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St. Rita of Cascia, Pray For Us!

St. Rita of Cascia, Pray For Us!

Painting of St. Rita of Cascia in the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel, Basilica di Sant Andrea delle Fratte, Rome, Italy, on Sept. 3, 2016. (photo: Shutterstock)

 

St. Rita is now honored as the patroness of impossible causes, as well as of difficult marriages and infertility.

Throughout my high school and college years, I was told constantly by teachers, professors and essentially every other speaker I heard, to “follow my dreams.” Sometimes a quick reference was made of failure, usually to drive home a point about perseverance, but the big takeaway was always that I could succeed at anything to which I set my mind.

It’s a common theme for young people setting off into the world. They are told they have bright horizons to look forward to, and every graduation card is filled with sweet rhymes about the places they’ll go.

But what if those dreams aren’t meant to come true? Suppose the perfect spouse is not met nor the dream job found? What if the imagined gaggle of children is instead a series of negative tests and lost little ones?

Or perhaps the dreams do come true in a way, but the result is all so different than what was hoped for or planned, what then?

We live in a world that seeks constantly to shield itself from disappointment. There is nothing wrong with optimism, but we cannot assume that each dream will come true. When we do, then if anything less than our rosy vision comes to fruition we spiral into despair and self-pity, trying to figure out why all those limitations we were told we were immune to are somehow thwarting us.

St. Rita of Cascia, a 14th-century wife and mother turned widow and eventual nun, sets a holy example of avoiding this trap.

St. Rita’s dream was to enter a convent. But despite her pleas, her family instead married her off to a brutal and violent man when she was barely childbearing age. Rita was heartbroken, but she immediately consoled herself with the knowledge that God’s will was for her to bear this Cross, and she did. She bore two sons and was widowed at a young age. Rita greatly feared for her sons, lest they follow their father’s footsteps and meet their own deaths, but they were already grown and had no interest in her heeding. Falling to her knees, the distraught mother begged God that if her children were to die, that they do so before maiming their own souls with murder. Her prayer was answered albeit not in the way she wanted. Rather than turning themselves to lives of peace, the young men died of illness. Rita’s grieved her sons, but gave thanks that her sons had not died in a state of mortal sin, and thus could hope for heaven.

Following the deaths of her children, Rita sought entrance to a convent in Cascia, and after many trials — due to the feuds in which her late husband had participated — she was admitted, finally fulfilling her lifelong dream of committing herself solely to Christ.

St. Rita lived four decades as a nun, receiving the gift of the stigmata on her forehead 15 years before her death at age 76. At first glance, her life is one of disappointment, sorrow and grief. Her early dreams were crushed, she endured a difficult marriage, suffered the loss of her husband quickly followed by the deaths of her children. If she had lived in a time like ours, so risk-averse and terrified of pain, she would likely have been crushed by the burdens she was asked to bear.

Instead however, she leaned into her trials, trusting that God’s plan surpassed her own, and that by relying on his grace, she would receive greater happiness than she had ever imagined. She did not become bitter, and she did not withhold her love from God until he had proven himself to her by granting her wishes.

St. Rita is now honored as the patroness of impossible causes, as well as of difficult marriages and infertility.

St. Rita refused to sink into despair because her hopes and dreams were not realized. She accepted God’s will for her life, believing that though his plan for her brought suffering he would only allow that pain if it could lead to greater joy in him. Now, she stands in heaven, interceding for the young couple with empty hands yearning for a child, or the woman suffering in an abusive marriage. Like all saints, her intercession leads to miracles, but we must not presume that those miracles will bear any resemblance to the ones for which we’ve asked. She prays for those broken by disappointment, not for their wishes to be granted, but so they may face their sorrow as she was able to do throughout her life, with joy and undying hope in God’s goodness.

St. Rita of Cascia, pray for us!

 

 

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