Partner to the End-Story of a Saint
She was living a good life as
a single, tending the needs of the poor and the sick. She came from a
religious, faith-filled family. She felt drawn to the religious life. She
continued to pray for her vocation. She knew that the sacrament of marriage was
something that could not be taken lightly. She realized that it was a
permanent, conjugal bond uniting man and woman in love. She was not looking for
marriage. But her partner sought her out and won her heart.
The circumstances were not what she
wanted for the man she fell in love with was from a typical Italian fighting
family warring with other families to win power and control land. Just as one
might think that pirates on the high seas are a thing of the past, gangs are
not only a consideration of the present.
The man whom Rita of Cascia fell in
love with was from a Romeo and Juliet feuding sitting. In the Umbrian Valley
of Italy, Rita was born in 1381
during the time of the Black Death, a plague that would wipe out much of Europe. The only child of the Lottis family was born when
the parents were getting older. They set her aside praying to God that she
would somehow be a peacemaker in the Italian environment of warring families
and city-states (Remember the young St. Francis of Assisi
fighting neighboring Perugia).
The times were those of antipopes
and rivaling families settling arguments with vendettas soaked with revenge and
murder. Rita married Paolo Mancini, perhaps a marriage arranged by her mother
and father. But it seems that it was God's will. He deeply loved her as she
respected and cherished him. His character, however, was impetuous and he was
drawn to defend the honor of the Mancini family where only the men and not the
women decided disputes by the sword. The place of the woman therefore was only
as domestic and non-interfering wife.
Rita would struggle with her
husband's episodes of killing rival family members. She found out more and more
about him as they were married. The beautifully executed DVD distributed by St.
Ignatius Press and presented recently on EWTN portrays the life of St. Rita in
her hardships, struggles, prayers, and intercessory actions to her husband's
family and the other family they were at odds with.
The central theme of Rita's life
was prayer, forgiveness, and reconciliation between adverse parties. Many times
she was fearful and knew not what to do. She turned to the Lord. Many times she
wanted to leave her marriage which anyone in her predicament would probably be
justified in seeking a separation from such a partner. But this partner
remained with her husband.
Throughout her ordeal, praying and
suffering, acting as a "Christ" for the man she married, she gradually got him
to see that the only way was the way of the cross. What Paolo thought was sweet
at first turned bitter and he truly experienced what true love was all about.
Their marriage was eventually blessed with twin boys.
The Mancini family had their own
agenda set for the newborns. They desired to train them in the ways of the
sword. But Rita and newly converted Paolo lovingly preferred that they follow
the ways of peace. Their move to the countryside away from the city was also a
further atmosphere for tranquil surroundings. Their lives were finally
beginning to be happy.
Life is not just a bed of roses no
matter what. Just when security seems to present itself, often, difficulty sets
in. And in the case of Rita this was no ordinary bewilderment. It was
devastating for one day she found her husband dead. However, her goal of
helping him amend his life and make it to heaven had been achieved. He would
die in violence at the end of the day of work at the hands of his murderers but
in the peace and grace of God. Rita knew this.
But her sons had heard more than
whisperings of the other side of goodness from the Mancini swordsmen. They
wanted revenge for their father's death. The mother, Rita at the funeral left
everyone know, even the murderers present, that she forgave all from her heart.
Yet, her forgiveness was fearful in the fact that she wanted to protect her
sons from any violence. Later, she would truly forgive her husband's assassin.
And her sons would also die, not by the sword, but from a respiratory ailment.Rita
had prayed for God's will and she asked that they be reconciled to God in
tranquility.As the youths were dying, they indeed made their peace with her and
In the end would there be
reconciliation between the Italian warring families. Only after Rita wonders in
the forest as a vagabond and so called "witch" would she one day come to her
senses when she heard the cry outside of a house for help. She assists a lady
who is ready to have her baby. Rita is again on the road to love. She prays to
the Lord, amidst her longing to enter the convent. But the Mother Sister wants
to test her vocation. She again takes up her secular cross, her duties helping
plague victims and nursing others back to health.
Many miracles are worked by God
through Rita. As she realizes that her parents' prayers for her to be
peacemaker of Cascia and the surrounding towns, her efforts with the feuding
families is aided by the Lord Himself. The brother of her husband ready to seek
vengeance of all sorts is struck down with the plague. All night long Rita
prays and he is healed not only in body but also in soul. He seeks out in peace
the leader of the other rival family and the two fighting families present
themselves before the priest in reconciliation in church.
Rita is truly peacemaker. She is
God's instrument for bringing together in peace the former warring families. Rita
has been a faithful wife. Now her dreams of becoming a religious are realized.
She spends the next 25 years of her life in the convent and miracles continue
to occur. She says that nothing is impossible for those who believe. Even in
the wintertime, the figs are productive as well as the blooming roses. God
seals His acknowledgment to the world by giving her the Stigmata.
St. Rita is an example of a
faithful spouse, a reconciler, and a religious. She knew that prayer and
perseverance win over adversary. We pray to her to help us who are struggling
in our troubles and vocations to find God's will for us.