Today we celebrate the feast of one of the most well-known saints of our Order and one of the most popular of the Church. This attractiveness is due in part to Saint Rita's experience of many challenges in life, met always with great confidence in God and exemplary courage. She thus offers a valid example to people who share her various states of life as spouse, parent, widow and consecrated religious. She reminds us all that nothing is impossible to God.
Rita Lotti was born in 1381 in the little village of Roccaporena, Italy, the only child of a devout and humble Christian couple. She was given in marriage at a young age to Paolo Mancini and together they raised two sons. When Paolo was murdered as the result of a long-standing family rivalry, Rita was moved to forgiveness because of her strong Christian convictions, but her sons, teenagers by now, were determined to avenge their father's death. Her words were unable to change their hearts, but her prayers to God prevented them from exacting revenge. Both boys died of natural causes, leaving Rita without a family, but not without hope. After several years and various requests, she succeeded in gaining admittance to the convent of the Augustinians Nuns in Cascia where she lived the remaining forty years of her life in prayer and simple works of charity. At the age of 61, while at prayer on Good Friday before an image of Jesus crowned with thorns, she received the stigmata in the form of a single wound in her forehead. This remained until her death at 76 years of age on May 22, 1457. Rita of Cascia was canonized on May 24, 1900 by Leo XIII who proclaimed her "The Precious Pearl of Umbria". Her body is venerated in her basilica in Cascia.
Rita is venerated today as The Peacemaker, not only for her courageous act of forgiveness at her husband's death, but also for the continuous, though futile, encouragement of her sons to follow her example, and the reconciliation of Paolo's family with that of his assassins. This latter was the great 'miraculous deed' that gained her acceptance into the convent. She is also known as the Saint of the Impossible for the many challenges she faced in life and the many graces she has obtained since death.