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Catholic Activity: St. Rita of Cascia

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For homemakers who go about their daily chores with an eye on the television set, St. Rita will be a welcome friend. Her story is one to match any TV melodrama. Her feast is May 22.

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Born into a humble Italian peasant family in 1381, Rita was the child of her parents' old age. From her earliest years she yearned to enter a convent, but her parents overruled her wishes and forced her into an unhappy marriage. Her husband was cruel and dissolute, and for eighteen years she bore his abuse and unfaithfulness. Her two sons grew up to be just like their father, although Rita prayed constantly for all three. At long last her husband came to regret his sinful life and begged her forgiveness. But not long after this he was killed, and his sons vowed to avenge him. Now Rita had to pray harder than ever that they would not turn murderers. Then they fell ill, and Rita devoted herself to their care. Both sons repented their ways on their deathbed. Widowed, childless, and alone, Rita sought peace at last in a convent. There she spent her remaining years, caring for the ill and aged nuns.

Tradition associates both roses and figs with St. Rita. As she lay dying, she asked a friend to bring her a rose from her garden at home. No roses bloomed at this season, but the friend went off anyway, to gratify Rita's whim. To her surprise, she found a bush in full bloom. She carried a rose to Rita and asked what else she might do. "Bring me two figs from my garden," Rita replied. Once more, the friend hastened to the garden, and there she found two ripe figs on a leafless tree.

Perhaps for this reason, Rita is known as the saint of the impossible and a comfort and help to those who have heavy burdens to bear. Serve a confection of figs on her day, and be sure to have some roses on your dining table.

Activity Source: Cook's Blessings, The by Demetria Taylor, Random House, New York, 1965