Saint Rita of Cascia
Born in Roccaporena, Perugia, Italy, 1381.
Cascia, Perugia, Italia, May 22, 1457.
She was beatified by Urban VIII in 1627.
She was canonized by Leo XIII in 1900.
Rita (Margarita) Lotti was born in 1381 in Roccaporena, a small town in Cascia county, in the province of Perguia, Italy. Her parents, Antonio and Amata, were good Christians and they introduced their daughter to a life of piety and charity. From a very young age St. Rita showed signs of a great inclination towards things of God and a strong will to attain virtues. She received some formation thanks to the Augustinians who transmitted to her their great devotion to their protector saints: St. Augustine, St. John the Baptist and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, who at the time was blessed.
Antonio and Amata, both of advanced age, to ensure their daughter’s future, wished to marry her off when she was still quite young, between 12-14 years old. Despite St. Rita’s desire to belong to God in the religious life, she accepted without complaint her parents’ will and was married to Pablo Mancini. She gave birth to twin sons, Santiago and Pablo. The married life was a great suffering for St. Rita due to her husband’s temperament. She found strength in Jesus Christ to confront the difficulties, living an intense relationship with Him through prayer and the sacraments. Rita’s prayers brought about her husband Pablo’s conversion and he left his life of sin.
Shortly after this, Pablo was assassinated near his house by the enemies he had made in his past life. St. Rita again accepted the will of God and forgave his murderers. Her sons did not have the same disposition; they desired to revenge their father’s death. Rita tried to dissuade them, but they did not want to forgive, so she, fearing for their souls, asked the Lord to take their lives before they could commit a mortal sin. The Lord heard her prayers and both sons became sick and soon died. During their sickness, Rita never ceased to pray for her sons and to speak to them about forgiveness and charity. Before dying, Santiago and Pablo repented of their desire of vengeance and asked their mother’s forgiveness.
Now that she was alone, St. Rita once again felt the desire to consecrate herself completely to God. She asked for entrance into the Augustinians of Cascia but her petition was rejected three time because she had been married. She persistently prayed to the Lord and to her three protector saints. The three saints appeared to her and led her, miraculously, inside the convent. Before such a sign, the religious sisters could not but accept her. This happened in 1417, when she was 37 years old. She made her vows the next year and remained in the convent for 40 years, until her death. As a religious, St. Rita gave herself over completely to mortification, penance and prayer. She stood out for her sanctity.
St. Rita assiduously meditated on the Lord’s Passion, uniting herself to Him in his sufferings and trying to console him and make reparation for the offenses committed against him, with her love and her sacrifices.
During one Lent, after listening to a sermon on Jesus’ death, she fervently prayed to the Lord, before a crucifix, asking him to allow her to participate in his sufferings. At that moment, from the crucifix she was contemplating, a thorn from Christ’s crown came out and was nailed into her forehead. St. Rita will carry this mark of the Passion on her body for 15 years. The thorn not only produced physical pain but also obliged her to remain isolated in a cell, due to the strong, unpleasant smell that came from the wound. In addition to these sufferings, she imposed penances and mortifications on herself. During the last 4 years of her life, she suffered a serious illness that left her almost paralyzed.
She passed away during the night of the 21-22 of May, 1457. According to tradition, at that moment, the cell was illuminated and the bells of the monastery began to ring by themselves. Many people came to pay their last respects to the religious, whose corpse emanated a sweet perfume. Her body still remains incorrupt and can be visited to venerated.
She was immediately honored as a saint by those who knew her. In 1627, she was beatified by Pope Urban VIII. On May 24, 1900, she was canonized by Pope Leo XIII. In 2000, the Augustinians took St. Rita’s body, in pilgrimage, to be venerated by the pope, St. John Paul II.
St. Rita had a special devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. While she lived as a widow, she attended daily mass in Roccaporena. She also went frequently to pray in the church of St. Augustine, in Cascia, where a Eucharistic miracle from the year 1330 is conserved. That year, a priest from Siena was asked to take Communion to a sick person. He took a Sacred Host from the tabernacle and, without very much devotion or care for the weakening of his faith in the true presence, he stuck the host between the pages of his breviary. When he opened the book to give the Communion to the sick person, he found that the Host was bleeding. Immediately he ran to confession with an Augustinian priest, Fr. Simon Fidati (now Blessed). Fr. Simon took a page of the breviary, stained with blood, to St. Augustine’s Church in Cascia, where it is still preserved. St. Rita prayed before this relic many times.
Although we don’t know any stories about St. Rita’s relationship with the Blessed Virgin, we know that she loved the Virgin Mary a lot. In fact, in the oldest preserved paintings of her in Cascia, she frequently appears with a rosary in her hand.
Some biographers also say that she offered fasts in honor of Mary on the vespers of her feasts.
The main sites of pilgrimage of St. Rita are found in the cities of Cascia and Roccaporena, in Perugia, Italy.
In Cascia, one can visit:
-The monastery of St. Magdalene where St. Rita lived for 40 years as an Augustinian religious, until her death. Inside the monastery numerous relics of the saint are conserved: the vine which miraculously grew because of the saint’s act of obedience when she was told to water a dead stick every day; the well where she went to draw water; the old choir loft where St. Rita entered with the Augustinians, received her habit, professed her vows and where she normally prayed as a sister; the site where she received the thorn from the Lord’s crown; her cell; the urns which held the saint’s body; the ring she wore as a symbol of her vows; her rosary; and various other relics and articles.
- St. Rita’s Sanctuary where her incorrupt body currently rests for veneration by the faithful. A chapel with the Eucharistic miracle, which we speak about in the section on the Eucharist) can be found in the crypt of the sanctuary.
In Roccaporena you can visit:
- The house where the saint was born
- The house where she lived with her husband and her sons until she left for the convent, when she was widowed.
- The hospital where the saint attended to the sick.
- The church of San Montano, where Rita attended catequesis as a child, where she regularly attended mass and where she was married.
- A sanctuary constructed in honor of St. Rita where her cloak is conserved.
From the saint:
St. Rita left no written works.
From the popes:
- John Paul II's address during an audience with pilgrims devoted to St. Rita, during the year of the 100th anniversary of her canonization, May 20, 2000.
From other authors:
- Movie “St. Rita of Cascia” (Produced by Lux Vide in 2004, directed by Giorgio Capitani)