May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious
Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.
Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.
Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.
She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.
Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.
- Patron Saint Index
Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.
You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy. Surely you don’t think scripture is wrong when it says: the spirit which he sent to live in us wants us for himself alone? But he has been even more generous to us, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.
After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.
They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
“You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
I’m in the midst of planning a holiday in London for my Mom and I. I haven’t seen my mother since my father passed away 2 years ago. It is imperative that this trip be perfect. Why? Because Mom is constantly ‘apologizing’ to her relatives and friends for her children’s shortcomings. I know to some of her more ‘high-minded’ friends, we have failed her as dutiful children. According to them, we’re neglectful. We don’t go home to see her enough. We’re indifferent. We’re selfish, too opinionated, too westernized. One even told her that we’re “irresponsible”, something you simply don’t say to a Chinese mother. Mom comes from that generation of women who care about what people think. I know it hurts her when her so-called friends whisper amongst themselves that her children are ‘ng hou sun’ (Cantonese for ‘unfilial’). I want this trip to be a blowout success so that those critics will, once and for all, be silenced.
Reading today’s passage from James, it has also occurred to me that my motivations might be a little… self-serving. “You ask but do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). That is an accurate summation of my situation. I am asking God to let this trip go well because it is not just her pride that is at stake – mine is too. But pride is rarely a good motivator for any kind of crusade. Is trying to redeem family pride wrong? The Chinese part of me emphatically says no; the Catholic part of me isn’t so sure. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:10).
Maybe I should stop focusing on achieving perfection and instead, reframe the conversation. The last time we saw each other, my Dad had just passed away. Mom and I were in the trenches trying to organize his funeral. The trips before that, we were also in the trenches, trying to cope with his illness. This will be the first time we’ll be together without having to worry about Dad’s situation. It’s going to be a strange feeling, not having that shared purpose to connect us. I’m hoping that we’ll let go of all the difficult emotions that arose from dealing with my father’s illness and death. Maybe being on neutral ground, we could learn to be kind to each other, to be kind to ourselves. I have not gotten over his passing. I wonder if she has.
I’m still hoping that God will grant us clement weather, a drama-free journey and peace of mind enough to be able to appreciate this time together. The whole ‘family pride’ thing aside, I want her to have a good time because she has earned it. She’s the lynchpin that has kept this family together. Maybe that would be ok with God?
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all the complicated relationships in our lives. All things are possible with Him. He can unravel – and simplify – even our most complex emotional webs. We bring all of our baggage and all our burdens to the foot of the Cross and surrender it all to Him.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who are constants in our lives, even if they live several time zones away.