St. Rita of Cascia: A Saint for All People
Updated: Feb 18
St. Luke reminds us that “nothing will be impossible for God.” And while I certainly believe this, I also know that the trials and struggles of daily life can still feel impossible at times. It can be hard to ignore the very real hurdles that I face and that so many others face on a daily basis. Women who experience infertility know first-hand the complexity of emotions that come with not being able to bear children. No matter the assurances of family, friends, and even scripture, life can still feel really impossible.
A few years ago, I made plans to travel to Rome for the first time, and to my delightful surprise, my father asked to join me. Since I moved 540 miles away from home, these kinds of adventurous trips have become cherished moments for the both of us. As we dreamt about the trip and finalized our arrangements, we settled on a relatively simple travel plan: my father would leave from Charlotte, North Carolina and I would leave from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We would meet up at London Heathrow International Airport and then take the same flight into Rome.
When I arrived in London, I was a little disheveled and confused from my overnight flight, but I was also excited and ready to begin my Italian vacation! What started out simple enough, quickly became a rather difficult process. My phone died and the adapter that I brought didn’t match the outlets that I found in the airport. When I finally converted some of my money into euros, I found a store that sold the right charger and spent way too much money to purchase it, only to remember that I opted out of the international data plan. Once my phone turned back on, I had to connect to the shoddy airport internet to access Facebook messenger to send my dad a message about my location. When I realized that wasn’t going to work because neither of us regularly use that function of Facebook, I quickly downloaded WhatsApp onto my phone. I sent my dad a message but got no immediate response.
At this point, I wasn’t panicking. I had traveled internationally before and I had a cool head on my shoulders. I decided to look at the arriving flights and head to the gate where the flight from North Carolina had landed, certain that I would find my father somewhere close by. When I made my way to that gate and didn’t see him, I spoke with an American Airlines agent only to discover that the plane had already been there for a couple of hours and its passengers were long gone. I checked my phone again but still had no answer. Panic slowly began to creep in but I still felt in control of the situation. Even as the worst-case scenarios began to enter my mind, I was confident everything would be fine. I sent another message through WhatsApp and then decided to sit by the gate where our flight for Rome would be departing. The old adage to “stay in place if you are lost” came to mind so I sat down and waited. After about an hour, the airline began boarding. Now my sense of control began to fade and I really started to panic. Do I go on to Rome without my dad? Do I call home to North Carolina and ask my mom if something happened? Do I just wait until I find him and then take a later flight? This situation, and all of the hurdles I encountered in a matter of two hours, started to feel impossible.
And then, the moment I dreaded finally arrived: my zone was called to board. I looked around, panicked, scared, confused and angry. Where was my father and what should I do? Almost as quickly as this lamentation crossed my mind, I see a father-like figure among the crowd. With a sigh of relief, I see my father walking towards me with a coffee in hand and a smile on his face. I quickly gave him a hug, followed by a line of exasperated questioning. Where were you? Why didn’t you pick up your phone? Why didn’t you find me earlier? Are you OK? Are you hurt? I almost called mom! His answers were so simple and reasonable: he was sitting in the large waiting area watching people walk by. We must have just missed each other. His phone was off because he didn’t want the international charges. We made a plan and he was certain it would work out. He looked for me a little bit, but also knew to sit still if you were lost. He was confident that we would see each other at the gate. He wasn’t worried. And of course he was OK. He was also grateful I didn’t call mom to tell her that we were lost in another country. It took a while for my legitimate worries and frustrations to subside, but I was also mostly grateful that what seemed to be impossible, worked out in the end.
There are a plenty of moments in life, some big and others small, some significant others insignificant, that can feel impossible. In these moments, we would do well to befriend St. Rita of Cascia, the patron saint of impossible causes.
The life of St. Rita of Cascia offers us a roadmap and a hope-filled approach to these impossible moments of our lives. St. Rita was a remarkable woman of faith who was known as a healer, reconciler, and peacemaker in her day. But, just as important, she is known for facing the countless trials of life with deep faith, perseverance, and hope. When she lost her husband to violence and her two young sons to disease, St. Rita didn’t seek revenge, but fell deeply into prayer where she found great comfort in God’s abiding presence. This relationship had a sustaining effect on St. Rita. She found consolation as well as the hope and power she needed to begin picking up the pieces of her life with a clear purpose.
In addition to this deeply embedded sense of hope, St. Rita also had a strong devotion and friendship with her three patron saints: St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentine. With their prayers, St. Rita found the impossibilities and struggles of daily life to be a little more bearable. This was especially true when, after losing her husband and sons, St. Rita expressed a desire to enter the convent and become an Augustinian nun. Instead of acceptance though, St. Rita was turned away for fear that violence from her husband’s murder would find its way into the convent. Abandoned, lost, confused, sad and angry, St. Rita relied on her three patron saints for help. Persistent in her faith and committed to becoming an Augustinian nun, St. Rita decided that if she could settle the conflict and bring peace to her husband’s family and the family of his murderer, she could make a strong case for entrance into the convent. With another seemingly impossible task before her, St. Rita prevailed and was able to not only gain entrance into religious life, but bring reconciliation and healing to the two families.
St. Rita happily lived out the rest of her life in the convent. She received a partial stigmata and also experienced the miracle of a rose on her deathbed. On countless occasions, she faced unbelievable challenges and yet she relied on God’s abiding presence and found the strength to persevere. For those of us who desire peace in our hearts, our families and our world, we have only to look to St. Rita of Cascia for friendship and inspiration. All those who seek her powerful intercession realize the same thing: Rita of Cascia is a saint for all people because she understands the importance of faith, perseverance and hope in the midst of pain, grief, loss and anger. Her friendship reminds us that even when life seems most impossible, God’s promise of hope springs eternal. For all those who face seemingly impossible situations, I invite you to seek the friendship of St. Rita of Cascia and let her intercede to God on your behalf. St. Rita, help of those in need, pray for us.
Jonathan Jerome is the Director of the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia in Philadelphia, PA. To learn more about the shrine, visit www.SaintRitaShrine.org. The annual Solemn Novena to St. Rita of Cascia takes place May 13, 2021 through May 21, 2021, with additional prayers and resources available on the shrine’s social media accounts. You are also invited to join the shrine on May 22, 2021 for the Solemn Feast Day of St. Rita. Both in-person as well as virtual options are available on the feast day, with the 12:00noon. (EST) noon Mass being broadcast live on EWTN.