Most of the saints in this series enjoyed marriages that were happy and peaceful. St. Rita of Cascia did not. By all accounts Rita’s husband abused her, and during the 14th century abused wives had no alternative but to remain in the home.
Rita’s story begins with her birth in 1381 to a pious Italian couple. Rita, an only child, wished to enter the convent but her parents insisted that she marry. They chose a man named Paolo Mancini who, although rich, was known for his violent temper. The marriage went well at first and the couple had two sons. Gradually, however, Paolo’s rages and abusive behavior resurfaced, with Rita as the victim. Moreover, Paolo became involved in political activities that made him many enemies.
Rita persisted in prayer and good example. Finally, recognizing how much pain he had caused Rita, Paolo begged her forgiveness, which she gave. Unfortunately, the couple’s reconciliation was short-lived as Paolo was murdered in a blood feud.
Rita forgave her husband’s murderers, but her sons vowed revenge. Before they could act, however, both were killed by dysentery that swept through the village. Rita was both a widow and childless.
Rita was able to reconcile her family with her husband’s murderers. With the conflict resolved she entered the convent at age 36, where she lived a life of prayer and penance until her death in 1457.
St. Rita was canonized in 1900. Her feast day is celebrated on May 22. In many countries St. Rita is the patron saint of abused wives and grieving mothers.
All marriages go through rough patches. Patience, persistence and spiritual resources such as prayer and the sacraments can help couples to survive marital storms. Domestic abuse, however, is another matter. No woman is expected to stay in a marriage where her life, or the lives of her children, is in danger. See more information on domestic abuse.