Died: May 22nd, 1457
FEast: May 22nd
parents, impossible causes, domestic violence, abuse, loneliness, widows, loss of children
Margherita (whose name means "pearl") was born in a small Italian village to well-respected parents. After her baptism, a story goes that white bees flew in and out of her mouth without harming her, and her parents took it as a sign that she would live a special life for God. She was called "Rita" as a nickname, and she was drawn even from an early age to religious life. Her parents arranged a marriage for her, however, when she was only 12, so that she would have safety and security, whether or not she was happy.
Rita married a nobleman named Paolo Mancini. He was rich, angered easily, and was often abusive towards Rita. He openly pursued other women, and had many enemies, including an entire family with which his family was engaged in a blood feud.
Over time, apparently, Rita's kindness and faithfulness had an effect on Paolo, and he began to soften. He even got to the stage of announcing an end to the feud, but his ally betrayed him and he was violently stabbed to death anyway.
Rita had been married to Paolo 18 years by then, and had two young sons. The culture at the time set the precedent that the two should be raised to get revenge on their father's murderer, and despite Rita's protests, the boys' uncle raised them to do exactly that. Even though Rita publicly apologized and asked again for an end to the feud at her husband's funeral, her sons were persuaded to live with their uncle at the family estate rather than Rita's home.
Rita was devastated by the way her sons were growing into mean-spirited men like her husband had first been. She prayed and begged God for an end to the cycle of killing and revenge. She got her wish, but not in the way she had hoped - both sons passed away of disease and left her without any family.
Rita knew then that she was called to enter the monastery that she had grown up with and loved. She was unsuccessful at entering, however. The sisters were worried that her being there after being part of such a terrible feud would give the convent a bad reputation despite her own good character. There were also sisters in the convent who were a part of the feuding family, and the sisters worried about their interactions. The sisters then decided they would allow her to enter if she was able to get the two families to make peace once and for all.
Rita's task was not an easy one, but the Bubonic plague swept through the area not long after she began in her efforts. Worn down by their losses and amazed at Rita's strength and determination, the two families did finally decide once and for all to make peace.
Rita was 36 when she was finally allowed into the convent. She lived a peaceful, faith-filled life there for many years until she was 60 and asked Jesus if she could suffer as he did to better understand. A wound appeared on her forehead then much like a wound from Jesus' crown of thorns. It never healed, and she suffered from it for the rest of her life.
Rita grew progressively weaker as she grew older with tuberculosis. A story goes that a cousin came to visit her four months before she passed. She asked the cousin to bring her a rose from her family home's garden. The cousin was skeptical of the task since it was January, but she found one rose in bloom and brought it to Rita. Rita believed it to be a sign of restoration and peace since it was a sign of spring that grew out of the cold ground under which her husband and sons had been buried after such tragedies. She believed God had used her to bring about that peace.
Rita's body was declared to be incorrupt, and is still on display today.
you well understand what abuse and violence victims go through, May you empower them, give them support, and bless them with opportunities and ways out. May people seek to help them and not stand idly by when they see violence occur. May we understand reasons violence and abuse happen in the first place and work to eliminate them.
Rita's symbols of bees and roses are included in her clothing and accessories. Her expression is one of fear, devastation, and anger. She had so much to deal with in her life before she was finally given peace, and I think it is so important for us to see the saints as people who had those sorts of emotions, too.