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Saint Rita of Cascia

Saint Rita was born in 1381 in the city of Roccaporena near Spoleto Italy. She came from a religious and upstanding family - both of her parents were called Conciliatore di Cristo, or the Peacemakers of Christ and considered her a gift from God (both were quite old at the time). As she grew, she became a frequent visitor to the convent of Augustinian Nuns in Cascia and planned to join the convent as soon as she was able.

Much as was the custom of the day, Saint Rita's parents arraigned a marriage when she was only 12. Though wealthy as a local official , her husband Paolo Mancini was known to be quick tempered and immoral. For the eighteen years of their marriage, Saint Rita was famously known to be a dedicated , value driven wife and mother who would soothe and help her husband. Those eighteen years were not easy - he would often insult her, physically assault her and had multiple affairs but Saint Rita stood by him.

In this time, a great rivalry existed between the two most popular factions - the Guelphs and Ghibellines. As it escalated, even Saint Rita's husband would eventually be caught in the middle - one day as he returned home from work a group of men ambushed and killed him in the street. As she grieved, she also worried her sons would be caught up in the popular culture of revenge and take up arms against their father's killer.

Her now ex-huband's brother wished to continue to the feud and brought her sons to his manor at the Mancini villa ancestral home. Saint Rita prayed every night that God would intervene and remove her sons from the vicious revenge cycle. A year later, both sons died of dysentery - tradition holds it was God's way of granting them peaceful deaths instead of them committing the mortal sin of murder.

Now alone, Saint Rita wished to join the Augustinian Nuns of Saint Mary Magdalene Monastery. Despite her great character and piety, the nuns initially turned her away. The convent was worried that she would be associated with the scandal of her husband's death and did not wish to upset the harmony of the convent. Saint Rita, never one to give up, began praying to three saints to help her seek peace between the warring political factions in Cascia - John the Baptist, Augustine of Hippo and Nicholas of Tolentino. Tradition holds that the bubonic plague infected Bernardo Mancini at this time causing him to no longer wish to feud with the Chiqui family, allowing Saint Rita to bring the parties together in peace. The result was so incredibly unexpected and successful that the nuns welcomed her into the monastery at the age of 36.

For the next forty years, Saint Rita lived a life dedicated to Charity and Prayer, striving to keep the peace of her town and always growing closer to Christ. When she was sixty, an incredible miracle happened to her - while kneeling and praying before the crucifix, a small wound appeared on her forehead and began to bleed. For fifteen years she bore this wound, a sign of stigmatization and union with the Lord (Many believed the would to be that of the would on Jesus' head caused by the crown of thorns).

As she grew in age, the last years of her life left her bedridden but still patient and joyful to all who visited her. It was during this time a relative came to visit her and asked if she had any final wishes she could carry out for her. Saint Rita had only one - a rose from the garden of her parent's home. The relative went to the house, expecting to find no flowers in bloom (it was January) but miraculously found a single rose on the bush. Rita thanked God when she received it, seeing it as a gift and show of His love for her.

Her last words to the sisters were:

“Remain in the holy love of Jesus. Remain in obedience to the holy Roman Church. Remain in peace and fraternal charity.”

Saint Rita died of Tuberculosis on May 22, 1457. Pope Urban VIII beatified her in 1626 and she was canonized a saint on May 24th, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII. On the 100th anniversary of her canonization, Saint Pope John Paul II remarked:

"Rita interpreted well the 'feminine genius' by living it intensely in both physical and spiritual motherhood."

Her body has remained in-corrupt even to this day and is venerated at the shrine of Cascia. She is the patron saint (with also Saint Jude) of impossible cases, abuse victims, loneliness, marriage difficulties and wounds.

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