Saint Rita was born Margherita Lotti in Roccaporena, Italy in 1381. The day after her baptism, Rita was surrounded by a swarm of white bees, which went in and out of her infant mouth without hurting her. Rather than being alarmed, her family believed she was marked to be virtuous and devoted to God.
At an early age, she begged her parents to allow her to enter a convent but was instead arranged to be married to a cruel man named Paolo Mancini. Young Rita became a wife and mother at only twelve years of age and her husband was a man of violent temper. In anger, he often mistreated Rita verbally and physically. He was also known to pursue other women and he had many enemies.
Paolo had many enemies in Cascia, but Rita’s influence over him eventually led him to be a better man. He even renounced a family feud between the Mancinis and Chiquis. Unfortunately, the feud between the Mancini and Cascia family grew turbulent and one of Paolo’s allies betrayed and killed him.
Following her husband’s death, Rita gave his murderers a public pardon, but Paolo’s brother, Bernardo, was still angry and encouraged Rita’s two sons, Giovanni Antonio and Paulo Maria, to join the feud. Under their uncle’s leadership, each boy became more and more like their father had been before Rita married him, and they wanted to avenge their father’s murder.
Rita attempted to stop them, but both of her sons were determined to revenge their slain father. Rita prayed to God, asking Him to take her sons before they lost their souls to the mortal sin of murder. One year later, her prayers were answered when both of her sons fell prey to dysentery and died.
Following the deaths of her sons, Rita attempted to enter the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene in Cascia, but she was not allowed to join. Though Rita’s character and piety were recognized, her husband’s association with the family feud was greatly feared.
When Rita persisted, the convent told her she could join if she could find a way to mend the wound between the Chiquis and Mancinis.
After asking John the Baptist, Augustine of Hippo, and Nicholas of Tolentino to help her in her task, she attempted to end the feud.
The bubonic plague had been spreading through Italy at that time, and when Bernardo Mancini became infected, he finally abolished the feud with the Chiqui family.
Once the conflict was resolved, Rita was allowed to enter the monastery at the age of thirty-six. It is said that she was transported into the monastery of Saint Magdalene through levitation at night by the three patron saints she appealed to.
While at the monastery, Rita performed her duties faithfully and received the sacraments frequently. Rita had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ, and one day, when she was sixty-
year-old, she asked, “Please let me suffer like you, Divine Saviour.”
After her request, a wound appeared on her forehead, as if a thorn from Christ’s crown had pierced her. It left a deep wound, which did not heal, and it caused her to suffer until the day she died.
It is said that as she neared the end of her life, Rita was bedridden from tuberculosis. It was then that she asked a cousin who had come to visit for a rose from the garden in her old home. As it was January, her cousin did not expect to find any roses, but there was a single rose in bloom, which was brought back to Rita at the convent.
She passed away four months later, on May 22, 1457.
Following her death, she was buried at the basilica of Cascia, and was later discovered to be incorrupt. Her body can be found today in the Saint Rita shrine at Cascia.
Rita was beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1627 and canonized by Pope Leo XII on May 24, 1900.
Saint Rita is often portrayed in a black habit, which is historically inaccurate as the sisters at the Saint
Magdalene monastery wore beige or brown. She is also often shown to hold a thorn, a large Crucifix, or a palm leaf with three thorns to represent her husband and two sons.
In some images, Saint Rita is shown to have a wound on her forehead, holding a rose, or to be surrounded by bees.
Novena to St. Rita
O Holy Patroness of those in need, Saint Rita, whose pleadings before thy Divine Lord are almost irresistable, who for thy lavishness in granting favors hast been called the Advocate of the hopeless and even of the Impossible; Saint Rita, so humble, so pure, so mortified, so patient and of compassionate love for thy Crucified Jesus that thou couldst obtain from him whatsoever thou askest, on account of which all confidently have recourse to thee, expecting, if not always relief, at least comfort; be propitious to our petition, showing thy power with God on behalf of thy suppliant; be lavish to us, as thou hast been in so many wonderful cases, for the greater glory of God, for the spreading of thine own devotion, and for the consolation of those who trust in thee.
We promise, if our petition is granted, to glorify, thee by making known thy favor, to bless and sing thy praises forever. Relying then upon thy merits and power before the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we pray thee grant that (REQUEST) obtain for us our request by the singular merits of thy childhood, thy perfect union with the Divine Will, thy heroic sufferings during thy married life, the consolation thou didst experience at the conversion of thy husband, the sacrifice of thy children rather than see them grievously offend God, thy miraculous entrance into the convent, thy severe penances and thrice daily bloody scourgings, thy suffering caused by the wound thou didst receive from the thorn of thy Crucified Saviour, thy divine love which consumed thy heart, that remarkable devotion to the Blessed Sacrament on which alone thou didst exist for four years, the happiness with which thou didst part from thy trials to join thy Divine Spouse, the perfect example thou gavest to people of every state of life.
Pray for us, O holy Saint Rita, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.