Saint Rita was born in a little town near Cascia, Italy in 1381, to parents who were respected as peacemakers for their town, bringing conflicted parties together to resolve their differences peacefully. Their daughter learned well from them, For she herself was to display very effective skills in this area. Rita was attracted to the Augustinian convent at a young age, but her parents thought that marriage would provide safety and security for her, so they arranged a marriage to Paolo Mancini, to which Rita obediently acceded. She gave birth to two sons who were in their early adolescence when their father was murdered. Rita pledged to forgive her husband’s murderer, but she feared that her sons, who are angry and grief, would retaliate to avenge their family’s honor, and therefore endanger their souls by committing murder. In constant prayer, Rita begged God for guidance and completely entrusted her sons to God’s care. The answer came in the form of a deadly illness which was afflicted the entire town, among the casualties her two young sons. Burdened now with the added of grief of losing her children, Rita placed her trust in God for consolation. She turned to the local Augustinian convent, considering that perhaps she was being called by God to be a nun after all, but found the nuns unwilling to accept her. The scourge of vendetta colored their willingness to accept her, and would be too great a threat to the peace of the convent in which there were members of the family that had killed Rita’s husband. Even though the nuns understood that Rita held no grudge herself, the danger lurked while the two families were still at odds. And so Rita embarked on a quest to make peace between the families, considered a near impossibility. But with the help of her patron saints: John the Baptist, Augustine and Nicholas of Tolentine, Rita managed to persuade her husband’s family and the family of those who killed him to forswear vengeance, thereby committing themselves to a peaceful relationship, witnessed by a written agreement. She had done what had been considered impossible. This led to her acceptance by the Augustinian nuns, where she remained for forty years. In that span, she lived faithfully the community life encouraged by Saint Augustine in his Rule, dedicating herself to prayer and contemplation. In the twenty-fifth year of her religious life, Rita is reputed to have been absorbed in adoration before an image of Jesus which was very dear to her, Jesus of Holy Saturday, also known as the Resurgent Christ. This depiction of Christ in the tomb, beginning to awaken to life, moved her to request that she participate in suffering of Christ in some way, and in this moment of ecstatic union, A thorn from Jesus’ crown penetrated Rita’s forehead, and the wound remained open and visible until her death. In the last years of her life, a progressively weakened condition kept Rita confined to bed for long periods of time. Despite this debilitating illness, Rita was completely at peace and ever thankful to God for the great consolations she had always received from Him even during her most difficult challenges. On one occasion, several months before she died, Rita was visited by her relative from her hometown. In the course of her reminiscing, her cousin asked Rita if there was something she might do for her. Rita asked her cousin to bring her a rose from the garden in her former home, but the cousin was disappointed because it was January, the middle of winter. However, upon returning home, when she passed the home of Rita, to her astonishment she saw a single fresh rose on an otherwise dry and barren bush. She immediately brought it to the convent to Rita, who understood it to be a sign from God that her husband who died so violently, and her sons who died so young would enjoin an eternal peace. She knew she would soon join them. Rita died peacefully on may 22, 1457. An old and revered tradition records that the bells of the convent immediately began to peal unaided by human hands, calling the people of Cascia to the doors of the convent and announcing the triumphant completion of a life faithful lived. The sorrows and disappointments which had marked Rita’s life now passed into history. What remained were the consoling word she heard from her beloved Jesus: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” So many people wanted to look upon the gentle face of the “peacemaker of Cascia” one last time, to touch her head or to ask her prayers, that Rita’s burial was delayed, to the point that it never took place, for it was clear that something exceptional was occurring. Rather than undergo the ordinary process of decay, it seems as though this body, once touched by an instrument of Christ’s love and passion, was to be free from nature’s usual cause. It is still preserved today, now in a glass coffin, in the basilica of Cascia. The process of canonization was a long one. Rita was declared a Blessed in 1628, but it was in 1900 that she was formally declared a saint by Pope Leo XIII, who referred to her as the “Precious Pearl of Umbria”. Devotion to Saint Rita as a peacemaker, healer and patroness of impossible cases is very strong throughout the world. One means of expressing that devotion is the novena of prayers. This litany of praises for Saint Rita is followed by prayers of petition for her intercession in helping the petitioner to be a peacemaker like her. Particular requests are often sought; there is a pause in the novena prayers allowing for those special requests to be acknowledged.