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St. Rita–possibly short for Margherita, better known as a delicious type of pizza–was born to somewhat elderly parents in Cascia, Italy, near Umbria. Antonio and Amata Lotti, her parents, were quite devout and known as “peacemakers of Jesus,” and that’s why they managed to have a kid at an advanced age. There’s a tale about how, as an infant, bees flew in and out of her mouth without harming her at all. Yum.

Being peacemakers of Jesus didn’t prevent her parents from forcing her to marry the abusive Paolo Mancini at age twelve, even though she repeatedly told them she’d much rather go into a convent. Soon after they married (so, at age thirteen or fourteen), she gave birth to twin boys. Interestingly, even though all the sources focus on how great Rita was, some seem to go out of their way to apologize for her husband’s abuse. A few claim that, as a town watchman, he got “sucked into” a family feud and took the stress out on his wife, and more say that due to her sweet and holy temperament she miraculously changed his demeanor and he became an absolute delight. Sure he did. That’s exactly how abusers work!

Rita and Paolo were married for eighteen years, until he was murdered, probably because he was such a jerk. Their sons, who took after their father, began planning revenge–remember, everybody, the word “vendetta” is from Italian. Selecting the most logical route, Rita prayed for their deaths so that their immortal souls wouldn’t be stained with such an egregious sin. Given that the Catholic church puts so much emphasis on intent, I’m not really sure how that works since they wanted to murder someone, but I assume it’s been convolutedly explained away.

With her family dead, it was finally time for Rita to achieve her dreams: the convent. She applied to join the Augustinian convent that had been the object of her youthful dreams, but was denied since one had to be a virgin to qualify. Long story short, she asked really nicely a bunch of times, and ended up getting in by breaking and entering with St. Augustine, John the Baptist and St. Nicholas of Torentino offering their holy help. When the sisters discovered her miraculously there in the morning, they couldn’t turn her down any more.

One day while meditating in front of a crucifix, she asked Jesus to be permitted to suffer like him. In response to this request, a thorn shot off of the statue’s crown and wounded her in the forehead. Lots of saints are credited with having stigmata, but according to the article on it in Catholic Online, she’s the only one known to have a bad smell emanating from the wound.

She died in 1457, and is now the patron of impossible causes. Pray to her on May 22 and maybe the Redskins will win the Superbowl.

Catholic Encyclopedia

West Coast Augustinians (from the Book of Augustinian Saints)

St. Rita of Cascia: Saint of the Impossible (excerpts by Fr. Joseph Sicardo, OSA)

Dictionary of Miracles

Life of St. Rita of Cascia

Wikipedia

(more…)

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St. Aldegundis, also known as Aldegonde, Aldegund, or Adelgondis, was born in Flanders in 639 CE, in the county of Hainaut, which straddled the borders of modern Belgium and France. Her parents, Walbert and Bertilia, and her sister, Waldetrudis, are also all saints. In fact, her nieces and nephews by Waldetrudis: also all saints. They were all closely related to the Merovingian dynasty, who ruled the Franks until 751 CE.

The story of Aldegundis is, in part, your classic vow-of-chastity story. At a relatively young age she began having visions of Christ, and came to understand that she was to take no other husband but him. Predictably, her parents, saints though they were, had other ideas and wanted her to marry an English prince named Eudon. To solve this problem she ran away from home, but had to stop when she came to the Sambre river.

Showing excellent problem-solving skills, she called on God to help, and he sent two angels who told her to walk across the river on water, which she did, not even wetting the soles of her shoes. On the other side she continued a little way into the forest, then stopped to build a cabin. She received the veil-i.e., was made a nun-by St. Amandius, the bishop of Maastricht.

Her cabin in the woods eventually became a convent, which became the Benedictine monastery Mauberge, which in turn was taken over by canonesses.

She had visions all her life, but near the end she had a vision of Satan as a wolf. Her two hagiographers had different takes on how she handled this: according to one, she got angry and kicked him out. According to the other, she was compassionate and asked why he hates people so much (jealousy), before kicking him out.

In 684 CE she died of breast cancer. Her saint day is January 30, and she’s the patron saint of cancer, wounds, and sudden death.

I realize that I’m late on this bandwagon, but I finally discovered Google Books, and holy shit you guys. There is a ton of stuff there-public domain, some scholarly stuff, some regular books. The best part is that my academic fantasy has come true with Google Books: you can search inside a book instead of using an index or whatever. Wow.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Dreams, Visions, and Spiritual Authority in Merovingians Gaul, by Isabel Moreira

A Dictionary of Miracles: Imitative, Realistic, and Dogmatic by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer

A Dictionary of Saintly Women by Agnes Baillie Cunninghame Dunbar

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