The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

St. Rita, Life and Times by Fr. Pat Gayer OSA

St. Rita of Cascia
Among the Augustinian Saints down the centuries, St. Rita of Cascia is one of the best known and loved. She was born in 1381 in the beautiful region of Umbria, ‘the green heart of Italy’.
Perhaps the great appeal of St. Rita to so many is the various different states in life she lived out with a vibrant and courageous faith. She was a caring, loving daughter and only child to her elderly parents. From an early age she had wanted to enter the convent of Augustinian Sisters in Cascia, but at the request of her parents she reluctantly agreed to marry a local man, Paolo Mancini of Roccaporena.
Rita was a faithful and devoted wife and, with time, became a mother to two twin sons. When they were in their mid-teens, their father was murdered as a result of a feud between two rival families. It was the social expectation at the time that the sons would avenge their father’s death. Rita did everything possible to prevent this and it is said that she prayed that they might be taken rather than they have blood on their own hands. Their death came to pass by natural means, whether due to an epidemic at the time or not is uncertain.
This event, in turn, enabled Rita to pursue her original vocation and desire in life: to join the community of Augustinian Sisters at the Convent of St. Mary Magdalen in Cascia. First, however, Rita who was known as a great reconciler and peace-maker, succeeded in bringing about peace and harmony between the two rival families. She herself demonstrated the great grace of being able to forgive the other family for the murder of her own husband.
Rita was to spend the second half of her life in prayer and dedicated service to the Community and to the sick and needy of Cascia. She also developed a great devotion to the saving Passion and Crucifixion of Christ, to the point of acquiring an open wound on her forehead. At the fresco of the Crucified Christ in the convent where she is said to have received the stigmata is the inscription: ‘She asked of Love: “I desire some of your pain”. Christ responded and gave her the thorn.’ The wound on Rita’s forehead, which she bore for the last fifteen years of her life, is included in all images and paintings of her since the time of her death, including on the sarcophagus in which she was laid to rest in 1457. This same coffin is on display in the convent to this day.

Beatified in 1628, Rita was canonised on May 24th in the Jubilee Year of 1900 by Pope Leo XIII. Her sanctity is due principally to her profound spirit of prayer, penance and charity in each of the different states in her life. She is known universally as a powerful intercessor for all those in need, no matter how ‘hopeless’ a situation might seem.
In Ireland, there is devotion to this great Saint in each of the Augustinian churches throughout the country, and not least at John’s Lane church in Thomas St., Dublin. Mass in her honour and invoking her help is celebrated each Saturday morning at 11.00 a.m. From her youth, Rita looked to St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine, and St. Nicholas of Tollentine OSA as her ‘patrons’ – to them she prayed for guidance. By coincidence or otherwise, John’s Lane church is dedicated to two of these, St. John the Baptist and St. Augustine. 
At least two pilgrimages from Ireland this summer include a stay at Cascia on their programme. 
Rita’s feast-day falls on May 22nd  each year, the day of her death.

Article posted on 18th of June 2013

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