Life of Saint Rita of Cascia

Life of Saint Rita of Cascia

Welcome. Welcome to Cascia to the pilgrims of Saint Rita from the States, from the National Shrine of Saint Rita in Philadelphia. I am Father Rocco, and I welcome all of you in this site, which was the room in where Saint Rita lived for about 40 years, in the Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene. That was the name of this monastery when Rita entered at the beginning of the 1400s. And so we find ourselves before one of the most important documents of Saint Rita’s life. We know about the life of Saint Rita only through three documents. Two of these documents are before us. The image of the Solemn Casket where Saint Rita’s body was laid to rest, And this poem to which I am pointing which is a poetic text that contains the first biography of Saint Rita, which dates to 1454 the probable date of the death of Saint Rita. We don’t have other chronological references on the life of Rita. This is the only certain reference and the only date that we know for sure. This poem is very important because it allows us to take another look at the historical life of Saint Rita. The third of the documents I mentioned which speak of the life of Saint Rita, there are three documents, helping to get to know her life are there. The third source consists of a biography. An extensive biography written 150 years after the death of Saint Rita. One biography transmits some historical data and also many events, images and symbols. We can’t say much of these, but they are very important because they help us to understand how in the course of centuries, the virtues of Saint Rita were translated in a way that made sense to the devotees and to the faithful pilgrims who arrived in Cascia to venerate the memory and find meaning from her message, one of which is the symbol of the vine. Tradition says that Rita watered a dry twig that later on became a vine. This miracle happened not due to the water from a cistern of the monastery but because of Rita’s gesture of obedience. You all understand that to speak in a generic way of the virtues of the saint, would not have been of great benefit. But, to speak to the people through a symbol, made possible a lasting memory, a memory of Rita’s virtue. In this way, imitation of her was facilitated. It’s what Saint Augustine tells us, that Master of the spirituality that Rita lived in the monastery. Because Saint Augustine said that the saints, besides being honored and venerated, have to be imitated. And we need to learn from their example and to live according to the model they offer, with the grace of God. Another example, another image from her life is that of the bees from the year of 1600. According to tradition, Rita was visited by a swarm of bees Rita’s mouth was covered by a swarm of bees. It is a beautiful image that is found in the life of many Christian saints, especially at the origins of Christianity. It is something found in the life of Saint Ambrose, for example, and in the life of Saint Isidore of Seville and even in the life of Plato, an illustrious man of pre-Christian antiquity. Why? The ancients spoke of the sweetness of the word and of the doctrine of the people whom they wanted to eulogize. We understand this about Ambrose, about Isidore, about Plato because these grand figures, who as children were visited by bees in the mouth, became great philosophers or doctors of the church. But why use such a symbolism to speak of the life of Saint Rita? Saint Rita was not a philosopher nor a doctor of the church. She was a humble woman who lived in a way consistent with the values of the Gospel in the simplicity of her life. The image of the bees was introduced into her biography for at least two reasons. First of all, Rita was beatified by Pope Urban VIII, a Barberini. The Pope in his coat of arms has three little bees. It was a symbolic gesture to praise this pontiff because his family had such an important role in the beatification of Saint Rita. Secondly, it is tied to the message of the holiness of Rita’s life. As I said before, we know very little about Rita. However, we know for sure that at every stage of her existence, during her entire life, Rita was a sweet woman. A woman who never used words to injure others but always to foster positive relationships. This attitude of Saint Rita, which becomes one of her characteristic virtues, one of the most important Christian virtues in Rita’s life, came from the influence of her parents. It was they who taught her about the value of the Gospel, the value of peace, the values of mercy and forgiveness, values that are very contemporary, especially this year in which we are preparing to celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy. Rita’s parents were doing something very similar to what today others are doing, volunteers of charitable works when in their society they were peacemakers, that is they built peace by fostering positive relationships. Rita’s parents were doing this in a society that knew much conflict and violence. Today Cascia is a little town in the Apennines, a tiny mountain town, but at the time of Rita it was a small but rich Republic and an important commercial place between the Adriatic coast and central Italy, particularly for the Umbrian region and Toscany. You can imagine the richness that flowed in. There were many conflicts over this wealth. During one of these conflicts, Rita’s husband, Paolo Mancini, was murdered. You know well how Rita responded to the death of Paolo Mancini. She forgave the assassins of her husband, but above all, Rita took upon herself the consequences of this gesture of forgiving. Because her husband’s family wanted only revenge and didn’t understand Rita’s gesture, they isolated and rejected her. They marginalized her from the family. Rita remained faithful to her vocation as a woman of peace and forgiveness. She was able to overcome great resistance in this way. However, the most amazing resistance was when Rita wanted to enter the convent. In this monastery, there was a nun named Catherine Mancini who, very probably was related to Paolo. She did everything possible so that Rita could not enter the convent. Rita finally succeeded in entering in a way that was somewhat miraculous, through the help of all her patron saints: Saint John the Baptist, Saint Augustine, the Master of the spiritual life that Rita had chosen, and Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, the first saint of the Augustinian Order. Rita entered the monastery and performed there her greatest miracle. That is, she transformed this place, a place of religiosity, but characterized by a type of religiosity that was a little superficial, to a place of great spirituality at a distance of six and a half centuries after her death. This place is visited by nearly one to one and a half million pilgrims every year, not to speak of millions of devotee all over the world that venerate Saint Rita. This should tell us something. It speaks to us of the important message that Rita left to her devotees. That is, as I told you before, Saint Rita is not an extraordinary woman, that’s not who she was in life, though at times, we know her as the Saint of the Impossible. But what truly characterizes her life was her fidelity to the Gospel, the values of the Gospel in a particular way, the heart of the Gospel that is Mercy. Through this gift that she lived with the grace of God, she was able to change others’ hearts. Not only the people who lived with her in the monastery, but just imagine a little in the course of six and a half centuries, and in the distance of these six and a half centuries, Rita still succeeds in speaking a significant word to the heart of many people and of many men and women, who through the example of Saint Rita, manage to live in deeper union with Jesus Christ and to live the values of the Gospel in a special way, I repeat, especially those of mercy and forgiveness and the search for peace.

1 Reply to “Life of Saint Rita of Cascia”

  1. Isaia 5:20-25


    Guai a coloro che chiamano
    bene il male e male il bene,
    che cambiano le tenebre in luce e la luce in tenebre,
    che cambiano l'amaro in dolce e il dolce in amaro.


    Guai a coloro che si credono sapienti
    e si reputano intelligenti.
    Guai a coloro che sono gagliardi nel bere vino,
    valorosi nel mescere bevande inebrianti,
    a coloro che assolvono per regali un colpevole
    e privano del suo diritto l'innocente.
    Perciò, come una lingua di fuoco divora la stoppia
    e una fiamma consuma la paglia,
    così le loro radici diventeranno un marciume
    e la loro fioritura volerà via come polvere,
    perché hanno rigettato la legge del Signore degli eserciti,
    hanno disprezzato la parola del Santo di Israele.
    La collera del Signore

    Per questo è divampato
    lo sdegno del Signore contro il suo popolo,
    su di esso ha steso la sua mano per colpire;
    hanno tremato i monti,
    i loro cadaveri erano come lordura
    in mezzo alle strade.
    Con tutto ciò non si calma la sua ira
    e la sua mano resta ancora tesa.

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