St. Rita of Cascia
In 1381, St. Rita was born in Spoleto, Italy, to elderly parents who were such examples of Christian charity that they were known as “Peacemakers of Jesus Christ.” As devout as they were, however, they seem to have been somewhat misguided when they insisted on St. Rita’s marriage, at the age of 12, to a man well known for his violent temper, despite her pleas to be allowed to enter a convent.
St. Rita, obedient to her parents’ wishes, entered into the marriage and became a model wife and mother, although she suffered much from her husband’s cruel treatment. She bore him two sons, and although she tried to set them an example by her devotion to prayer and to the sacraments, the boys seemed destined to follow in their father’s violent footsteps.
After 18 years of ceaseless prayer, St. Rita was rewarded with the penitent conversion of her husband. He begged her forgiveness and became a considerate, God-fearing man. But her joy was short-lived, for soon afterward her husband was murdered in a vendetta. When St. Rita learned that her sons planned to avenge their father’s murder, she prayed to God to take them from this world before they committed such a grievous sin. Almost immediately, both boys fell ill. She nursed them lovingly, and they both died, reconciled with God.
Now a widow and childless, St. Rita applied for admission to the Augustinian convent in Cascia, but was refused because its rule only permitted virgins. After much prayer and entreaty, an exception was finally granted to her and she was allowed to enter in 1413. The story is told that St. Rita was miraculously transported into the monastery itself, despite its locked doors; when the nuns found her there in the morning, they allowed her to stay, taking it as the will of God.
In the same way that St. Rita had been a model mother and wife, now she became an exemplary religious, becoming known for her great charity and severe penances. Her prayers were effective in obtaining for others remarkable cures and other favors from God, and she also worked to bring about a return to the Faith by those who had left it.
In 1441, St. Rita heard a sermon by St. James della Marca on the Crown of Thorns. Wishing to share in our Lord’s passion, she prayed fervently until one day she felt her forehead being pierced, as if by a thorn. The pain was extreme and the wound gave off an unpleasant odor, but St. Rita considered it a great grace. She prayed, “O loving Jesus, increase my patience accordingly as my sufferings increase.” The wound, which remained with her for the rest of her life, became gaping and so unattractive to those around her that she was eventually forced to live in seclusion. The wound did heal enough, however, for St. Rita to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but it returned the moment she returned to her convent.
St. Rita died on May 22, 1457, at the age of 76. Her body remained incorrupt for several centuries, at times giving off a sweet fragrance. It is said that at her beatification, the body of the saint raised itself up and opened its eyes. St. Rita is called “The Saint of the Impossible” and is particularly invoked in cases of matrimonial difficulties.
Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church,
decided to choose representatives
and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.
The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas,
and Silas, leaders among the brothers.
This is the letter delivered by them:
“The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers,
to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia
of Gentile origin: greetings.
Since we have heard that some of our number
who went out without any mandate from us
have upset you with their teachings
and disturbed your peace of mind,
we have with one accord decided to choose representatives
and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are sending Judas and Silas
who will also convey this same message by word of mouth:
‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us
not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities,
namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols,
from blood, from meats of strangled animals,
and from unlawful marriage.
If you keep free of these,
you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’“
And so they were sent on their journey.
Upon their arrival in Antioch
they called the assembly together and delivered the letter.
When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation.
PS 57:8-9, 10 AND 12
R. (10a) I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and chant praise.
Awake, O my soul; awake, lyre and harp!
I will wake the dawn.
R. I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O LORD,
I will chant your praise among the nations.
For your mercy towers to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the skies.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
above all the earth be your glory!
R. I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”