Much like the cross we wear on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, St. Rita of Cascia also wore a mark of faith on her forehead — however hers was permanent, a stigmata in the shape of a piercing thorn.
Born near Cascia, Italy, in 1381, Rita wished to enter religious life when she was a girl. Despite her wishes, her parents arranged her marriage to a nobleman when she was 12. She had two sons, but her marriage was reportedly tumultuous and abusive. After 18 years of marriage, her husband was murdered, and her sons later died. Rita returned to fulfilling her dream of religious life by joining the Augustinian Nuns of Saint Mary Magdalene Monastery in Cascia.
When she was 60, Rita was meditating before an image of Jesus, and received a wound, or stigmata, on her forehead which resembled the mark of a thorn, like the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ. Images of St. Rita portray her with this mark, and when her body was exhumed, her corpus was found to be incorrupt with the mark still on her forehead.
Her last words were reported to be: “Remain in the holy love of Jesus. Remain in obedience to the holy Roman Church. Remain in peace and fraternal charity.”
Wikipedia reports that there was a movie made in Italian about St. Rita’s life, “Rita of Cascia,” in 1943.
St. Rita of Cascia’s feast day is May 22. She is the patron of impossible causes, abused women, mothers, beekeepers and baseball.
For more information on her life, see Franciscan Media’s biography here.
For information on the National Shrine of St. Rita in Philadelphia, click here.
For the St. Rita Novena, click here.