St. Rita, whose feast day is May 22, is a saint we hear of infrequently, perhaps because she had such an unusual life. However, we homeschooling mothers may consider St. Rita an inspiration because she worked unceasingly to raise her sons as good Catholics, in spite of a difficult, often anti-Christian culture. St. Rita, called the Saint of the Impossible, encourages us to be determined and faithful in living out our Catholic Faith and teaching God’s Commandments to our children.
The story of St. Rita is remarkable in many ways, the first being that an angel appeared to her mother, who was past child-bearing age, and told her she would have a daughter, to be named Rita. Rita’s life as a child was noted for its remarkable holiness. She prayed often in church and had a great concern to help those in need.
When she grew older, Rita wanted to enter a convent, but her elderly parents wished her to marry so she could provide for them. Her parents chose a well-to-do young man who was in no way religious. Not only was her husband completely different from Rita, but he was “her relentless persecutor,” according to her biographer, Fr. Jose Sicardo.
Women in the community saw the wickedness of Rita’s husband in the cruel way he treated her with angry abusive words. They also recognized Rita’s holiness because she withstood her husband’s abuse with humility and patience, and worked positively to provide a clean and neat house, well-made clothes for her wealthy husband, and elegant meals. In spite of his abuse, she calmly talked to him about displeasing God with his violent outbursts of anger.
After Rita and her husband had two little boys, Rita taught them their Catholic Faith and gave them daily examples of how to live the Catholic life, especially in caring for others and attending Mass. She included her boys in her daily devotions and prayers and encouraged them to accept God’s will. In spite of her husband’s anger, her boys grew up seeing and helping her practice the corporal works of mercy by giving time and material goods to those in need. Rita taught her sons the practice of the spiritual works of mercy as well.
After some years, Rita’s husband changed and came to value his wife’s patience and kindness. Shortly afterward, however, he was murdered in the street. Though devastated, Rita realized she should accept her husband’s death as God’s plan, and she forgave the men who killed him.
Shortly after the death of her husband and the subsequent death of her two sons, Rita joined a convent and lived a heroic life as a nun for forty years. Her life in the convent was one of prayer and sacrifice and devotion to duty. One day, after listening to a powerful sermon by a priest, she prayed that Jesus let her share His sufferings on the Cross. In an instant, Jesus gave her the pain of a thorn in her forehead, and she carried an open wound there for the rest of her life. The other nuns never saw the thorn, but the appearance of the wound alone was so difficult for the nuns to bear that Rita lived separately, spending her days alone, in her private cell, always in meditation and prayer.
Both Jesus and the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Rita when she was 76 years old, to tell her she would die shortly. The wound finally left her and St. Rita was surrounded by the nuns, who recognized she was a saint. Her last words were, “Love God above all things.” As Rita’s dead body lay in the church for three days, many miracles of healing came to those who visited her coffin. Miracles continue, as thousands of people flock to the church where her incorrupt body lies peacefully, as if she were simply sleeping.
There is a National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia in Philadelphia. Its beauty is breathtaking and the holy presence of God and of St. Rita is palpable. Making the trip is an excellent spiritual pilgrimage for homeschooling families. Such a pilgrimage could be life-changing for families or persons in need of spiritual invigoration, as St. Rita along with Jesus can help make the impossible happen.
Nothing is impossible with Jesus. Ask St. Rita! Ask her to pray for you and your family.