Read: "Why Saint Rita gives hope to those in difficult marriages" by Richard Budd, Director of Marriage & Family Life, Diocese of Lansing

Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Rita of Cascia, patron saint of difficult marriages, writes Richard Budd who is the Director of Marriage & Family Life for the Diocese of Lansing. Richard continues:

Saint Rita was born in 1381 near Cascia, Italy and, as was the custom at the time, was married by arranged marriage at the age of twelve to a nobleman named Paolo Mancini.

Paolo was known to be a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who had many enemies and was often embroiled in feuds between rival families. Rita herself suffered greatly from her marriage to Paolo. In those days, women did not have much recourse when they found themselves in a toxic marriage and Rita suffered his insults, infidelity, and according to some reports, physical abuse for almost eighteen years. Through her humility, kindness, and patience, she was actually able to convert her husband away from his violent ways and he renounced a major feud he was caught up in. However, his allies betrayed him, and he was stabbed to death.

Then, as a widow, Rita wanted to join the convent, but the sisters were hesitant to have someone join their convent who was connected with such violence. As a condition of her admittance, they told her she had reconcile her family with her husband’s murderers. She was able to achieve peace between the warring factions and at the age of 36, entered the convent where she lived until she died at the age of 75. She is often depicted in art with a small wound on her forehead which is meant to indicate she bore the partial stigmata, the wounds of Christ on her body.

There are obviously elements of Saint Rita’s life which contrast with our current way of living. We do not marry our children at the age of 12 by arranged marriage, and we no longer view quiet endurance of physical abuse as a virtue. On the contrary, we encourage women to separate from their husbands in these situations. However, Saint Rita has much to offer as an example to us Christians today.

As a woman in a difficult marriage, she worked for the conversion and reconciliation of her spouse, eventually achieving his conversion before his untimely death. She is an example of a wife who took seriously her sacramental vocation for the sanctification of her husband.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that, “Matrimony, [is] directed towards the salvation of others; if [it] contribute[s] as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that [it] does so.” Many husbands and wives are married to spouses who do not share their faith or who are caught in deep cycles of sin. Saint Rita is an example of a spouse who tirelessly loved her husband so that he did not remain in his sin.

Secondly, Saint Rita is a great woman of peace. Not only did she work to change her husband’s heart to peace, but she also worked at settling disputes between warring families and tribes, something that took great courage and persistence in the face of violent and intimidating men. At a time in our history in which families are often torn apart by politics, ideology, and vice, Saint Rita can be a powerful intercessor to God for the grace to establish peace in our homes.

Saint Rita of Cascia, pray for us!