially to Christ. For the last 15 years of her life she bore a small would that appeared on her forehead that appeared like the wounds Christ suffered from the crown of thorns.
St. Rita was beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1626 and canonized by Pope Leo XII in 1900.
She is interred at the international shrine in her honor in Cascia, Italy. A national shrine in her honor is maintained in Philadelphia. Both websites offer stories about the saint and a wealth of devotional materials.