22 May – St Rita
She was born near Cascia, in Umbria in Italy. She was married at the age of 12 despite her frequently repeated wish to become a nun. Her husband was rich, quick-tempered and immoral and had many enemies. She endured his insults, abuse and infidelities for 18 years and bore him two sons, who grew to be like him.
Towards the end of his life she helped to convert her husband to a more pious way of life, but he was stabbed to death by his enemies not long afterwards. He repented before he died and was reconciled to the Church.
Her sons planned to avenge their father’s death. When Rita’s pleas were unavailing, she prayed that God should take their lives if that was the only way to preserve them from the sin of murder. They died of natural causes a year later.
Rita asked to join the convent of St Mary Magdalen at Cascia. She was rejected for being a widow, since the convent was for virgins only, and later given the impossible task of reconciling her family with her husband’s murderers. She carried out the task and was allowed to enter the convent at the age of 36. She remained there until her death at the age of 70.
She is widely honoured as a patron saint of impossible or lost causes.
King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’
After Jesus had shown himself to his disciples and eaten with them, he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’
In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’
I have always admired the way a child follows the directions and instructions of their parents. Some may say it amounts to blind obedience but I believe that there lies within the child, a total trust in the parent to care and protect him/her from the interferences of the world. Sometimes, I believe that this is the type of faith we need to have in Jesus as we learn in today’s readings.
St Peter must have been going through a difficult time in this Reconciliation with Jesus. Indeed, there is a possibility that he may have felt total embarrassment that Jesus had to ask Him the same question three times. The number of times, in my opinion, was not an accident but to allow St Peter to make peace with Jesus for the three times He denied Jesus. St Peter had to restore the trust in God which he denied during the time of the Passion. Is this something which is worth being upset about as indicated in the Gospel?
I believe that making our peace with God is always something difficult because we need to come to terms with our own failings while asking God to heal us. This is definitely a painful experience in our faith journey because we have to acknowledge our own failings. However, such an acknowledgement will make us better believers and followers, because we can truly understand the struggles which the people around us go through. In doing so, they can realise our own failings and use us as examples on their Christian journey towards remaining faithful to God and to receiving our eternal reward.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Dear Lord, let us acknowledge our failings and allow us to remain faithful to your Word.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who heal us from our past hurts.