Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Not Just For The Desperate

St Rita of Cascia is often invoked for "impossible situations" - when Anthony has not earned his fiver, or Jude has too many desperate cases on his books, people turn to Rita, the patron of impossible cases.  Now Catholic devotional history can be quirky at times, and yes it has been known to verge into the realm of the mad, the strange and the downright heretical.  So great care must be taken to keep us on the right road.
The first thing to note on the feast of St Rita is that it is God who answers our prayers - the Saints make intercession for us, and that intercession is most welcome for our lives, as is their friendship, their example and their writings.  Saints do have particular patronages, and we should indeed invoke the various Saints under their patronages, but we must be careful not to think that one Saint can trump another when it comes our requests.  God may well grant a request when a particular Saint is invoked rather than when another is invoked, but this is because God wants us to look at that Saint for a particular reason - for their example or for a lesson.
St Rita teaches us many lessons, one of the most important being endurance in faith.  She had her troubles, and what troubles!  An unhappy marriage, wayward children, opposition to her vocation, and then when she finally became a religious other problems emerged through her mystical life.  Yet in spite of it all she never lost her faith in God, nor stopped striving to love him more.  In this fidelity and love, she was sanctified.  Rita is indeed a Saint to invoke when we find ourselves with difficulties we may think are impossible to overcome. Rita reminds us that for God all things are possible, and if we put our trust in Christ we will be not be confounded and we will be delivered.  That is good news for today.
There are many beautiful stories too from St Rita's life - the story of the bees will appeal to the more ecological among us - how the bees gathered around her cradle after her birth and became a sign of the sweetness of the holiness which would mark her life.  The story of the twig is also lovely - how a twig she planted in the ground began to grow and became a vine which to this day produces grapes - that is most certainly a sign whose meaning we find in St John's Gospel.  
Her stigmata has attracted attention - instead of wounds in her hands, feet and side, she bore a single wound on her forehead, a wound from the crown of thorns.  This wound led to her isolation within the community because of its odour - some of the sisters could not cope with the smell, so Rita spent most, if not all her time, in her cell.  Often, those who are united to Christ and endure his suffering find themselves alone in the world either through misunderstanding, fear or even hatred.  St Rita teaches us that despite this, we should cling to Christ all the more and never stop loving our brothers and sisters regardless of how they treat us.  In reality, the more we conform to Christ, the more the world becomes suspicious of us.  Despite her isolation in the community because of the wound, Rita was still loved and her sanctity was obvious. Her suffering gained many graces for the sisters in her community and for those who asked her prayers: as followers of Christ we must always remember that suffering bears fruit, much fruit.
Today I greet all my Augustinian friends! St Rita is one of their great Saints, and as a true daughter of St Augustine and St Monica, she reveals in her life, both in the ordinary events of that life and the mystical, how to follow the Lord.  Like Augustine her heart was aflame with love and she sought to set others on fire with that love.  I pray today that her Augustinian brothers and sisters will continue to set hearts on fire with love for God; to help people remain faithful to Christ and his Church, and in the spirit of St Augustine, to explain those teachings which are often rejected by many but within which we find the way to true happiness.  Happy feast day to them all!
The body of St Rita exposed for veneration at her shrine in Cascia


  1. Hello Fr John,

    Like most people my age (21) I'm not very religious and stopped going to mass etc when my parents no longer made me but I enjoy your blog - it's interesting and challenges the "conventional wisdom" of my peer group and has made me examine my faith, I never stopped believing but I guess I took a "there'll be time for that later" approach - plus a lot of things didn't sit comfortably with the aforementioned "conventional wisdom".

    Anyway I really enjoy the posts about saints, but I don't understand intercession or invoking saints - you say here that:

    "God may well grant a request when a particular Saint is invoked rather than when another is invoked, but this is because God wants us to look at that Saint for a particular reason - for their example or for a lesson."

    So does that mean that one needs to invoke a saint? What if someone makes a request, how do they know if it wasn't granted because God wanted them to look to another Saint for guidance or because He decided not to grant it for whatever reason? What if you don't know about the other saint? Should a person investigate all the "applicable" (forgive the language) Saints before making a request? How do you know which one to invoke? For example St Jude or St Rita for a desperate case - how do you avoid ending up going through Saints until you find one which "works", or as you say, is this what god wants, for you to learn something from a particular saint?

    Or is there a need to invoke a Saint at all when making a request?

    Sorry for all the questions, just a bit confused.



  2. Thank you, David, for your remarks and your questions.

    Do we need to invoke the Saints? No and yes. No in the sense that we only need God and we can pray to him directly and seek his aid. Yes in the sense that in praying to the Saints we enter into their friendship and they into ours, and so we enter more deeply into the communion of Saints. Ultimately we are all brothers and sisters, and God likes it when we get to know our brothers and sisters and we help each other. The Saints are raised up for us, and in invoking them we can come to know and love them, and learn from their lives.

    As regards which Saint to invoke. I think this is where the providence of God comes in. I believe we are led to certain Saints in our lives. Someone once said that we do not choose the Saints, they choose us, and there is truth to that.

    When I wrote about God granting prayers through one Saint in order to teach a lesson, I was primarily thinking of the patronages rather than testing all the Saints, moving from one to another until our prayer is answered. A Catholic may have devotion to one Saint, but then in a particular need turn to another whose patronage covers that need. In dealing with that particular difficulty, God may well speak to the person through the life and teaching of the patron Saint. For example someone may have devotion to St Anthony, but then know someone with cancer and it seems in their prayer to St Anthony nothing seems to be happening. However, they may then be inspired to pray to St Peregrine, the patron of cancer sufferers. As they pray to him, they learn about his conversion, his endurance and his trust in God, and God may also grant a healing.

    There may be times when we have a need, our Saint seems not to be answering, and then something happens and another Saint seems to "pop up" - this is God's providence in leading us to a Saint for a reason. A recent example will explain this.

    At the moment the Church is examining a possible miracle worked through the intercession of the Venerable Pius XII. Originally prayers were being offered to Blessed John Paul II for the sick person, but one night in a dream the husband of the sick woman saw John Paul who said to him: "I can do nothing for her: you must go to him." At that point another Pope appeared - Pius XII. The man took this as a sign, and so told people to pray to Pius XII, and then the healing took place. If this is true - it is still being investigated, it would illustrate what I am talking about. In God's plan, Pius XII was to be invoked so the miracle for his beatification could be worked.

    Do not worry, or be confused. Pray to God, entrust yourself to Our Lady, and learn about the Saints, and then let the Holy Spirit lead you to those Saints who have lessons for your life. As you live you will find that different Saints will emerge at different times in your life, and that is part of joy of living within the communion of Saints. And as you come to know the Saints one of the first lessons you learn is that of trust in God, so as we take that to heart, we allow the Lord to lead. As Blessed Julian of Norwich famously wrote: "All will be well, all manner of things will be well".

    God bless,

    Fr John