St. Rita of Cascia, a wife, mother, religious sister, and daughter of God. The feast day of today images to us women what it is like to be a daughter of the Father, a woman sharing her “feminine genius” with the world, even with life’s unexpected turns.
Rita was born in Italy in the 1300s, and married a man named Paulo Mancini, with whom she had two sons. Life had its own messiness to it, as tragedy struck the family with the death of her husband. Paulo was murdered due to political divisions of the time, and Rita’s sons sought to avenge their father’s murder.
And yet, in this place, time, and amongst these people, God chose Rita to be a witness of His love. He radiated His goodness to others through her unique gifts, especially her forgiveness and sensitivity to others amidst life’s struggles. And these gifts of hers are a witness to us even today.
At the death of her husband, Rita probably experienced much fear and anger in regards to the evils done to her family. By the ill-will of other people, her husband was killed, her sons were without a father, and she had to care for her family as a single mother. She probably experienced the many emotions and feelings of grief at that time, and yet, was able to make room for the others in her life, especially her own children.
Nurturing the well-being of her sons and desiring that they not give into hatred, Rita encouraged them to forgive the men who killed their father. Less than a year later, when her own two sons died, she was consoled by the fact that at least they did not separate themselves from God by acting in revenge.
Rita received the stigmata of Christ's thorn in her head, showing in particular her deep union with others in their suffering. She is an image like that of Mary at the foot of the Cross, living out the life, death, and Resurrection of Christ by her own life. Due to her own prayers and actions, a form of her spiritual and physical motherhood, the political divisions and hatred ceased. It was in the midst of the wounds and pains of her own life that Rita found her call to heal the wounds of others.
Rita is a passionate example to us of what it is to be a woman in love with God. Her life was anything but ideal, and yet, she allowed God to enter into that. She allowed the circumstances of life to be encounters with God, pointing to her deepest desires for Him. In such situations, she was open and receptive to God’s love for her, and in doing so was able to radiate that to those in her life.
On today’s feast, we have a witness of what beauty in femininity looks like - how it is unique, and also so beautiful when lived out to the fullest. As we celebrate a woman on fire with the love of God, even amidst difficult circumstances, let us reflect on our own feminine gifts which are unique to each one of us. Today is a day to ask ourselves, “Do I try to change the circumstances of my life, or do I strive to encounter God in the difficult situations and people He puts in my life? How can I share the gift of my spiritual or physical motherhood today with those under my care?” On this this feast day, may St. Rita intercede for us to share our sensitivity to the needs of others with those around us!