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Title: Life of St. Rita of Cascia, O.S.A. - from the Italian
Author: Connolly, Richard
Language: English
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[Frontispiece: ST. RITA RECEIVES HER MIRACULOUS WOUND]



  LIFE OF ST. RITA
  OF CASCIA, O.S.A.


  from the Italian


  BY
  VERY REV. RICHARD CONNOLLY
  O.S.A., D.D.



  R. & T. WASHBOURNE
  4 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
  BENZIGER BROS.: NEW YORK, CINCINNATI AND CHICAGO
  1903



  Nihil Obstat:
      FR. JOANNES L. CONDON, O.S.A.,
          CENS. DEPUTATUS.


  PERMISSION TO PUBLISH

  We approve of the publication of the 'Life of
  St. Rita of Cascia,' from the Italian, by the
  Very Rev. Fr. Richard Connolly, O.S.A., D.D.

      FR. W. O'SULLIVAN, O.S.A.,
          VICAR PROVINCIAL.
  CORK, _Feast of St. Patrick_, 1903.

  Imprimatur:
      HERBERTUS CARDINALIS VAUGHAN,
          ARCHIEPISCOPUS WESTMONASTERIENSIS.



CONTENTS

PART I

RITA IN THE WORLD

CHAPTER

  I. CASCIA: A GLANCE AT ITS HISTORY
  II. RITA'S PARENTS
  III. RITA'S WONDERFUL CONCEPTION
  IV. RITA'S BIRTH
  V. THE WHITE BEES OF ST. RITA
  VI. RITA'S CHILDHOOD
  VII. RITA'S LOVE OF RETIREMENT
  VIII. RITA'S MARRIAGE
  IX. RITA AS WIFE
  X. DEATH OF RITA'S HUSBAND AND CHILDREN--RITA AS WIDOW


PART II

RITA IN THE CLOISTER

  I. RITA'S MIRACULOUS ENTRY INTO THE CLOISTER AND HER RECEPTION
  II. RITA AS NOVICE--HER PROFESSION
  III. RITA'S CHARITY
  IV. OTHER VIRTUES WHICH RITA PRACTISED IN THE CLOISTER
  V. RITA'S OBSERVANCE OF THE RELIGIOUS VOWS
  VI. RITA'S PENANCES
  VII. RITA'S SPIRIT OF PRAYER
  VIII. A THORN FROM THE SAVIOUR'S CROWN OF THORNS WOUNDS RITA'S FOREHEAD
  IX. RITA GOES TO ROME TO GAIN THE INDULGENCE OF THE JUBILEE
  X. RITA'S LAST ILLNESS AND DEATH


PART III

RITA IN HEAVEN

  I. WONDERFUL EVENTS THAT HAPPENED AT RITA'S DEATH--BURIAL OF HER SACRED BODY
  II. MIRACLES WROUGHT BY GOD THROUGH RITA'S INTERCESSION BEFORE HER BEATIFICATION
  III. EFFICACY OF THE RELICS OF ST. RITA
  IV. MARVELS OF ST. RITA'S SEPULCHRE
  V. IMMEMORIAL WORSHIP OF ST. RITA
  VI. SOLEMN BEATIFICATION OF RITA
  VII. MIRACLES WORKED BY RITA AFTER HER BEATIFICATION
  VIII. MORE RECENT MIRACLES OF ST. RITA
  IX. HER CANONIZATION
  X. THE THREE MIRACLES APPROVED FOR HER CANONIZATION

CONCLUSION



Part I

RITA IN THE WORLD



LIFE OF ST. RITA OF CASCIA


CHAPTER I

CASCIA: A GLANCE AT ITS HISTORY

St. Bernard observes that the place in which our Saviour died attracts
our devotion in a greater degree than any of those places in which He
dwelt during His life, and can therefore boast of a certain
pre-eminence.  Speaking of St. Rita, we can say the same of Cascia
compared with Rocca Porena, her birthplace.  Cascia governed Rocca
Porena as did Jerusalem Nazareth, but it is not on this account we
claim its superiority, but because our saint lived there for many years
and died there, and there her relics are venerated.  Cascia is
therefore looked upon as St. Rita's home, and hence she is called St.
Rita of Cascia.  Were we but to give a cursory sketch of the history of
Cascia from its annals, which still exist, the present volume could not
contain what we should be forced to write, so important did it become;
we will therefore content ourselves with alluding to a few of the more
salient points in its story.

This ancient and illustrious town is built under the shadow of the
Apennines, at a point in that chain of mountains almost midway between
the Alps and the Mediterranean.  It is on the borders of Umbria, seven
miles from Norcia, ten from Leonessa, thirty from Rieti, and
twenty-three from Spoleto.  It stands on the site of the ancient
Cursula, which is believed to have been a Roman free-town--that is, its
people enjoyed the honours, rights, and privileges of Roman
citizenship, and their town was governed by its own laws.  That Cursula
was a town of some importance is attested by its remains, which are
still extant, notably by the Temple of the Augurs, the Temple of Mars,
and the House of the Duumviri.

We have nothing else than these remains to guide us in inquiring into
the history of Cursula, nor can we surmise the epoch from whence to
date its existence.  We know from Dionysius of Halicarnassus that it
was destroyed, and that a new town rose on the ruins of the original
one, but the dates of these events cannot be fixed with certainty.  The
date of the rebuilding of Cursula may, with some probability, be placed
at something more than ten years before the birth of our Saviour, and
hence its pagan inhabitants were strengthening the foundations of its
future greatness when Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, was laying the
_foundation of the Redemption of man_.  We know, too, that it was a
republic, but are left in the dark as to how it managed to achieve and
preserve its independence.  It is credible that, like other Italian
cities, it acquired its liberty at the time of the second fall of the
Roman Empire, after the death of the Emperor-Saint Henry, during the
Pontificate of John XIX., or about the year 1025.  This independence it
retained till 1260, in which year, through the ambition of rival
leaders, the seeds of civic dissension were sown, and the republic was
exposed to dangers from without.  It was at this time that the people
of Cascia determined to put themselves under the authority of Alexander
IV., who then occupied the Papal chair.  They were induced to this
action by what they saw of the peaceful nature of the Papal government,
and because they adhered to the Guelph party, which was favourable to
the Holy See.  Alexander IV. was the great Pontiff who, uniting the
greatest virtues to the highest mental attainments, contrived during
the height of the sanguinary quarrels between Guelphs and Ghibellines,
which had for twenty years torn and divided Italy, to stamp out
incendiarism, to crush tyranny, and cause peace and happiness to
flourish again in the distracted peninsula.  Cascia had no reason to
regret the changed state of affairs, for the monarchical system which
its submission to the Pope introduced by no means destroyed its
republican form of government.  Hence it retained the right of
regulating its own affairs by its own laws; hence its mayor, elected
every six months, retained his authority; hence it retained those
chiefs of the people, at first called 'Ateposti,' then 'Gonfalonieri,'
and finally 'Consuls.'  To these latter a troop of soldiers, called the
people's jury, was subject, who had the duty not only of defending the
people, but of acting on the offensive when necessary.  The court of
justice, the guards and robes of the consuls, the stately retinue of
the mayor, the fortifications with their garrisons, the number of
subject towns and villages--of which more than forty recognise Cascia
as their chief at present, without speaking of the many which the
ravages of time have destroyed--the right of peace and war left, at
least in part, to the brave people of Cascia--these and other memories
of the past, which even now may be seen in the consular registers,
constitute a proof of the liberty which Cascia enjoyed under the Popes
and of the fame which it acquired.

But at the beginning of the disastrous and prolonged schism of the
anti-Popes, Cascia unfurled the standard of rebellion, either through a
desire of complete independence, or, as some say, on account of the
insolent conduct of the Papal soldiers, and for a period of about 131
years--till the year 1517--it remained under a sort of mixed
government.  This interval of complete independence was filled up by an
uninterrupted series of wars waged with its neighbours of Norcia, of
Leonessa, of Monreale, of Aquila, or of Cerreto.  But after the first
outburst of enthusiasm for complete independence, and in the midst of
quarrels with its neighbours, the republic of Cascia took occasion to
show its pristine reverence and love for the See of Rome.  A clear
proof of the correspondence between Cascia and the Papal See is the
formal announcement, made by the Cardinals met together in council at
Constance, to the commune of Cascia, of the election of Pope Martin V.
to the Pontifical throne.  The prompt assistance given by the people of
Cascia to Eugene IV., successor to Martin V., against Corrado Trinci,
Governor of Foligno, who tried to make himself lord and master of that
city, is another proof of their loyalty to the Holy See.  When the wise
and great-minded Leo X. ascended the Papal throne he brought back
Cascia to its obedience to the Holy See by a brief dated 1517.  All its
ancient privileges and distinctions were confirmed by him, and a
Cardinal was appointed to govern the city; for Cascia still continued
to have the title 'city,' as it had till 1600 at least.  Some speak of
money coined there, of its coats of arms, of printing done there, of
its prosperity and commerce, of the cultivation of the fine arts; but
the cultivation of souls is what chiefly adorns it.

And, in the first place, if nobility presupposes the talents or merits
of ancestors either in field or court, what must we say of Cascia,
which reckoned in its environs 200 famous families, which are extinct
only within the last two centuries, without speaking of others that
betook themselves elsewhere, or of the ancient patrician families that
still dwell in the homes of their ancestors?

There is no need to go back to remote antiquity to catch a glimpse of
the great men who had their origin in Cascia in the splendour of its
greatest glories.  The great ones born there, even in the latest years
of its decadence, are a proof of what it produced in the past, and are
sufficient to renew the honours it merited in its beginnings.

The Cardinals, the Bishops, the Prelates, the names distinguished in
science and in arms of the Poli, Frenfanelli, Benenati, Cruciani,
Squarcipani, Colangeli, Negroni, Graziani, Franceschini, Leonetti,
Giudici, Elemosina, Girolami, Gregorietti, and of other illustrious
families, would supply ample material to whosoever would wish to
pronounce the praises of Cascia.  We, who have for our study a nun and
a saint, shall content ourselves with going into the shadow of the
cloister and of the sanctuary.  We find Andrew of Cascia, a Franciscan
who lived at the same time as St. Rita, who had the happiness of
bringing the Gospel to the Turks at Fez, where he suffered martyrdom
after converting many to Christ and working many miracles.  The glory
of this humble friar outshines the glory which the honours of the world
can give.  Blessed Pace, a Minor Conventual, born in Cascia, great in
virtue and by the miracles he worked, raised himself above every
earthly greatness.

But what must have most drawn the soul of our St. Rita to desire from
her childhood the life of the cloister, and to follow it in her mature
years, were the singular models of sanctity which the Augustinian
institute in Cascia could furnish.  The memory of the saintly heroes,
followers of the great Augustine, who dwelt in the woods about Cascia,
was to her the memory of a recent event.  The first of these recluses
is Blessed John, who from being lord of three towns shut himself in the
Valley of Attino, not far from Cascia, in order to lead a life hidden
in God in the deepest contemplation.  Then comes Blessed Ugolino, who
imitated the example of Blessed John in renouncing the pleasant things
of this world to engage himself entirely with heavenly things in the
hermitage of St. Anatolia, in the territory of Cascia, where, living in
misery, he prepared for himself a way to a high degree of glory in
heaven.  The third is Blessed Simon Fidati, whom the shades of the
hermitage could not hide from the world.  For the books on the ascetic
life which this very learned hermit of St. Augustine wrote in these
solitudes began to make him known; then his unwearying and fruitful
preaching through the chief cities of Italy, especially Florence and
Siena; the conversions of which he was the instrument; the number of
enemies he reconciled; his spirit of prophecy; his unconquerable
charity on most difficult occasions; the foundation of two monasteries
in the city of Florence; the other works written by him, whence he
deserved to be reckoned the brightest ornament of the Augustinian Order
at that time, both by his eloquence and profound learning, more infused
than acquired, as well as for the piety and fervour which animated him
in writing--these and many other of his merits made him glorious in
this world, and still more glorious in heaven.

Contemporary with Blessed Simon were many other remarkable men of the
same Order, and born in the same place, as Fr. Bartolo, Vicar of the
Lateran Basilica, who enriched his convent of Cascia with more than 600
relics; the Venerable Andrew, noble standard-bearer of the Gospel in
Turkey; another Venerable Andrew, of the Capozi family, rendered famous
his country, his name, and the Augustinian Order by his fruitful
preaching and his learning.  Fr. Nicholas, of the noble family of the
Saracini of Cascia, was also a contemporary of St. Rita.  After leaving
the pomp of the world to follow Jesus Christ in poverty and
humiliation, he was raised through all the ranks of the monastic
hierarchy till he was elected and re-elected General of his Order, and
then promoted by Pope John XXIII. to the episcopal See of Macerata and
Recanati, where he died in the odour of sanctity in the arms of the
people whom he had reformed and whom he loved.  In those times, too,
Stephen of Castel San Giorgio, in the district of Cascia, by his
virtues and talents, obtained the highest honours in his Order, and
became Procurator-General.  We might mention the names of many other
famous men of the convent and city of Cascia, either contemporary with
St. Rita or nearly so, as Angelus and Louis of Cascia, Cherubinus
Lavosi (Bishop of Telesia), Paoletti, Squarcipani, Amici, three of the
Simonetti family--all either theologians of some eminence or famous
preachers, or remarkable for their writings; but the notice of these
and of others, however praiseworthy for virtue or honourable to their
native city of Cascia, might seem beside our purpose and be tedious to
those who wish to read the life of St. Rita.  At all events, it may be
deduced from what we have written that Cascia was not without honour in
its history and in its inhabitants.

Still, what is Cascia in the sight of God?  What is even Jerusalem
before Him and in the light of His inscrutable judgment?  Human
greatness, which dazzles our eyes, disappears in the glance of God, and
is lost in its own nothingness.  There is no distinction of persons
with Him, nor is there distinction of places.  The little town of
Nazareth, out of which, in the common very poor opinion of it, it
seemed nothing good could come, was, in the Divine councils,
preordained to be the fatherland of the Saviour of the world; and the
still meaner town of Bethlehem--even a stable in Bethlehem--was chosen
as His place of birth.  Thus it often happens that God chooses the weak
things, the lowly, the despicable, the things of naught to confound the
goodly things and the strong, and to work great designs, in order that
the creature may not have whence to vaunt himself before his Creator.
Such was the case exactly with that humble spot Rocca Porena, which was
destined to be the birthplace of St. Rita.

To give some idea of it, let us say it is two miles and a half from
Cascia towards the west, where it is closed in, not to say buried.  An
overhanging mountain crushes it in on all sides and dominates it, and
with difficulty gives access to it from the east by two narrow roads,
one on either side of a precipitous rock.  The river which flows to the
base of this rock, famous in the life of the saint, does not approach
the small piece of level ground which, together with the village, forms
the bottom of a deep basin.  The sun is tardy there in rising, and sets
early, leaving the barren plain to its languor and sadness.  One would
say that a place so isolated and confined, where neither the beauty of
nature nor of art appears, and where the sky is almost the only thing
in view, was created for contemplation and to be the home of innocence.
The two houses of St. Rita are still to be seen, almost at opposite
ends of the village, the one in which she was born and lived until her
marriage in that part called the Borghetto, and the other where she
lived a wife, and which is now turned into a little chapel in her
honour, in the place called the Piazza.  The saint's garden, now grown
wild, is also shown to the pious traveller.  Besides these there does
not seem to be anything worthy of mention.  We may therefore infer that
as Bethlehem was styled the least amongst the cities of Judea, so,
perhaps, is Rocca Porena the least amongst the towns of Cascia--the
least, indeed, as a place, but memorable by reason of the favour shown
it, which exalts it far above the others, since it has given to us that
great saint who, by her singular example of innocence and virtue, is
become the guide and model in the way of perfection to virgins, to
married women, to widows, and to those living in the cloisters, in such
a manner as Bethlehem--if we may lawfully make a comparison between the
original and a faint copy--was exalted by the birth of Jesus Christ,
where, as Blessed Simon of Cascia says, He made Himself the mystical
and life-giving bread for our common nourishment and comfort on the way
which leads to heaven.



CHAPTER II

RITA'S PARENTS

The fortunate parents of Rita were Antonio Mancini, of Rocca Porena and
Amata Ferri, who is believed to be from a village called Fogliano.
Antonio was not noble, nor had he a title, but we may apply to him the
praise which the Holy Spirit gives to Noah--that he was a just man and
perfect in his times, and he walked with God.  The Gracchi, the
Scipios, the Cæsars among the number of their family honours cannot
find a title greater or even equal to this.

Every other superiority is vanity, and if there be glory from other
titles, it is the glory of another, which cannot pass to the posterity
of those who merited it.  Justice alone makes that real nobility which
St. Augustine and other holy fathers call nobility according to the
heart of God.  And although even this cannot be passed on to
descendants, as it did not pass from Noah to his son Cham, whom he
cursed, yet it is not unusual for God to recall the justice of parents,
not only for a model, but to give a certain extrinsic glory to their
descendants.  Hence, when the Holy Spirit wished to record the praises
of St. John the Baptist, He wished also for his honour that we should
remember that his parents were both 'just before God, walking in all
the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame.'  So we
can also say of Antonio and Amata, of whom was born St. Rita, who had a
special devotion to St. John.  They were not of noble blood, but they
were noble in their works; they were not rich in temporal goods, but
they were rich in the true treasures of Divine grace, which do not pass
from those who possess them.  They enjoyed the esteem of all who knew
them, an esteem more precious than that which flattery offers to the
rich and great of this world.  Their fortune constituted that
mediocrity which the wise man sought from God in order that abundance
might not tempt him to forget his Creator, nor poverty to give himself
a prey to any vice.  The industrious and honourable labour, and the
innocent pastoral life which in their time did not degrade the
Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did not make the Mancini family
less worthy of honour.  Rather from the fruits of their labour did they
acquire the means of exercising a beneficent liberality towards the
poor of Jesus Christ, whom they cherished with an ardent charity.
Whether the fruits of their fields were abundant or scarce, these two
happy ones, husband and wife, lived contented in their frugality,
always giving thanks to the Giver of every good gift, and placing
themselves entirely in conformity with the most just and providential
dispositions of heaven.  Perfect concord, which was their dearest
virtue, since in it is the fulness of the law, always reigned in their
home.  And hence when they heard of divisions amongst others, which
were only too frequent in that age and country, they were speedily
present with them, and with their insinuating manners and holy zeal
they insisted in their charitable offices till peace was restored.
They were, on this account, commonly called the 'peacemakers of Jesus
Christ.'

They corrected the erring according to the rules of the Gospel; they
interceded for them with so fervent prayers, with so great concern, and
with so happy results, that, like Moses, they appeared to be
constituted mediators between the people and God.  They steadily hated
vice, and practised every virtue.  The book from which they learned and
cherished sentiments so virtuous was none other than the Passion of the
Redeemer.  It furnished them with inexhaustible matter for their
meditations, for their liveliest compassion, and for that remarkable
piety which, from her cradle, they instilled into the heart of Rita,
and which they left her as a heritage.  In a word, it may with reason
be said of them what was said of the parents of St. John the
Baptist--that they were both just to the eyes of God, walking without
stain in the exact observance of the law.  This was their nobility,
this was their wealth, which it pleased God to pass to their daughter
and to multiply in her in a singular way.  Thus we may say, as Blessed
Simon of Cascia writes, that the parents' goodness instilled the best
dispositions even before her birth into her who was to be born from
them, as the goodness of Zachary and Elizabeth went to exalt the holy
precursor St. John.

Thus these two holy souls, husband and wife, lived a long series of
years in these exercises of virtue and piety, without, however, seeing
any fruit of their chaste union.  God so disposed it that the desires
of their youthful years should be vain, that they should labour to
detach their minds still more from mortal things, and in order that the
proofs of an extraordinary work of His providence should one day shine
the brighter.  Meanwhile, their desire of offspring, with which nature
innocently inspired them, had not only grown cold with advancing years,
but was quite extinct; no other care should remain with them now than
that of ascending to the eternal heritage of the heavenly Father,
instead of descending to the care of children and transmitting their
temporal possessions to their posterity on earth.



CHAPTER III

RITA'S WONDERFUL CONCEPTION

That God, who is wonderful in His saints, and who, to use a sacred
expression, seems at times to play sport with the world, and especially
with those creatures that form His delight, wished in the end, and at a
time when in the natural order offspring could least be expected from
these old and barren consorts, to grant them in a prodigious manner the
fulfilment of their ancient desires--a fulfilment the more acceptable
as more unforeseen, and the happier and more certain inasmuch as it was
marked and sealed with the seal of the Omnipotent.  So great and so
remarkable graces can foreshadow only great and remarkable sanctity.

Isaac was meant to be the type of Jesus Christ sacrificed for the human
race; he was intended to be a figure of the propagation of the
faithful; he should be great in the order of grace.  Still, he was born
out of the order of nature, of parents also barren by reason of their
age.  He who was to prepare the way for the impending appearance of the
Redeemer, and who was to be more than a prophet and the greatest
amongst the saints, he also was miraculously born of parents aged and
barren; not to speak of other distinguished personages, both of the Old
and New Testaments, who in various ways were born in a supernatural
manner to exalt the stupendous works of omnipotence and of grace.  Not
otherwise did the Lord, who in His lofty designs intended great things
for our heroine, dispose that her conception should be most remarkable
and above the order of nature.

Amata became conscious of the wonderful event, and, full of amazement,
she dared not credit the evidence of it.  In such a state she felt her
heart agitated, now by fears that she was deceived, again by hope of
the contrary; at one time by shame at so unusual an occurrence at such
an age as hers, at another her feelings of wonder overwhelmed her; and
again she experienced renewed struggles of fresh fears, emotions, and
passions.  But, as is the way with the just, the troubled woman had
recourse to prayer to the Father of light, to the God of consolation,
and whilst she persevered in her humble, fervent, and constant prayers,
there appeared to her an angel, a bearer of certainty, of peace, and of
happy tidings, as an angel appeared to Abraham and Sara while they were
employed in the charitable exercise of hospitality, and to Zachary
amidst his prayers and offerings of incense.  However joyful and
consoling in itself was this angelic apparition, it did not fail to
cause in her heart feelings of perturbation.  Daniel and the other
prophets had a like sensation in similar circumstances; Zachary had the
same feelings, and so had the most holy Mother of God herself.  The
reason is, as Blessed Simon of Cascia wisely observes, that humanity is
naturally disturbed and stricken with fear at the sudden sight of
things extraordinary or greater than itself.  But, as the same blessed
writer adds, since those heavenly spirits, when they are sent for our
relief, are accustomed to comfort the timid, thus, as the archangel
told the father of the future Precursor not to fear, and by the
announcement of his birth in the near future calmed his heart with
efficacious words, so did another ambassador from heaven bring the same
security and joy to the troubled mind of Rita's mother, and assure her
that she should bring forth a child; and that nothing should be wanting
to the fulness of her consolation, he made known to her in brief the
eminent virtues and glory of the daughter that was to be born to her,
as the sanctity of the Baptist was likewise foretold to Zachary.

The miraculous pledge of grace which Antonio's happy wife bore already
in her womb and her lively faith prevented her from smiling at
announcements so wonderful; unlike Abraham's wife, who smiled at a not
dissimilar announcement.  Nor did she sin through incredulity, as did
Elizabeth's husband, who was punished for his sin, but forewarned by
fact, and full of that faith which teaches that God can raise up
children to Abraham even from the very stones, she instantly believed
in the words of the angel.  The angelic vision disappeared, and Amata,
considering her own unworthiness, was seized with fresh wonder and
profound humility.  Thinking at the same time on the signal favour, she
retired, with great contentment and singular gratitude and love towards
the Divine goodness, to pour out the fulness of her pure and fervent
affection at the feet of her most beneficent God.  It is easy to think
what a new stimulus to piety in herself and her virtuous husband was
this great grace.  Thus they remained happy in their virtue and secure
in the hands of Divine providence, joyously awaiting the happy day of
Rita's extolled birth.



CHAPTER IV

RITA'S BIRTH

Now that we are about to describe Rita's birth, it will not be out of
place to cast a passing glance at the unhappy state of those times, in
order to see things more clearly as we progress with our history, and
in order that the providence of God and His grace may more clearly be
discerned to His honour and glory.  The memories are still fresh in our
minds, or, rather, the wounds which the avenging sword of the God of
armies inflicted on us.  There is not a moment in which we do not
recall with horror the mournful losses inflicted by arms on property,
commerce, arts, study, families, States, good order, morals, on
religion and the Church.  But however true and just our regrets may be,
it is a fact that Italy was much more harassed and afflicted at the
period about the birth of Rita.  To read of the extortions of the
Visconti through the wide extent of their dominions in Lombardy, the
cruelty exercised by them on the pretext of punishing treason, their
unbridled lust, and their most unworthy harassing of the clergy,
excites our horror.  At the other extremity of Italy, in the kingdom of
Naples, a territory of equal importance, wrongs and scandals of every
description, and the most deplorable calamities, caused by the parties
of the Dukes of Anjou and Surazzo, who laid claim to the kingdom,
spread themselves and took root as the civil war that followed on the
death of King Robert became more widespread.  The different other
States into which Italy was then divided were not anything better.  For
the luxury of these little Courts which tried to rival the great ones
to the grave oppression of the people, their despotism, their rivalry
and wars, their unbridled ambition to command which multiplied the
domestic treasons and assassinations of brothers by brothers, of
relatives by relatives (if we except the houses of Savoy, Monferrato,
Saluzzo, and Este)--these and the other dominant vices and scandals
served only to increase misery and sorrow.  The cities of the Papal
States were also, for the most part, groaning under the yoke of
rebels--bloody, inexorable, lewd tyrants--and especially before Gregory
IX. re-established his throne in Rome after his return from Avignon.
And, as if these Italian tyrants were not sufficient to cause public
misery, hordes of devastating soldiers issued from Germany, Hungary,
and England to complete the confusion.  Warner, Muriale, Sando,
Anchino, Augustus, and others--all captains of the dissolute soldiers
of fortune--were the stubborn arbiters of Italian affairs from the
middle of the fourteenth century till the time of Charles V., although
they were not owners of even a perch of land.  These gave their
services in the perpetual wars to whoever paid them best, and went
about pillaging, imposing tribute and subsidies--and woe to him who was
slow in satisfying their demands!--laying waste fields, besieging
towns, and universally exercising their pitiless power.  Hence, as the
people model themselves after the manners of kings and nobles, it is
easy to divine the general state of morals in the midst of such
depravity.  Let us draw a veil over that picture, the sight of which
would move to horror humanity, religion, and especially modesty.

Let it suffice to say that so deeply rooted was this universal
depravity that not even the pestilence, that so evident sign of the
anger of heaven, which in the middle of that century carried off more
than half the inhabitants of Italy, was able to check it.  And that
which the prophet Isaias seems to have foreseen in his time, but in
another sense, was fulfilled here too: such as the people is, so shall
the priest be--so strong was the influence of the bad example and want
of discipline introduced into Italy by the abandoning of their
Apostolic See in Rome by the Popes.  The prevailing depravity
afterwards opened the way to still greater evils.

For the zeal with which Urban VI., successor of Gregory XI., sought to
remedy the evils which afflicted the Church was intolerable to some,
and hence followed the election of an anti-Pope, which gave rise to
that terrible schism which burst forth a little before the birth of
Rita, and ended only a short time before her death.

Who can recall without tears the separations between friends, princes
taking opposing sides, the spiritual and temporal arms put in
antagonism, the neglect of the canons, the numberless scandals and
losses of the Church, which would at that time have been threatened
with absolute ruin, but that the gates of hell can never prevail
against the unshakable edifice founded on the rock of Peter, which can
never fail?  The Church was at that time, moreover, filled with sorrow
by the heresies of the Beguins, the Flagellants, the Adamites, the
Waldensians, the Wickliffites, and others, and by the rapid successes
of Amurath I., who, to the loss of the Christian name, took possession
of Thessaly and Macedonia about the time of Rita's birth.  Neither in
the Eastern nor in the Western Church was there an Emperor either
fitted to oppose a bulwark against the inrush of such evils or disposed
to oppose them.  John Paleologus in the East had lost heart through his
frequent defeats, and was leagued against the powers of Christendom;
and in the West, Wenceslaus, given to the wine-cup and to luxury, was
become good for nothing.

The republics of the time, amongst which was Cascia, were not much more
fortunate than the kingdoms.  Genoa and Venice, which only a short time
previous might have been compared in their rivalry to Rome and Carthage
in the ancient world, had now both become exhausted of all their
strength through a long series of stubborn wars undertaken against one
another, and although they were now mutually at peace and also with the
other Powers, through the intervention of the Duke of Savoy, they were
unable to show any opposition to the common enemy of Christendom.  Nor
did the avarice and ambition of these States fail to bring in their
train a fruitful crop of all other vices.  Florence, too, although
happy in the cultivation of the fine arts, was infected with the
general depravity.  The city was torn by faction, and weakened by those
other vices against which Blessed Simon of Cascia had so strenuously
preached a few years earlier.  And although these exhortations brought
about a reform, it was but half-hearted and short-lived.  Vicious
practices increased in the city, and open rebellion against the Holy
See was their eventual outcome.  Of Cascia itself we read that in 1380
the Guelphs and the Ghibellines committed horrible atrocities
throughout the city and its dependent territory.  And although the
opposing factions patched up a peace between them in that year, it was
of no long duration, since, as we have said in the first chapter, the
people of Cascia rebelled against the Holy See during the first years
of the schism of the anti-Popes, just after the birth of Rita.  Murder
and robbery, pillage and incendiarism followed in the wake of
rebellion, and brought ruin to many families in Cascia and destruction
upon her religious places.  A war soon broke out between Cascia and
Leonessa, which lasted for twelve months, and would have continued much
longer but for the friendly intervention of the Trinci of Foligno,
through whose efforts peace was made.  Such was the wretched condition
of affairs in Italy at that time.

It is truly wonderful, as St. John Chrysostom says of a somewhat
similar case, how so fair a rose as St. Rita was could have bloomed
amid so many thorns.  Yet such was the disposition of Divine
providence, which decreed that where sin superabounded grace should
abound in that chosen soul who, from the miraculous events that
preceded her birth and her innocence, which she preserved intact,
seemed almost to have been sanctified in her mother's womb.  Rita,
then, was born in the village of Rocca Porena in the year 1381, during
the pontificate of Urban.  Her parents were Antonio Mancini and Amata
Ferri, the child of whose old age she was, the first and only fruit of
their chaste love, or, rather, of their remarkable virtue.  The pure
joy which filled Amata's heart at the sight of the infant, which heaven
itself had extolled, must have made her forget those trials which every
mother has experienced since our first mother Eve committed original
sin.  Antonio, too, as he gazed tenderly on the predestined child, must
have exulted in the Lord, and must, like Simeon of old, have felt
himself ready to die content; he, too, could now sing a hymn of
thanksgiving to God, who had granted him the happiness of seeing the
glory of his family, of his country, and of the new house of Israel.
The general joy and universal congratulation of relatives and
neighbours added to the happiness of the pious couple, whose virtue and
charity had made them esteemed by all.  Thus did the relatives and
neighbours of the holy Elizabeth rejoice at the equally wonderful birth
of St. John the Baptist, for the Lord desired to make known the mercy
he had shown in the first appearance of the Precursor.  'All who love
goodness,' says Simon of Cascia, 'participate in the joy that is
occasioned by the birth of one destined to live for the common good.'
Those who rejoice in grace, and in the sight of the fruits of justice,
must let their sentiments be evident to all, as in the present case, in
which a pious mother brought forth a saintly child.  It is part of the
spiritual life to be pleased at the prosperity of others, and to
rejoice with those especially who have been marked by the favour of the
Omnipotent God.

Meanwhile, the parents of the newly-born infant, in the midst of these
rejoicings, were pondering on what name they should call her, and again
that God, who had by an angel announced her birth, again in a vision of
the night made them know that Rita was to be her name.  It is a rare
privilege of some saints, remarks St. Ambrose, to deserve to get their
names from God Himself.  Thus Jacob was named Israel by the Lord, thus
was the Baptist named John by the angel, thus the Eternal Father called
the Word made flesh by the name Jesus before He was born, and thus did
she who was to imitate the virtues of the Baptist and be a faithful
follower of Jesus Christ get her name from heaven.  The name Rita, as
being quite an unusual name, must have been meant to signify the
sanctity that was to mark the life of the child so designated, and if
we were to give credence to the opinion of the Augustinian author
Didacus, Rita signifies virtue and grace.

But this name foreshadowed only what Rita was to be, not what she was.
For although she could be considered from then as a child of God in the
order of predestination, yet according to the order of nature, and
according to her actual state, she was, owing to original sin, a child
of wrath; and to become an adopted child of God she needed to be
cleansed from the hereditary stain of original sin in the sanctifying
waters of the Redeemer.  Her baptism took place on the fourth day after
her birth, although we may believe her pious parents wished her to be
baptized with all possible speed, and from the delay we may conclude
that the time of her birth must have been in the winter season.  There
was no baptismal font at that time in Rocco Porena, and the child had
therefore to be taken to the collegiate church of St. Mary in Cascia,
where that grace which was to be the beginning and the seal of her
sanctification awaited her.  There Rita put off the garb of sin, and
came forth from the salutary bath of baptism clothed in the garment of
innocence and enriched with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, who from the
moment chose her to be His spouse.  Thus did the regenerated babe
return to her mother's bosom and the joyful embraces of her parents,
fairer to the eyes of faith than her beauty made her to the eyes of men.



CHAPTER V

THE WHITE BEES OF ST. RITA

When the godmother and her attendants returned from Cascia after the
baptism, a feast was prepared for them and the relatives of the happy
parents, to celebrate in a manner becoming their humble position the
double birth of Rita in the order of nature and of grace.  Meanwhile,
the child had closed her eyes in a tranquil slumber.  When the next day
dawned, the fifth day of her existence, a swarm of bees, all of the
fairest white colour, and such as were never before seen, made their
appearance.  They flew a-buzzing about the cradle of the child, and
after alighting for a moment on her angelic face were seen to go in and
come out of her slightly open mouth in a sort of regular order, as if
to take from her lips the honey of Paradise.  What feelings of wonder
and awe must have been awakened in the heart of Amata and those who
were present by so marvellous an occurrence!

The Gospel tells us that fear came upon all the neighbours of Elizabeth
and Zachary as they considered the miraculous events that marked the
birth of the Baptist, and that they noised abroad all these things that
foretold his future extraordinary sanctity.  In like manner similar the
wonderful signs that were given at Rita's birth, for Divine providence
so disposed it in order that honour should be rendered to her by those
whose attention had been attracted by these extraordinary happenings,
and that those who came in contact with her should be induced to order
their own lives more exactly by following the salutary example she was
to give.  This incident of the appearance of the white bees in the
cradle of our saint is the one which the painters and poets who have
illustrated her life have vied most with one another in depicting.  To
avoid having to return again to the subject of the bees, which have
ever been mentioned in connection with the life of St. Rita, we will
here describe what seems to be a confirmation and perpetuation of the
wonderful occurrence we have just related.  Going from Rocca Porena to
Cascia, and entering the convent where our saint resided, there, in an
old wall opposite the convent gate, at a point midway between the cell
which Rita inhabited and the spot in which her body was laid to rest,
we are met with a sight that cannot fail to move us to admiration.  For
there, even to the present day, the bees, commonly called St. Rita's
bees, have their nest.  They are called St. Rita's, for they have been
there since her time, and have come there, we may believe, owing to
her, and, as it were, to do her honour.  There is only a small number
of them--some twelve or fifteen--and everything connected with them is
extraordinary and wonderful.  In the first place, as we have hinted
above, the species to which these bees belong has never, as far as we
are aware, been determined.  They live each one to itself in a hole
which it has dug in the wall, and as often as these holes have been
stopped up in the process of plastering the wall they have again
excavated them.  They spin a sort of white substance, with which they
stop the entrance to their retreat, as if to hide themselves from view
during their long retirement and fast of eleven months.  They appear
only on those days dedicated to the memory of our Lord's Passion, and,
be it noted, these are mostly movable feasts; and they betake
themselves to retirement about the time of the death of St. Rita, who
was devoted, as we shall see, to meditation on the Passion of our Lord.
For four centuries they have been found in the same place, without ever
having changed their place of abode.  These ascertained facts seem to
declare clearly enough that it has been the will of the Most High to
extol through them the merit and the glory of His beloved servant.
There is no need to add the many anecdotes of these bees, which are
related in some lives of our saint, and which the nuns of Cascia still
tell; let one suffice.  Jacobilli says that one of these bees was sent
to Pope Urban VIII. in a crystal vessel, and that it soon flew back
again to the place it occupied in the convent wall.

Here it may be asked whether the bees we have described are the same
that appeared when Rita was an infant in swaddling-clothes.  It would
be harder to give an answer to this question than to the riddle which
Sampson proposed to his bridesmen.  Sampson's faithless spouse was able
to wrest his secret from him and then reveal it to her Philistine
friends: that the sweetness that came forth out of the strong was the
honeycomb that was made in the mouth of the lion that he had torn in
pieces a short time before.  But we can find no answer to our question.
However, those biographers of St. Rita who, without hesitation,
confused the bees that appeared at her birth with those in the convent
may be excused, as they supposed both to be of the same white colour.
But they have been mistaken, for those at present in the convent wall
are not white--in fact, they do not differ in colour from ordinary
bees, except that they are of a deep red on the back and they want the
sting.  But perhaps these writers were not so far from the truth, since
there is but the accidental variety of colour that distinguishes the
present bees from the white ones that appeared first at Rita's birth.
And who can say but that those once meant by God to symbolize by their
whiteness the splendour of Rita's baptismal innocence may not, through
the power of God, have taken on their present appearance to signify the
humiliation and sadness of the penances she took upon herself?  To
change the appearance of a species already existing or to create a new
species is easy to God.  Let the truth of the matter be where it may,
it is clear that both are marvellous, and worthy to be recorded in the
history of our saint.  But it is time we returned to gaze on her,
surrounded in her cradle by those lilies of her incipient sanctity, and
crowned with the bright circle of bees that still buzzed around her.
We might now inquire whether the bees that entered her innocent mouth
made a honeycomb in it, as is believed to have happened to St. Ambrose
in his infancy, as if to forecast the mellifluous eloquence which he
poured forth in his manhood in defence of the Church.  Although this
anecdote as related of St. Rita is not sufficiently well proven,
neither is it impossible; for when there is question of miraculous
events the difficulties of time and place do not form an insurmountable
obstacle, as they did not in the case of St. Ambrose.  At all events,
we have two authors that assert it, and perhaps their opinion is
supported by the farther statement that is made--that Rita abstained
from her mother's milk on the day on which the bees appeared, the fifth
day after her birth.  God may have wished to give her for corporal food
mystical or symbolical honey of unearthly origin, as He had fed her
soul with the food of baptismal grace.  In this way would be more
clearly signified that which was foreshadowed by the appearance of the
bees, the insinuating sweetness in word and manner which was afterwards
the cause of the conversion of many sinners, which ever brought
consolation to the afflicted, and spiritual profit to all who had the
good fortune to converse with her.



CHAPTER VI

RITA'S CHILDHOOD

St. Augustine in his Confessions takes up two chapters in describing
his infancy, and he discovers in that period of his life only misery
and vestiges of sin, but he recalls these evils that spring from our
sinful origin only to extol the triumphs which Divine grace obtained in
his mature years.  The time of infancy is, however, one in which, since
there can be no acts of reflection, nor exercise of will, there can be
no demerit or actual sin, nor merit or virtue.  It will not, therefore,
be strange if our history passes over the infancy of Rita and proceeds
to describe her childhood.  From the extraordinary piety that
distinguished her parents we can easily surmise what care they took in
training and educating their child to instil into her mind the truths
of religion.  They had abundant proofs that Rita was especially dear to
God, that she was born for heaven, and that Divine grace had marked her
for its own.  But they knew also that God, who disposes all things
wisely, wished them to co-operate in moulding the chosen child to
virtue and in establishing her in holiness.  They were well aware that
even the chiefest vessels of election had for a time kicked against the
goads of grace.  Nor were they ignorant what a bulwark of defence is
raised by education and by the example of parents--a fact which many
unhappy parents either know not or are careless of, and hence by their
neglect they become the cause of the eternal ruin of their children.
It will not, therefore, be useless to remark the watchfulness, the care
and anxiety, with which Rita's parents observed all the movements,
words, and actions of a child so dear to them, lest she should take a
step to the right or to the left of the way that leads to heaven, and
which, with the dawning of reason, she began to discern for herself.
But these happy parents had no cause for anxiety during the process of
instructing and moulding the character of their child, for she had,
through God's grace, acquired a disposition marked by uncommon
submission and precocious wisdom.  Let it suffice to say that even then
she could not bear those pastimes and sports which are proper to that
tender age, and which are universally regarded as innocent.  She had an
example in Tobias, who, although he was the youngest in his tribe,
showed himself to be the wisest, and never did anything that was
childish.

Another failing, which is dear not only to children, but to all, and
especially to the female sex, the love of fine clothes, was an
abomination to Rita.  We must not believe that a virtuous mother like
Amata, especially considering her lowly condition, could allow her
daughter to appear in anything savouring of pride or ostentation.  On
the other hand, Rita, although scrupulously obedient in other things to
the slightest wish of her parents, became uneasy whenever they wished
her to put on some pretty ornament; she used even to run away and hide
herself at such times, till she saw that her disinclination provoked a
smile.  Thus, satisfied with her humble dress, she took more pains to
adorn her soul than to improve her appearance by the addition of the
least ornament.  To simplicity in dress she joined a sedateness of
manner so beyond her years that it attracted universal respect,
admiration, and love, and set a salutary example not only to those of
her own age, but to older people also.  She restrained to a wonderful
degree that common tendency of women to curiosity and gossip, and
having her thoughts occupied with higher subjects she avoided all human
conversation as far as good manners and obedience permitted.  Obedience
was the virtue according to which she regulated all her actions.  She
regarded a beck of her parents as a command of God which she could not
violate; and her obedience was all the more willing as it accorded with
the impulse of grace which impelled her to the practice of all other
virtues.  For obedience, as Blessed Simon of Cascia observes, is the
gate of the virtues.  Rita's love of retirement and of prayer had
already risen to the heroic point.  Whoever wished to see her was
certain of finding her either at home or in the neighbouring parish
church, which was her favourite place of prayer, where she spent entire
hours in meditation and devotion, to the great edification of all.
Although penance is a virtue hardly suitable to so tender an age or to
such perfect innocence, yet Rita began from her earliest years to
chastise her body by different mortifications, and especially by
fasting; and to render her abstinence more meritorious and acceptable
to God she distributed to the poor children of the neighbourhood that
food which she denied herself, thus bringing forth fruits of mercy and
charity from the root of penance.  This was the only way in which her
loving good-will and tender compassion could show themselves in action;
poverty made anything further impossible.  But the Lord, who searches
the heart, and delights in men of goodwill, sought nothing more from
Rita then.  But she was unconsciously increasing in charity and in
merit as she grew in years, so that she could apply to herself the
saying of Job--that mercy came out with him from his mother's womb, and
from his infancy grew up with him.[1]  Not only did her spirit grow, as
it were, and become strong by the exercise of these beautiful virtues,
but her progress in all virtue was extraordinary.


[1] Job xxi. 18.



CHAPTER VII

RITA'S LOVE OF RETIREMENT

St. John the Baptist experienced a similar strengthening of the spirit,
as we read in that place in which it is also written that he went into
the desert, where he hid himself, as Blessed Simon says, in order to
give himself up entirely to prayer, contemplation, and penance.  The
comparison between these saints is often a fitting one, for Rita always
follows closely in the footsteps of her great model.  It is true that,
according to the example of the Psalmist, she walked in the innocence
of her heart, in the bosom of her virtuous family, for she found
nothing abroad that could distract her spirit from the affairs of her
home, whilst her gravity, modesty, and habitual seclusion opened to her
a wide field for the exercise of her love of prayer.  Yet she was so
enamoured of heavenly things that she wearied of the things of earth,
and desired, in a certain sense, to be out of the world; and since this
could not be, she regarded with a holy envy the lot of so many
anchorites and heroines of solitude, who, in deserts and in the depths
of woods, lived lives more like those of angels than of men.  She had
before her eyes the examples of Blessed Simon, of Blessed Ugolino, of
Blessed John, and of the other saintly hermits of St Augustine, who had
only recently passed to their reward in heaven, or were still living in
the neighbourhood of Rocca Porena.  The example of these models of
holiness increased in her heart her dearest desire to serve her beloved
Jesus amid the silence of the woods and on the mounts of myrrh.  But
the love of her aged parents, and obedience, more than any thought of
her youth and sex, prevented her from fulfilling her generous design.
The sacred love with which she was animated made her industrious, and
suggested the thought of converting her home into the solitude she
longed for.  With the consent of her parents she chose a little room
separated from the others, and turned it into an oratory.  Its walls
she decorated with pictures of our Lord's Passion, and there she shut
herself in, as into the midst of all delights.  Her Divine Lover
awaited her there to speak to her heart, and there, far from the eyes
of men, in perpetual silence and abstinence, she enjoyed those
ineffable consolations of grace which the profane know not of.  The
constant object of her thoughts, of her ecstasies of soul, of the most
ardent love of her heart, was the Passion of her crucified Spouse; and
in the midst of the tears which accompanied her meditation, whilst her
heart was filled with Divine compassion, she experienced that true
peace and happiness of soul which only grace can produce--how we know
not--from sorrow.  She felt herself transformed into the Crucified One,
for whom alone she now lived--rather, she no longer lived, but Jesus
Christ lived in her.  In that school of love, through that Divine
teaching, she came to know more certainly the fallacy of all worldly
things; she saw how the world deceives us, and she saw also the charms
and pomps and pleasures of this life, but she saw them as they really
are, and could therefore say with the wise man that they are but vanity
and affliction of spirit.  She therefore resolved to have no part in
this deceitful world, and since life in the desert was denied her, she
resolved to bury herself in a cloister.  But she had not yet reached
the age in which to put her design into execution.  Meanwhile the holy
child lived in her first place of retirement for a full twelvemonth,
until the obligation of assisting her parents and the duties of charity
and obedience forced her from the place of her spiritual happiness.
This happened probably when she was about eleven years old.  Her
parents were now beginning to feel the burden of their years, and Rita
had perforce to enter upon an active life, and exercise works of mercy
and justice, without, however, entirely abandoning her practices of
meditation.  Her history does not tell us how she performed the
domestic duties that fell to her lot, perhaps because, from what we
know of her life hitherto, that may more easily be imagined than
described.  Whilst fulfilling the parts of both sisters of Lazarus, she
did not cease to envy John in the desert.  Although the Holy Spirit
had, through her prayers, made known to her many things, and although
she continued still to be enlightened from above, yet she knew not what
was written in the eternal decrees concerning herself, that Providence
only put off to a better time the fulfilment of her thirst for solitude
and for a cloistered life.  Rita was intended to be an example to every
age and condition; she should therefore live other lives before
reaching the cloister she panted for.



CHAPTER VIII

RITA'S MARRIAGE

In the year 1393 Italy, not to say the whole world, was suffering under
the evils that proceed from political disturbance, and the state of
morals throughout the peninsula was deplorable.  Still, the honour of
the Church was upheld by the many saints whose lives then adorned it,
not the least of whom was Rita.  Urban VI. was dead, and Boniface IX.
ruled in his place.  But the Holy See had to withstand many a rude
shock, for the anti-Pope Robert, then near his end, continued to
dispute the possession of the Apostolic keys, and at his death left to
his more impious successor, Pietro di Luna, his sad legacy of obstinate
schism.  Heresy, fanaticism,--religious and political--and the utmost
corruption of morals were not wanting to fill the cup of Italy's woes.

The weak hands of the cruel and dissolute Wenceslaus still held the
sceptre of the West, and John Paleologus, who had succeeded his father
Emmanuel, could only weep over the impending ruin of his falling
empire, that was shaken in every part by the infidel arms of the Sultan
Bajazet.  In Italy the rivalry of the different States, and, above all,
the vaulting ambition of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan, served
to keep alive disunion, antagonism, and wretchedness.  At this very
time the republic of Cascia, which, since its revolt against the Holy
See, had hardly enjoyed a moment of peace or prosperity, was in arms
against the Guelphs of Cerreto, and had at the same time to prosecute a
stubborn war against Aquila.  In these contests the military portion of
Cascia, by their deeds of violence, their robberies, and their
atrocities, trampled on every law of humanity and modesty.  It is true
that hostilities came to an end in 1395, when terms of peace were
agreed on; but warlike Cascia could not remain long at rest, but took
up arms against Monte Reale in a new war, which lasted till 1397.

Whilst Cascia and the other States we have mentioned were seeking by
iniquitous means to widen the borders of the kingdom of confusion and
sin, Rita, in Rocca Porena, was meditating only how she could best
please God, that, as the Apostle says, she might be holy in body and in
spirit.  The lurid picture of universal disorder rightly excited in her
feelings of horror, and convinced her all the more of the vanity and
cruelty of the world.

She saw the deceitful pleasures, the snares and thorns, the inevitable
evils that show themselves at every step, and the dangers that at every
moment threaten the soul with ruin.  On the other hand, she perceived
the great advantages that result from separating one's self from the
world; she recalled all the spiritual joy and interior consolation she
experienced during the time she lived in retirement in her home, and
she therefore felt herself more firmly grounded in her determination to
flee for ever from the tumult of worldlings.  The solitude which formed
the object of her desires, and in which she resolved to offer to God
the holocaust of her virginity, was the convent of Cascia, where she
afterwards lived and died, called at that time St. Mary Magdalen's, and
occupied then, as well as now, by nuns of the Order of St. Augustine.
This pious project had been for some time maturing in her mind, and
although she was hardly twelve years of age she determined to carry it
into effect without any of those wearisome delays which the grace of
the Holy Spirit knows not of, which belong to certain weak and
hesitating souls that cannot break the world's ties, or those of vain
fear, when God calls them to a state of perfection.  Although Rita then
heard the call of her Divine Lover, she did not know the time He had
fixed for the fulfilling of her wishes, but, overcome by a holy
impatience, she resolved to make known to her parents her desire for a
religious life.  Who can tell what struggles the voice of nature must
have caused in her soul at this crisis, as she thought that she was for
ever about to separate herself from the side of her dearly loved and
aged parents?  Even the saints feel the strength of nature, but, like
giants, they pass on to triumphs in the kingdom of grace.  Thus Rita
acted.  She shut her ears to the insinuating voice of flesh and blood,
informed her parents of her religious vocation, and humbly and
fervently begged their leave to obey the voice of God.  When they heard
their daughter express such a wish, Antonio and Amata, pious though
they were, did not hide their sorrow and the trouble they felt.  They
besought with tears that their only child, the one object of their
tenderest love, their only prop and consolation, should not abandon
them in their old age.  Their tearful pleading, acting on the filial
love and obedience which filled Rita's heart, prevailed on her to put
off for a better time the fulfilment of her noble purpose.  Being so
far successful, her parents turned their attention to providing a
husband for her, in order both to make sure of retaining her society
and her assistance that had become necessary to them, and to save their
family from extinction; and they fixed their eyes on a young man
called, according to some, Ferdinand, and to others Paul.  But old eyes
do not always see clearly.  The young man whom they selected was
impulsive and irascible, with a character formed amid the savage
surroundings of that time and place--in a word, he was well fitted to
try the patience and virtue of Rita.  He was proposed as a husband to
the saintly girl, and all the weight of parental authority, and every
motive that human nature could suggest, were adduced to win her
consent.  We do not know with what prayers and entreaties the
distressed girl opposed the suggestion, but we do know that she showed
the repugnance her soul felt.  It was not, however, the disposition of
her intended husband that made her hate the idea of marriage, for if
the knowledge of it were hidden from her parents, it could scarcely be
known to a young girl so fond of retirement.  All Rita's aversion and
complaining sprang from the fear of seeing closed to her the road that
led to the conventual life to which she aspired, and the dread of
having to dwell in the midst of an evil and destroying world, in which
she would be plunged into the dangerous cares of married life.  Seeing
at last that her tears could not bend her parents to her wishes, and
feeling somewhat shaken by considerations of filial piety and
obedience, she had recourse in her hard trial to the Father of light.
During her prayer she became conscious of an inspiration that told her
to bend her neck to the yoke of matrimony, and thus understood that
what she took to be a suggestion of paternal love, purely human and the
voice of flesh and blood, was in reality a disposition of heaven.
Resignation to the Divine will partly restored her peace of mind, and
the consent to her marriage which she announced to her parents filled
them with satisfaction.  Rita gave her consent through an impulse of
obedience, and since perfect obedience to the Divine will requires a
holy blindness, she took no care to inquire about the fortune,
appearance, or other qualities of her future husband.  Rita was
therefore in the first flower of her youth, her beauty, and virtue
when, under the nuptial veil of her modesty, she stood before the altar
to become a party to that indissoluble contract which Jesus Christ
raised to the dignity of a Sacrament, and which gives children to the
people of God.  The relatives and friends on both sides were resolved
to celebrate the nuptials with feastings, but the common joy did not
reach the heart of the pious bride, for that was fixed on nobler
objects.  To the hour of her marriage Rita had been an excellent
example to all virgins.  In those few years she had given enough
lessons to show how virginal candour and pure innocence should be
preserved; she had now to follow another path to become a bright
example of virtue to all who live in the married state.



CHAPTER IX

RITA AS WIFE

The Apostle's saying, that 'all things work together for good to those
who love God,' remains always true.  Rita had passed from the state of
virginity to that of matrimony, yet this step towards a lower state was
destined to lead her to a higher grade of glory.  Thus St. Monica,
whose faithful follower our heroine was ever to be, would not have been
St. Augustine's mother by nature, and in the order of grace would not
have drawn the erring Patrizio, her husband, to God, would not have so
wide a field wherein to exercise her patience and fortitude, would not
have left all those examples of virtue which her son Augustine admires
and exalts in his book of 'Confessions,' if Divine Providence had not
led her by that path which, long after, her daughter Rita followed.

The ways are diverse and diverse are the gifts, but the Spirit is the
same which guides souls in a wonderful manner towards greater good.
The way of tribulation was that which the Lord opened to our saint, and
by the means of matrimony He wished her to pass through fire and
water--in other words, through every sort of danger, temptation, and
persecution, in order to prove and purify her, as gold is purified in
the furnace, and thence to receive her into heaven as a most pure
holocaust.  Hence the God whose wish placed her in the married state so
disposed it that she should pass from her original life of filial
submission to that of slavery under a tyrannical husband.  Thus it was
that hardly had a few days passed after the marriage than her unworthy
husband began to illtreat the innocent Rita with reproaches, abuse,
threats, and even blows, of which the only cause was his own brutal
inclination.  But our gentle heroine had studied in the school of the
Crucified One; she had already learned how to conquer her passions even
to the extent of rejoicing in the midst of tribulation, for she was
convinced that tribulation is the food of Christian patience, that
penitence is the great proof of real virtue, and that on the exercise
of it is based our priceless hope of eternal good that shall not fail
us.

Yet because she was aware that not all who suffer are blessed, but only
those who surfer for justice' sake, she took every care and tried every
means to please her husband, whom nothing could satisfy.  She waited on
him, tried to discover his wants, sought to interpret his unspoken
wishes, studied his temper--in a word, she did her utmost never to give
him the least cause to complain, at least in everything in which her
duty as a Christian permitted.  She was well aware that a wife ought to
regard her husband as a master to whom that obedience and reverential
fear are due which the Church owes to her head, Christ Jesus.  She not
only knew, but practised it 111 a way that astonished all who were
acquainted with the natural brutality of her husband and her own heroic
submission, meekness, and invincible constancy.  She obeyed his every
beck, and undertook no duty without first seeking his approval.  So far
did she carry this submission that she did not go out of her house even
to attend the Divine offices in church without having first obtained
his permission.  With all this the contest was a long one between the
husband's cruelty and the wife's sweetness of temper, between his
vicious nature and her virtue, between his pride and her humility, his
ferocity and her meekness, his arrogance and her tractableness, between
his power to give pain and her ability to surfer.

But the victory was gained by Rita's virtues, for her long-suffering at
length won her husband's heart, and brought unity and love into their
home.  Whenever afterwards Ferdinand felt inclined, as he sometimes
did, to have recourse to cutting words or unseemly acts, at the sight
of her humility and patience, and the memory of her gentle admonitions,
he adopted the expedient of going out of the house till his mind
recovered its tranquillity.  We read, too, that, completely overcome by
her sweet gentleness, he one day threw himself at her feet to ask
pardon from her for his faults and to promise to correct them.  To the
unspeakable consolation of Rita he kept this promise, nor was she slow
to refer all the praise of this conversion to the Giver of all good
things, who alone is Lord of the human heart.  When fraternal
correction is not the outcome of irritation or pride, it is an
instrument of Divine grace, and we know that it has no other object
than the salvation of him who is corrected when the word and manner
which convey it are marked by moderation and kindness.  Rita therefore
brought into action all the graces, natural and supernatural, which she
possessed, in order to bind closely to her that unquiet heart of her
husband, and to draw him to the Lord, and induce him to fulfil his
Christian obligations.

Two sons were born to them, the elder of whom was named Gian Giacomo,
and the other Paolo Maria.  Both of them inherited their father's
quarrelsome and irascible temperament, and his example did not help to
improve them.  We may easily imagine the trouble, the watchfulness, the
uneasiness, the fear, and anxiety which a devoted Christian mother like
Rita must have experienced in rearing, educating, and, above all, in
forming the minds of her young children.  The words which she kept
continually repeating in their ears, and which she would have wished to
impress indelibly on their hearts, were words of the holy fear of God,
of piety and devotion.  But not so much with words did the pious mother
endeavour to instil into them the pure maxims of the Gospel as by the
example of her own exalted virtues.  Would that fathers and mothers
would learn once for all from the saints, and become convinced of the
undeniable truth that their children are moulded more by their example
than by their words, even when these are not contradicted by their
deeds!  Rita, however, in her vigilance spared nothing, neither words
nor actions, nor advice nor blame, nor threats nor chastisements, to
train these tender plants heavenwards; but their natural and more easy
tendency was downwards, and this was her greatest cause of sorrow
amongst so many causes, and the worst of all her troubles.  We do not
mean to say that Gian Giacomo and Paolo were like David's sons Amnon
and Absolom, yet it is a fact that the children of holy people are
sometimes self-willed and wicked, however holy their upbringing may
have been.  Rita, however, knew what a mother's duty was, and she
therefore, in bringing up her children, never allowed her zeal to
slacken, nor her patience to wear out, nor her watchfulness to grow
weary.

The trials were severe enough which our heroine had to undergo from the
society of an irascible husband, whose virtue was none of the most
steadfast, but they were redoubled by the evil inclinations she saw
appear in her children, and their hatred of all good instruction.  The
citizens of the heavenly kingdom, whilst they live in this world
amongst the sinful and the wicked, must, as St. Augustine teaches, be
tossed about by temptations, in order that they may keep themselves in
the practice of virtue, and be proved as gold is proved in the
crucible.  Tried by such afflictions, Rita seemed to have come to such
a pass that she could do nothing else than, with the prophet, raise her
pure hands to heaven night and day, to seek in God alone some relief in
her troubles and some defence against the evils of her house.[1] If
ever she deemed it necessary to have recourse to prayer, now assuredly
was a time that called for redoubled prayer and the greatest fervour.
She therefore prayed without ceasing.  Her continued meditations on the
sufferings of our Lord was a relief in her distress; frequent communion
brought comfort to her troubled state, and her particular devotion to
our Blessed Lady, consoler of the afflicted, to St. John the Baptist,
St. Augustine, and St. Nicholas of Tolentine, often brought
forgetfulness of her woes.  Women of the world enduring the like
suffering and trouble would deem themselves dispensed from the practice
of any other mortification, and in their love of ease, which readily
flatters them, would find a thousand pretexts to exempt themselves even
from the fasts that are commanded.  But Rita, who was in the world but
not of it, far from suspending the acts of penitence she was used to
practise before her marriage, took refuge in works of greater
austerity, in abstinence and fastings and in chastising her body.  In
spite of these acts of mortification, she still had sufficient strength
and vigour to attend to all the needs of her house and assist the wants
of her neighbours; she relieved the necessities of the poverty
stricken, and with her own hands prepared food for them; by the
bedsides of the sick she was unwearying, and, in a word, made herself
all things to all men.  When she had to appear abroad, either in the
performance of her works of charity or to be present at the Divine
mysteries in the church, her angelic modesty and the goodness and
interior peace which shone in her countenance served to edify all who
saw her.  These were her adornments, not the trappings of worldly show,
which from childhood she abhorred, and which were more detestable in
her eyes now that she had advanced so far on the way of perfection.
She carefully avoided all unbecoming neglect in dress, and appeared in
a garb free from everything savouring of vanity, not to say
indecency--such a dress as would escape the eyes of the curious, and
which, instead of luxuriousness, showed a contempt of the present life,
and was exactly what necessity and Christian humility required.  In her
intercourse with others, whilst always well-mannered and agreeable, she
possessed singular tact in avoiding all conversations which were not of
God or of works of corporal or spiritual mercy to her neighbours.  No
one ever heard from her lips any of those complaints against her
husband which are so frequent when women meet together.  If ever any of
her female acquaintances who knew how she was treated by her
ill-tempered husband tried to provoke her to complain by affected pity,
as grumbling women not unfrequently did, she either turned the
conversation to another subject or covered her husband's faults with
the mantle of charity, and thereby gave a practical example of virtue
which her neighbours might to their advantage imitate.  In brief, St.
Rita was another St. Monica: she was the strong woman of the parables
of Solomon, and was in all respects the best model for married women.


[1] Ps. lxxvi. 2.



CHAPTER X

DEATH OF RITA'S HUSBAND AND CHILDREN--RITA AS WIDOW

Rita had succeeded, as we have said, in assuaging the cruelty that
seemed to have been natural to her husband.  The means she employed to
effect this change were the gentle manner which she naturally
possessed, and which Divine grace made still more gentle; the good
advice she ever gave, her kindness and unwearying patience, her good
example, and, above all, her fervent prayers.  But whether it was that
his enemies, brooding over old causes of hate, resolved to take revenge
for past offences, or that Ferdinand, in a fresh outburst of passion,
had exposed himself to new quarrels and new dangers, the fact remains
that when he had lived eighteen years with Rita he was barbarously
murdered a short distance outside Rocca Porena (the place where the
unfortunate victim fell is still shown).  Hardly had the report of his
tragic death reached the ears of his widowed spouse than, despite her
magnanimous heart, she paid the tribute of nature in an outburst of
bitter, scalding tears.  In the depths of her heart the holy woman felt
the wounds that had taken from her side the husband she loved.  But the
thoughts that made her weep were not thoughts of temporal losses, or of
her sorrow, or of being left alone to provide for her family, or of
having to dwell with undutiful children with no one to support her.
Far other sadder and more serious considerations were breaking her
heart.  A little human feeling and a weak grasp of faith are enough to
fill us with horror at hearing of a violent death.  We may, then,
easily imagine what grief Rita felt as she considered in the light of
her lively faith all the evil on the one part and the other that may
have preceded and accompanied that homicidal attempt, or as she dwelt
on the uncertainty of pardon or of her husband's penitence, or his
having to appear before his Judge without having received the last
Sacraments.  Nevertheless, that lively faith which made her feel doubly
the crushing force of the calamity that had overtaken her soon raised
her above herself, above death and every human consideration.  She
raised the eyes of her soul to heaven and remembered, and was sure that
Divine Providence, whose designs are inscrutable, not only disposes all
the good that is done, but permits all the evil which comes from man's
free-will.  This thought sufficed to bow her down before the throne of
the Divine Majesty, to adore His just judgments, and hence came comfort
to her bruised heart.  The saints have no need of the barren
consolations of the world; they find in religion that comfort which
reason alone can never give.  Our noble heroine did not for a moment
hesitate to pardon sincerely from her heart the murderers of her
unfortunate husband, but, mindful of the example of Jesus Christ, who
prayed to the Eternal Father for those who crucified Him, and of St.
Stephen, who interceded for those who were stoning him to death, she
too offered fervent supplications to the Divine Mercy for those cruel
murderers.

Hardly had Rita raised her mind above the stormy sea of her sorrows
than a new trouble appeared to afflict her.  She perceived with
consternation that her sons, although yet of tender years, were
plotting vengeance against those who were guilty of their father's
blood.  The afflicted widow exerted all her force by word and deed to
excite in them sentiments of resignation and of forgiveness and of
Christian charity.  She ceased not to keep before their minds the
eternal maxims, the fear of judgment and of hell, the examples of the
saints, and especially the example of our crucified Redeemer, who, in
the extremity of His sufferings, interceded for His inhuman
executioners.  She took care, too, immediately to remove out of the
sight of her sons the bloody garments of her slain husband.  But in
spite of all her advice and solicitude, the sorrowing mother could not
touch her children's vengeful hearts, or, if she did succeed in
softening them, it was but for a moment they abandoned their wicked
intentions.  Amidst circumstances of such distress, and oppressed by
her fears, the unhappy widow knew not whither to turn, and on earth she
found only subjects of sorrow and vestiges of sin.  She turned her
weeping eyes once more to heaven, and there again she found the
greatest comfort in her sufferings.  Although she was a mother, and had
a mother's affectionate heart, yet because she loved and sought God's
honour more than her own flesh and blood, like a noble Christian
heroine, she supplicated the Lord either to change her children's
hearts or to take them out of this world before they could accomplish
the vengeance they were meditating.  Rita's vows were acceptable to
heaven, and to her was granted to complete Abraham's sacrifice in a new
way--for the patriarch's knife was arrested in mid-air, and Isaac was
saved; but she saw her two sons fall one after another victims to her
prayers that pierced the heavens.  Thus we may well hope that the most
merciful Lord provided for their eternal salvation during their mortal
illness, and then took them, lest wickedness should alter their
understanding,[1] and at the same time provided for the mother by
opening to her a way into a new life far removed from the world and so
long the object of her wishes, a life altogether spiritual and by
anticipation blessed.  The brave woman did not weep, and although at
the time of her husband's tragic end she was dissolved in tears through
fear about the salvation of his soul and the souls of his murderers,
yet at the deaths of her children she only thanked her God who had
taken them away from the dangers of sin and the risk of another more
dreadful death--that of the soul.

It is difficult to discover how long Rita had to struggle with her
vengeful children, or how long she remained in the world after they had
passed to eternity.  It seems certain, however, that the time she lived
as a widow was short.  But we know that during that period she placed
all her confidence in God, and that she was engaged night and day in
the practice of most perfect prayer,[2] according to St. Paul's
instruction to widows.  She bore the cross with Jesus Christ, and lived
a life of perpetual self-denial.  More than ever she kept her body in
subjection by scourgings and continued fasting, and she distributed to
the poor that part of her food which her abstinence spared.  She
rejoiced in performing works of mercy, and was, in a word, all love
towards God and her neighbour, and in no way solicitous about herself.
Amongst other instances of her heroic charity we read that, happening
one day upon a poor man half naked and trembling with cold, she took
one of her own garments and gave it to him, and went on her way
rejoicing that God had given her the opportunity and the grace to
deprive herself of what she herself needed in order to help one of the
poor of the Lord.  Her dress was of coarse serge, and was a dark blue
in colour, and during the severity of the winter she added a rough
cloak.  She always wore sackcloth that she might always be doing
penance.  In retirement alone she found her consolation and joy; and no
sooner were her children dead than her old burning desire to enclose
herself once for all within the cherished shadows of the cloister
sprang into life again.  We may relate an incident which gave a new
impetus to her vocation, as it is told by an ancient writer: Having
gone one day from Rocca Porena to Cascia, she went into the church of
the Augustinian nuns whilst Mass was being said, and there she felt as
if those words of our Saviour were being imprinted on her mind, 'I am
the Way, the Truth, and the Life'--words which then passed into her
heart to pierce it with the Divine love which spoke to her and invited
her.

We may well believe, too, that the worthy examples of other female
saints then living or but recently gone to their reward offered new
arguments to urge her not to delay entering on a conventual life.  The
memory of St. Bridget of Sweden and Blessed Angela of Foligno was still
recent, whilst St. Margaret of Monferrato and St. Frances of Rome were
then still living, all of them illustrious women raised up by God, as
Rita was in Cascia, to oppose and bear testimony against the corruption
of those times, and all of them predestined to become models to the
virgins of the cloister after having adorned in the world the three
states of virginity, married life and widowhood.  But even without
these examples Rita was sufficiently conscious of the interior voice of
her heavenly Spouse, and she readily prepared to obey it.  Thus Abraham
had hardly heard the angel's voice when he arose in the darkness of the
night and went to sacrifice his son; the shepherds who were watching
their flocks when they heard the announcement of the Divine Infant's
birth ran to offer Him their homage; the Magi, as soon as they saw the
new star, did not hesitate to undertake their long journey to adore the
King of kings in His swaddling-clothes; the Apostles, at the first call
of the Redeemer, left their nets and followed Him; the head of the
Apostles, Peter, at a sign from the angel, rose quickly from his broken
chains; so Rita determined to hide herself without delay in that sacred
retreat where her Divine Lover was awaiting her.  That retreat, as we
have said, was the convent in Cascia of the nuns who follow the rule of
the great Augustine, who were called at that time nuns of St. Mary
Magdalen, from the ancient title of their church, and who were
remarkable for strict observance.  We have said before that the
Augustinian Order flourished there not only in the convent of the nuns,
but in the wonderful sanctity of the worthy followers of the Blessed
Simon, Blessed Ugolino, and Blessed John and Simon, all of whom had
dwelt in the woods of Cascia.  This, too, must have been a strong
attraction to our saint, and a further inducement to fix her mind
unchangeably on Cascia.  The memory of the heroic virtues practised by
St. Nicholas of Tolentine, her special advocate, was still fresh in the
minds of men, and the fame of his stupendous miracles had spread
throughout the land.  But the principal motive why she sought to wear
the habit of St. Augustine was that God in His inscrutable decrees had
called her to that state by the loving invitations of His grace.  The
pious widow approached the nuns, and, throwing herself at their feet,
in simple words and with all the fervour of her heart expressed her
desire to serve God within their walls and in that penitential garb
they wore.  But her request was vain; it was not thought convenient to
receive a widow in a convent intended for virgins, and it was against
their custom.  Rita took her refusal patiently, but she did not lose
courage, and, like Abraham, she hoped against hope.[3]  Some time after
she went back again, represented that she had a vocation, renewed her
prayers and sighs; but she was rejected a second and, again, a third
time.  But the more the nuns persisted in refusing her admission, the
more did Rita acquire the merit of humility, patience, and unalterable
confidence in God.  She attributed her refusal to her own unworthiness,
and in her self-contempt she more and more conformed herself to her
model, Jesus.  This was the manner of life which Rita led in the world,
where she was a mirror of every virtue to virgins, to the married, and
to widows.  We shall see how she became an example of sanctity to
religious in the cloister.


[1] Wisd. of Sol. iv. ii.

[2] 1 Tim. v. 5.

[3] Rom. iv. 18.



END OF PART I



Part II

RITA IN THE CLOISTER



CHAPTER I

  RITA'S MIRACULOUS ENTRY INTO THE CLOISTER
  AND HER RECEPTION

All Rita's thoughts and all her affections were centred in heaven, and
the reason why she desired to lead a more perfect life in the cloister
was thereby to make more certain of attaining the object of her
desires.  But the world in that century of wickedness was engaged about
far different things; the vortex of worldly hopes and ambitions had
engulfed almost all the aspirations of men.  In the East, rapine, vice,
violence, murder, irreligion, and a long train of irreparable wrongs,
had followed quickly upon the victories of Sultan Bajazet and the
defeats of the Emperor Emmanuel.  The prolonged war was still being
waged in the German Empire between Sigismund and the rebellious
Hussites, who despised human life in their endeavours to spread their
heresy and profane and overthrow the altar.  The government of the
Church, then under Pope John XXIII., was most violently harassed by the
anti-Pope Pietro di Luna, whose contumacy the Council of Constance
failed to break down, as the Council of Pisa had failed before.  Italy
continued to be the laughing-stock of tyrants and of the resuscitated
factions of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines.  Of the two Visconti who
governed the Cisalpine province, one was the slave of his vices and the
other was the prisoner of his rebellious subject Facino Cane, tyrant of
Alexandria, who was the formidable chief of a marauding band and the
despoiler of the province.  The tyrannous usurpations of Ottobono in
Parma, Da Vignate in Lodi, Fondolo in Cremona, and Malatesta in Brescia
still continued.  The Romagna and the Marshes enjoyed no higher degree
of liberty or prosperity under the yoke of despotism.  The factions of
Durozzo and of Anjou still disputed possession of the kingdom of
Naples, and the ambitious Ladislaus, with designs on the whole Italian
peninsula, began to threaten Rome with the fugitive Pontiff.  The
republics of Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Siena were either plotting
against one another or actually at war.  Cascia was the only one of the
republics that had begun to taste the almost forgotten fruits of peace.
But neither in Cascia nor elsewhere were good morals to be found; they
seemed to have barely secured a refuge in the cloisters.  Hence Rita
was sighing night and day for the sacred shelter, and although she had
till then bloomed as a stainless lily among thorns, yet she did not
consider that she could live secure in the danger-laden atmosphere that
surrounded her.  But how could she aspire to a cloistered life when all
hope seemed futile after the repulses she had received?  Yet to that
life she aspired, and not in vain.  For those undertakings which seem
arduous and sometimes impossible become not only practicable, but easy
to heroic faith.  The invitations which Divine grace held out to her
and the refusals with which Rita was met by the nuns were nothing more
than the loving pleasantries of her heavenly Spouse, and but trials of
her virtue and constancy.  Therefore the more her wishes were
frustrated, the more frequent became her prayers and the more fervent
the sighs of her heart.  She had recourse, too, to the mediation of the
saints, and did not fear to make herself importunate to her protectors,
St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine, and St. Nicholas.  And the measure
of the effect which her prayers produced was, as St. Augustine teaches,
the fervour of the love that preceded them.  She merited the favour she
sought, and received it.  Here is how the incident is related by the
writers of her life:

The saint was one night kneeling on the ground, rapt in prayer, her
hands extended to heaven after her usual manner and as the royal
prophet teaches, when she suddenly heard a knocking at the door of her
house, and someone calling out her name.  The first feeling of the
lonely widow was one of trouble and fear, but she invoked the Divine
assistance, took courage, and went to the window--but nothing was to be
seen or heard.  She returned to her prayer, but was interrupted by the
same unknown voice calling her.  Her fear increased, but she went to
the window again--and again there was only darkness and silence
without.  She then began to think it might be some trick of the devil,
and, puzzled between doubt and fear, she threw herself at the feet of
Jesus Christ, and besought Him more fervently to enlighten and to help
her, and that He would be pleased to make known His Divine will,
whether what she had experienced was a delusion of the devil or a voice
from heaven.  Her short prayer was so pleasing to God that Rita soon
felt herself rapt in ecstasy, and then she saw and heard clearly, and
her fear was changed into joyful consolation.  She saw her three holy
patrons, and heard the joyous words with which the spouse of the
Canticles called his beloved, 'Arise, make haste, my love, and
come--come, for it is time at last to enter the cloister from which
thou hast been repulsed so many times.'  As soon as these words had
been uttered, the rapture of her ecstasy ceased, but she still
retained, deeply impressed on her mind, a vivid picture of the entire
vision.  Then, by a Divine impulse, she went to the window a third
time, and, enlightened by God, she saw, to her great surprise, a person
of venerable aspect, who invited her by signs to follow him.  Whether
he appeared in his usual rough vesture of woven camel-hair, or clad in
skins, or in other guise, we know not, but for certain it was no other
than St. John the Precursor, as Rita was not slow to recognise, and he
it was who was so clearly manifested to her in the preceding vision.
She felt her heart overflowing with rapture, and hastened to obey the
signs of her heavenly guide.  Hardly had she reached the spot where he
stood than her astonishment and joy were still further increased, for
there, at either side of her great protector, stood her other patrons,
Augustine and Nicholas, both ready and prepared to escort her towards
the fate she desired so ardently for herself.  It will not be out of
place to remark here that the house in which Rita dwelt and out of
which she went on the night in which these extraordinary events
occurred was built at the base of a steep shelf of rock anciently
called the 'Gun' of Rocca Porena, and which it was almost impossible to
climb.  Yet, leaving the usual road, it was by way of this rock that
her sainted guides led Rita, perhaps to indicate to her by the
precipitous nature of the place the steepness of the mountain of
monastic perfection which she was destined to scale, and by the chasm
below the terrible nature of a fall from grace.  Rita was seized by
sudden fear at the sight here presented to her, but Divine grace and
her holy companions brought her comfort, and enabled her to rise
superior to herself, so that she mounted fearlessly through the
darkness of the night over the rough stones and trunks of fallen trees
till she reached the highest point of that beetling rock, which is now
called the 'Saint's Rock,' from so memorable an occurrence.  If the
ascent of the rock is difficult, the descent on the side of Cascia is
quite impossible, from whence it is believed that when the four saints
had accomplished the difficult ascent they were either borne through
the air from mountain to mountain, or else passed without pause to
their intended goal, as if to signify the liberty enjoyed by all who
reach the highest point of perfection and have climbed the mount of
God.  However the authors may differ in minor points in describing this
event, we may well judge that everything connected with it is
miraculous, as Rita's entry into the convent was also miraculous, for
she entered whilst the gates were closed, or through a gate opened for
her and closed when she had passed the portals by an invisible hand.

When Rita found herself within the sacred enclosure where she had so
ardently desired to be, her glorious escort disappeared in a moment
from sight, and she was abandoned and left all alone in the darkness,
and had to pass the remainder of the night in an ecstasy of wonder, but
tossed about on a sea of uncertainty by the rush of the thoughts that
filled her mind.  The nuns rose in the early morning to sing the
praises of the Lord, and what was their surprise when they saw within
their convent, and trembling with fright, the humble widow whom they
had repeatedly rejected!  They plied her with questions, and Rita
replied simply and modestly by describing the whole history of the
miraculous occurrence of the night.  For the last time she begged them
with the greatest fervour not to reject her any longer--and how could
they refuse her in the face of so evident a miracle?  The nuns,
therefore, with common consent and unusual applause, received the holy
widow into their number, and after joining with her in thanking and
praising the Most High, they put on her their penitential habit, and
admitted her to the novitiate with all solemnity and every mark of
general satisfaction.  The nuns were delighted at the turn of events,
and Rita's joy exceeded all bounds, till, comparing her unworthiness
with the great goodness of God, she was abashed before Him.  The more
she thought on the greatness of the remarkable favours conferred on
her, the more profound did her humility become, and she poured forth a
thousand times her tribute of gratitude to heaven, but could never find
words or thoughts able to express the thanks she owed to Divine
Providence.

This miraculous entry into the convent occurred during the unhappy
years we have before described, or about the year 1413, when Rita was
nearly thirty-two years of age; for she was married in her thirteenth
year, and lived eighteen years with her husband, and was a widow for
about a year, when her second son died; whilst the interval between
that event and her entry to the convent, the period of her repeated
rejections, must have been short.  In the same year the Augustinian
Order could boast of another splendid addition to its members, for the
reception of Alexander Oliva, called the Blessed, occurred then.  He
afterwards reached the highest honours within the Order, and was raised
to the dignity of Cardinal before he passed to the glory he had
prepared for himself in heaven.  But the Order has greater reason to be
proud of Rita's reception, because, although her life was passed in
obscurity and far from the eyes of the world, it certainly was not less
bright with the splendour of the Saints, and after death she has
acquired more of the veneration of the faithful.



CHAPTER II

RITA AS NOVICE: HER PROFESSION

From her early youth Rita had a great longing for a solitary life, but
now that the Omnipotent God had placed her in the convent she had no
further reason to sigh for the deserts of the Jordan, the solitudes of
Tagaste, the silence of Valmanente, the groves of her native place, or
any other home of hermits.  The cloister constituted the fulfilment of
all her desires, and her only remaining anxiety was to emulate the
great virtues of her three holy patrons, the blessed hermits of Cascia,
and the other holy ones whose lives had made the glory of the
solitudes.  To say truth, it must have cost her very little labour to
follow in their footsteps, for there was no need for her to change her
habits and manners when she put off a secular dress for the garb of a
nun, and she had but to live the remainder of her life as she had
hitherto lived in order to reach the highest point of perfection.
Jesus Christ teaches us that the surest way of attaining perfection is
by renouncing all earthly possessions, and our saint, although she had
always lived completely detached from worldly things, hastened to
practise the Saviour's teaching in the most effectual manner by
distributing all her slender fortune amongst the poor.  Thus, without
property, without husband or children, and far from her relatives, Rita
rejoiced to be an abject slave in the house of the King of Peace, and
deemed herself to enjoy a nobler freedom, more ample wealth, and a
happier lot than they who dwell in the sumptuous tabernacles of sinners
surrounded by the riches, the pomp, and the glory of this world.

No one can tell us better than her companions in religion how she lived
during the year of her noviceship, and they were astonished and
confused at what they observed in her, and from the first regarded her
as a model of the purest and most tried virtue.  Poverty, chastity, and
obedience had nothing to alarm her, for she was long accustomed to live
in poverty in Rocca Porena; her body she had crucified with Christ in
God; and she had lived subject not only to her prudent parents, but to
a cruel husband.  So also had the other virtues which she practised in
her noviceship become familiar to her in the world, if we except alone
some prescribed corporal penances and the more abundant prayers which
she was enabled to offer.  Nothing else regarding her can be
established from the scanty memorials of those obscure times, and we
only know that as the time of noviceship went on she persevered in
those holy practices of extraordinary piety and austere penance, and
prepared to bind herself to her God with stronger ties on the day of
her new regeneration.  The learned Cardinal Seripando and others call
the day of the formal profession of monastic vows the day of new
regeneration, for through the sacrifice then made of one's will, of
bodily pleasures, and of property, the total remission of all
punishment due to sin may be merited.  That day at length arrived, and
the holy novice, having first made a rigorous examination of her whole
life and marked all the stains on her pure conscience, which she
removed by the fire of her sorrow and the blood of Jesus Christ,
presented herself before the altar to vow perpetual observance of the
evangelical counsels.  She had no hesitation in placing her hand on the
holy Rule of the great Augustine, for her heroic trust in the
assistance of grace gave her courage, and for the rest, although the
Rule may seem severe to the minds of worldlings, the saints regard it
but as a law of love, and a cord to unite souls to God.  Therefore Rita
preferred this sweet servitude to all the kingdoms of earth, and
considered herself the happiest of women since she had at last reached
the goal towards which from her earliest years she had felt herself
drawn by heaven's gentle violence.

The exact date of the profession is unknown, but it very probably took
place when Fr. Pietro di Vena Tolosano was General of the Order, and he
succeeded in that office Fr. Saracini, who was from Rocca Porena, and
who had been made Bishop of Macerata.  The date of profession would
therefore be about 1414.  History leaves us to imagine also the
feelings of the newly-professed nun, but we may well judge from her
past that that solemn day was one of an outpouring of love and
gratitude to God.  But of one incident connected with the day we are
informed, and it is that whilst Rita, never satisfied that she had
sufficiently extolled the goodness of the Lord, was still kneeling late
at night before the crucifix, she suddenly felt herself ravished out of
her senses into a state of sublime ecstasy.  She thereupon saw in
spirit what was given Jacob to see in a dream--a ladder that reached
from earth to heaven, and angels ascending and descending by it, and at
the summit our Lord, who was inviting her to ascend.  We may believe
that this was the mystic ladder of charity, whose steps, as St.
Augustine says, God Himself prepares, so that those chosen souls which
He wishes to exalt may ascend by them, and at whose top He stands to
await them at the term of their journey to receive and introduce them
into the possession of heaven.  But no one could penetrate its meaning
better than the ecstatic Rita.  The holy woman awoke from her ecstasy
enlightened by these heavenly instructions, and came out of the light
of God to seek Him again and follow His leading with greater anxiety
amidst the darkness of our mortal state.



CHAPTER III

RITA'S CHARITY

What constitutes the greatness of the mystic city, the new Jerusalem,
is not the number and variety of its inhabitants, or the fame of great
undertakings, but charity alone.  In fact, the Virgin Mary was exalted
above all the choirs of heaven, and St. John the Baptist was called the
greatest of the saints even before the testimony at the Jordan,
although their lives were nothing more than a continuous exercise of
charity.  Hence, coming to speak of Rita, if she had charity she
possessed all things,[1] since the fulness of the law is charity, and
if she had it in an eminent degree she was a great saint, for perfect
charity is perfect justice.[2]  This is the sublime principle which St.
Augustine, himself a great master of charity and evangelical
perfection, proposes in that golden Rule of his, which so many
religious Orders have adopted, and which Rita observed to the last
letter--a principle which, as Blessed Alphonsus of Oroza says, is a
summary of the entire Christian religion, and which at the same time
proves the excellence and the adaptability of the Rule to all ages.

It was to the attainment of charity that Rita even before her
profession, but more determinedly afterwards, gave her undivided
attention, and employed all the affections of her heart and the powers
of her mind.  We leave it to others to describe her heroic faith and
hope; for us it will be enough to treat of that virtue which
presupposes the other two--embraces them and gives them their life.
The first proof that one possesses this virtue is fulfilling the will
of God by observing His holy law, as Jesus Christ taught us when He
said: 'He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them: he it is that
loveth Me.  And He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I
will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.'[3]  Now, all those who
have written the life of our saint and the evidence of tradition
regarding her assure us that she observed with the utmost exactness all
the commandments of God, the precepts of the Church, and the commands
of her superiors.  The very manner with which she observed these
precepts was perfect, for she always obeyed cheerfully, and with joy
readily and exactly sought to anticipate commands, and to exceed in
fulfilling them.  And this exact observance was extended not only to
what is of command, but to the evangelical counsels also, and yet so
light to her was the weight of this burden that she took upon herself
very many works of supererogation to give an outlet to her burning
piety.  She was the first to rise from her bed at midnight, the first
at prayer, in the choir, at instruction, at penitential observances and
the works of mercy, in obedience, first at all the duties of the
community, in which latter she was always best pleased the meaner the
office entrusted to her to perform.  In the midst of her uninterrupted
occupations and vigils she had no other thought than to find the safest
ways of seconding the holy will of God, a thought that produced in her
that holy fear which is the offspring of love.  She was always afraid
of offending her most loving God even in the slightest matter, and so
fearsome of it was she that the very name of sin was a horror to her.
Hence, to remove as far as possible all danger of sin, she imposed on
herself a law of rigorous silence, for she knew the truth of the saying
of St. James the Apostle, that 'if any man offend not in word, the same
is a perfect man.'[4] In order more easily to carry out her design she
remained shut up in her cell alone with her agonized Spouse Jesus, like
a 'dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the
wall.'[5]  She never left her cell except to find her sovereign good
either in the Blessed Sacrament or amongst the poor and sick, or in
such other works of charity as her state permitted her to perform.
Even in circumstances such as these she was on her guard to utter no
word that she had not weighed well, and it is said of her that she even
used to keep a pebble in her mouth to remind her to preserve the
silence she loved.

Sometimes, of course, she had to speak, through necessity or
politeness, or for convenience' sake, and in such cases her words were
in accord with the feelings of her heart, and hence, since she was all
spirit, her discourses were on things of the spirit; she was all
charity, and her speech therefore tended to the greater glory of God
and the salvation of her neighbours.  She was not wanting in that easy
fluency which springs from the heart and can reach hearts, which is
proper to the saints and inspires sanctity, which feeds on love and
draws souls to God.  Whether Rita possessed this honied eloquence from
the time the wonderful bees appeared over her cradle, or acquired it by
the practice of the greatest charity towards her neighbour, only God,
who gave it to her, knows.  We only know that she made use of the
opportunities which this gift afforded her to give advice to doubting
souls, to comfort the pusillanimous, to console the afflicted, to bring
back the erring to the way of salvation, to practise these and other
works of mercy with that happy success which the Giver of every good
gift was wont to grant her.

Amongst her wonderful deeds of charity we find it recorded that having
heard of two persons of the town who had been long living in a state of
sin, and were thereby the cause of great public scandal, she wept for
their sins, and then determined on the difficult task of making them
separate and leading them to repent.  Rita had had too many proofs of
the Divine goodness not to be confident of success in her present
undertaking.  She first had recourse to prayer and to penance, which
she offered in union with the sufferings of Jesus Christ for the
conversion of the sinners, and then had each of the scandal-givers
brought to her in turn, and, alone with them, by her gentle insinuating
manner she brought them to see their deplorable condition, and she had
the happiness of seeing them shed tears of compunction and afterwards
perform constant penance for their past transgressions.  In very truth,
such evils as those under which these two sinners laboured were what
excited Rita's greatest compassion, but she was by no means wanting in
compassion for those suffering from bodily ills, nor was her fervent
charity slow in coming to their assistance.  Never was anyone ill in
the convent whom Rita did not nurse, often for whole days and nights.
She saw in the sick Jesus Christ Himself, and therefore delighted to be
by their bedsides.  She pitied them, and sought to soothe their pains
by the sweet considerations which religion, and especially the Passion
of Christ, inspired her.  With her own hands she gladly rendered them
every service, even the meanest and most nauseating, and for this
blessed work of charity she did not hesitate to forsake her usual
devotional practices, and feared not to leave God for God's work.  In a
word, she was all things to all, for, as St. Paul, too, had
experienced, her compassion made the infirmities of the suffering her
own.  And therefore all those who died in the convent during her forty
years of life in it had the happiness of having her for their attendant
and consoler, and drew their last breath in her holy arms, reclining
against her tender heart.  Her very charity was the reason which
condemned her for many years to a total separation from her beloved
sisters in religion, lest, as we shall tell later, the offensive odour
of a sore on her forehead, by which she was afflicted, might render her
presence disagreeable to them.  She then saw very well that she had
become almost an outcast from the community, but she felt no resentment
on that account, but lived as an exile, contented in her cell, since
she knew that she was no inconvenience to her neighbour, and gave no
offence to God.  She even rejoiced in her humiliation and in her
infirmities and her separation from creatures.  We omit many other
proofs of the greatness of the charity to God and her neighbour which
filled Rita's heart.  In order to know her charity we have but to
recall how she lived with a cruel and ferocious husband, how she
interceded for his murderers, how she offered her very children as a
sacrifice to God, how she devoted her time in the world to deeds and
prayers for her neighbour's good.  Such was her charity, heartfelt,
unbounded, kind, patient, strong, and unconquerable.

Hitherto we have spoken only of Rita's effective or working charity,
or, at most, of her love to her neighbour, but what description dare we
give of her internal love of God?  It would never be possible for us to
describe the ardour and fire of love which was ever consuming her
heart.  How her affections soared towards heaven, how her soul was
transformed through Divine love, how the interior life of that seraph
of charity was lived, it would be impossible to describe.  However, we
shall try to convey an idea, though imperfect, of it, especially when
we come to speak of her spirit of prayer.  Meanwhile, the reader may
form some notion of it by gauging the measure of Rita's charity to her
neighbour, and from the consideration of what we have hitherto
described of a life not only blameless and holy, but everywhere aided
and distinguished by heaven's most singular favours.


[1] 1 Cor. xiii.

[2] St. Augustine.

[3] John xiv. 21.

[4] Jas. iii. 2.

[5] Cant. ii. 14.



CHAPTER IV

OTHER VIRTUES WHICH RITA PRACTISED IN THE CLOISTER

That truth to which St. Augustine draws our attention in many passages
in his works--that charity is the source of all other virtues and their
life-giving principle--is confirmed by St. Gregory, who illustrates it
by comparing the virtues to the branches of a tree, which all spring
from the same root, which root of the virtues is charity.  In fact, the
virtue of Christian prudence, for example, is nothing else than a
continued eagerness, in those who love God, to distinguish good from
evil, and to select the fittest means to please the Object of their
love, and attain to Him as their last end; justice is but a constant
desire in those who love God to render Him the worship due to Him and
their neighbour whatever is theirs; temperance is a curb which they who
prefer Divine to earthly love employ in order to keep their rebellious
appetites under the sweet yoke of that heavenly love; fortitude is but
the strength of charity which makes man superior to every trouble and
suffering; and the teaching of St. Augustine regarding the other
virtues is the same, according to their various natures.  Now, if
Rita's charity was as great as we have described it, and as we shall
afterwards see more clearly, to what a pitch of perfection must she not
have reached in her practice of the other virtues!

Prudence, which is the first of the moral virtues, was quite
characteristic of Rita, and invariably showed its presence in her
exercise of all her other extraordinary gifts.  This it was that taught
her the saving art of examining and judging rightly and adopting the
most suitable means for attaining that better part which, like another
Mary, she had irrevocably chosen for herself; this suggested to her the
surest method of regulating her conduct, her appetites, and her very
works of penance and devotion; this made her sparing of conversation,
diligent, circumspect, cautious, compliant and gentle-mannered; and,
finally, this virtue, through her long practice of it, or, rather,
because its origin is in God, enabled her to give the solidest and
holiest counsel to the advantage of her neighbour.

The virtue of justice also shone brightly in her life, for her life was
a continuous act of reverential homage to religion, the majesty of God,
the greatness of the most holy Virgin Mary, the merits of the Saints,
the authority of the Church, the laws of right, of friendship, of
gratitude, and of truth.

Nor was she less remarkable for the virtue of temperance, for she had
conquered her passions, and kept them subject to the spirit in a way
entirely heroic, by her continued rigorous fastings and the
uninterrupted practice of the most austere penances.  It is wonderful
to consider how her virtue of temperance, which increased and waxed
strong amidst harsh and stern surroundings of penitential practices,
brought in its train a pretty group of gentler virtues--modesty,
purity, clemency, meekness, urbanity, graciousness.

Rita's fortitude also, which whilst she lived in the world was
extraordinary, increased in the cloister in proportion with her other
virtues, if we may not say it surpassed the others, since it was the
distinguishing mark of her character.  The devil, of course, tried, by
insidious suggestions, to tarnish the purity of her heart and inspire
her with a love of sensual pleasures and a distaste for perfection; but
although his infernal assaults were strong and long continued, our
saint, who had prepared her mind against temptation from her youth, and
was now become an unconquerable heroine in the army of Christ, was so
well able to defend herself and fight valiantly that temptation only
served to multiply her triumphs and her laurels.  It is said, too, that
the tempter, seeing that he failed in his interior assaults, sought to
frighten her by horrible phantoms; but in vain, for Rita, by the sign
of the Cross, put him to flight, and showed her scorn for him as a
powerless enemy.  The flesh, too, tried to rebel against the law of the
spirit; but the holy woman kept it as a slave in bonds of sackcloth,
and brought it into subjection by sanguinary scourgings.  Even the
little world of her convent tried her virtue in some sense, especially
during the years she suffered from the sore on her forehead.  But
Rita's fortitude made these little trials seem but playful caresses.
The pain and the stench of the sore, the inconveniences of her poverty
and mortification, the great length of her last illness, and other
similar troubles with which the Lord tries the souls that are most
acceptable to Him, instead of depressing her were rather as food to
strengthen and increase her fortitude, magnanimity, patience,
confidence in God, and final perseverance.

With all this precious equipment of wonderful gifts and sublime
virtues, Rita had, nevertheless, the meanest opinion of herself, and
spoke of herself as if she were the vilest of creatures, thankless for
the gifts which Divine goodness had bestowed on her, a miserable
sinner, and unworthy to enjoy the companionship of so many sacred
virgins of the Lord.  She not only spoke in this manner, but wished
everyone to have the same opinion which, in her heart, she had of
herself.  Hence she had a horror of praise, and when at meditation she
felt those extraordinary lights and that spiritual ardour which
preceded her ecstasies, she used to beseech God that He would
condescend so to work in her soul that her companions might not be
conscious of it, and might never be led to have a favourable opinion of
her.  But it was her humility that betrayed her expectations, for the
more she humbled herself, the more was she exalted, not only in the
eyes of God, but of men, and the deeper she sunk herself in the abyss
of lowliness, the higher was raised the edifice of her sanctity.



CHAPTER V

RITA'S OBSERVANCE OF THE RELIGIOUS VOWS

There is a love which is the soul of every virtue, and another love
which is an incentive to every vice; the former we call charity, the
latter concupiscence.  Charity, since it comes from heaven, has for its
aim three noble objects--God, ourselves, and our neighbours.
Concupiscence, since it is altogether of the earth, has low aims, which
are likewise threefold--the pomp of the world, self-interest, and
pleasure.  According as one or other of these is stronger in us we
attain sanctification and happiness, or spiritual ruin and misery.  To
destroy the reign of perverse love and these three hostile passions
there are no arms more reliable than those which attack their very
foundations, and these arms are obedience, poverty, and chastity.
These were the arms which Rita continued to wield until she received
from her Divine Spouse the eternal crown prepared for her ripe and
splendid virtues!

The strongest weapon of the perfect is obedience, and when it is
employed by charity it opens up the way to every good object, as, on
the other hand, disobedience lays open the way to every evil, visible
and invisible, of the world.  To begin with the consideration of this
great virtue, which Rita made a solemn vow to practise, we can affirm
that she possessed it in a most eminent degree.  All her actions were
so many acts of obedience, or, rather, her whole conventual life was an
uninterrupted act of the humblest, truest, and readiest obedience.
Following the principles of her enlightened piety, she knew only too
well the truth declared to Samuel, that the sacrifice of the will is
more acceptable to God than the sacrifice of victims.[1]  She always
kept before her eyes the example of a God who, for our instruction,
willed to live subject to His own creatures.  She felt moved to imitate
the heroic virtue of so many sainted monks and nuns, and she saw
clearly the great advantage which obedience gave in directing our steps
through this world of darkness and sin.  She therefore subjected
herself not only to all the laws of the Gospel, of the Church, of the
Rule and Constitutions of her Order, and not only obeyed with respect
and alacrity all the commands of the different superiors she had, and
carried out the duties of the various offices she filled, but she
eagerly desired to subject herself to her equals or juniors in the
convent, and sought to anticipate the commands even of these, to follow
their counsels and carry out their desires, esteeming herself only as
the unworthy servant of all.  Virtue so rare deserved to be put to the
severest proof, since God often tries the virtue of the pious either
Himself or through the means of others.

The trial of Rita's obedience was this: The Prioress, who had observed
her great spirit of submission, commanded her to water every day a
dried-up tree that was in the convent garden.  Rita made no objection
against so strange a command; she did not say that such an order was
outside the matters to which the Rule obliged her; she did not even
submit that it would be time lost, for she was convinced that the time
in which any work of obedience is done is time well spent.  Therefore,
with her will in complete accord with the orders she received, she
continued to obey them for several seasons, and in this she was
imitating the example of the holy abbot John, of whom we read in the
lives of the Fathers that, in order to follow the instructions of his
director, he humbled himself so far as to carry a pail of water a
considerable distance to water a dry trunk of a tree.  So did St. Rita
likewise, and not in vain; for so pleasing to God were her acts of
heroic obedience that, as tradition tells, the tree bloomed again, and
began to bear flowers and fruit, and from that fact it was called the
'Saint's Tree.'

What chiefly concerned her was that her obedience should bear fruit
unto eternal life, and hence the love which her heart felt for this
beautiful virtue was ever increasing.  She therefore sought the
approval, direction, and restraining influence of another's will not
only in her temporal undertakings, but also in her devotional and
penitential exercises.  When there was question of going to Rome to
gain the indulgences of the jubilee year, and again when she was to be
separated during the last years of her life from the pleasant society
of her sisters in religion, she allowed no consideration of fervent
piety, no personal reluctance, to come between her and her duty towards
holy obedience, from which she would not swerve an iota.  Thus our
saint passed the rest of her life without a will of her own, or, if she
had a will, it was one that desired to do nothing except what obedience
ordered, in this way making certain of doing the will of God in all
things, which was the single object of all her desires.  This is how
she conquered in herself and annihilated that great predominant passion
of man, the love of worldly glory.

She conquered also the second strong passion--love of self-interest--by
a generous love of evangelical poverty.  We have already remarked how
from her earliest years, and amongst the comforts of her father's
house, she was enamoured of this holy poverty, and how she was
accustomed to observe it in her humble manner of dress, in opposing all
outward show, in the frugality of her living, in her abstinence, in
depriving herself of her best garments for the poor, and in renouncing
in their favour all her earthly possessions at her entrance into
religion, whence it seems, there was nothing else that could be added
except the vow and perseverance.  Nevertheless, the spirit of poverty
markedly increased in Rita whilst she lived in the convent, where she
was chosen to dwell till her death.  There, in truth, everything
breathed humility and straitness of means, and she might well be
satisfied that by ordinary observance she was fulfilling her vow.  But
saints are never satisfied unless they go beyond the goal of ordinary
mortals and if they do not reach the heroic point of virtue.  It
happened thus in Rita's case, for although she loved uniformity and was
opposed to those singularities which often deserve to be the subject of
suspicion, yet she felt that she ought not to oppose God's
inspirations, or confine herself solely to the usages of the community,
but, subject to obedience, she carried the rigours of religious poverty
much farther.  We might tell here of her protracted fastings and the
small quantity of food of the poorest sort with which she kept herself
alive, but we shall speak of these things in a subsequent chapter, and
shall now only touch on the poverty of her dress and of her abode.

She did not show her poverty by wearing a coarser habit or one
differing in any way from those of her sisters in religion, yet there
is one particular that shows in a singular, not to say miraculous,
manner her spirit of poverty; for, like the Hebrews in the desert, from
the moment she put her foot in the convent till she entered the
promised land of the blessed, a period of more than forty years, she
had only one habit, which she wore night and day, and even during her
illnesses.  As regards the poverty of her dwelling-place, her little
room, which may still be seen, declares it sufficiently, for it is only
a narrow cell, the least of all, crushed into a corner of the
dormitory, and with no light except a sort of twilight that filters
into it from the common window.  A few pictures representing the
mysteries of our Lord's Passion were its only ornaments; the bed was
hard and rough, and more adapted to give pain than rest; all other
necessaries were wanting.  Yet the holy penitent lived there contented,
and considered herself rich and wealthy, especially when she considered
the nakedness of the Crucified One, for she regarded the Cross of
Christ, her loving Spouse, as a mirror wherein to behold herself.  The
cold words 'mine' and 'thine' which have been the cause of division in
families and kingdoms, and still divide hearts, never issued from her
lips, and even the things most necessary to her she let depend on her
Superior's will, and was always ready to deprive herself of them at the
slightest beck of authority, for she never had the least desire to own
anything.

There is related of her a singular fact, which proves her detachment
from the things of earth.  Going on a journey undertaken for reasons of
devotion, of which we shall speak later, with some of the nuns of the
convent, she threw into a river the money that had been given her to
defray her expenses, or, as others say, which she accidentally found.
Her companions thought that, considering their great necessity, this
was an act of real imprudence, and could not refrain from blaming her.
But Rita, who was full of confidence in the protection of heaven,
assured them they would want for nothing; and so it happened, for they
wanted for nothing throughout their journey.  That God who feeds the
birds of the air and the fishes of the deep took care to provide His
servant and her companions with every necessary on their long way.  In
such a way did Rita, poor in possessions and in spirit, advance with
great strides on the way of perfection, and add new riches to the
incorruptible treasures she had laid up in heaven.

By poverty and obedience she had overcome the two passions of
self-interest and worldly glory; there remained the third passion, that
for sensual pleasures, against which our saint had to wage a more
bitter war, because, like the Apostle, she felt in herself that law
that was contrary to the law of the spirit, and because, as St.
Augustine writes, this is precisely the hardest fight that has to be
fought by Christians and the perfect.  It is true that this most
virtuous woman was accustomed from her earliest years to watch over all
her thoughts and to keep a careful guard on her senses, and that from
her youth she had determined to preserve the candour of her virginity
intact; that she constantly preserved the most exemplary modesty; that
she avoided to the utmost of her power, even when in the world, all
evil discourse and companions and other incentives to impurity; that
she had lived most chastely and immaculately even as a wife.  Yet with
all this she was not free from temptations, and to conquer them she had
recourse to an extreme rigour of life.

The demon used all his power in attacking Rita's purity; at one time he
tempted her by impure phantasms, at another by seductive apparitions.
But she put him to flight by her lively faith and her austere penances.
In the fiercest assaults of temptation she went so far as to burn her
hand or foot, thus putting out one fire by the pain of another, in
order to keep herself entirely pure in the sight of her most pure
heavenly Spouse.  Through love of this virtue she avoided all
opportunities of seeing or being seen, and she adopted this safeguard
even with her own relatives.  When she had sometimes to appear abroad
she showed such recollection, modesty, and gravity as to excite the
wonder of others and attract universal veneration.  So remarkable was
her modesty on such occasions that when she came back to the convent
(in those days the obligations of enclosure were not so strict as they
now are) she was sometimes able to declare that she had not seen a
single person.  This circumspection which our saint employed in the
custody of her eyes may seem excessive to worldly-minded people, but
'everyone hath his proper gift from God';[2] and besides, the means of
attaining to extraordinary virtue like Rita's are not always ordinary;
nor were her penances, which were a means to this end, ordinary
penances.  If such was the violence of her spiritual struggles, there
is no doubt but that the victories she gained were remarkable and
productive of many good results, and that the reward which God reserved
for her in a happy eternity was passing great.


[1] 1 Kings xv. 22.

[2] 1 Cor. vii. 7.



CHAPTER VI

RITA'S PENANCES

However hard and sharp penance may appear at the first glance, yet it,
too, is a daughter of love, love that gives strength to put a curb on
carnal appetites, which are ever striving to rebel against the first
uncreated love, and which incites to reparation of past offences and
atonement for them.  It is no wonder, then, that Rita, who was burning
with the flame of Divine love, and who had the holiest horror of sin,
should carry her austerities even to the point of heroism.  True, such
innocence did not deserve so great pains; but she who, in her profound
humility, thought herself full of defects and faults, who knew human
frailty and the frequent dangers of falling into sin, and who was not
exempt from the wicked suggestions of the world, the flesh, and the
devil, did not consider herself exempt from those penances which she
practised, for the good of sinners, as a defence against danger and an
assurance of victory in temptation.  Her whole life, therefore, was one
continued exercise of penance owing to the great self-denial which she
exhibited from her early youth, but more markedly in her married life
and her widowed state, and owing also to the fastings she practised in
the world, and the other mortifications which we mentioned in former
chapters, but, above all, owing to the severe and almost incredible
chastising of the flesh, which she made a law that she observed during
all the years she lived in the cloister.

To begin with her fastings, hardly had she embraced the Rule of St.
Augustine, which exhorts all to conquer the flesh by fasting as much as
health will permit, than she abandoned herself to a life of the most
rigorous and prolonged fasting.  She never admitted any of those
exaggerated pretexts which the delicate sex finds it so easy to allege
in order to be dispensed from the laws of fasting and abstinence.  She
only knew that God is not deceived, and that to desire to deceive one's
self is impious folly.  She therefore had no hesitation in fulfilling
the most rigorous laws of abstinence without any ill-timed fear of
injuring her health.  Every year she fasted during three entire Lents,
and also on the vigils of all holidays of obligation, of all the feasts
of the Blessed Virgin, of all the saints of the Order, and of her
particular advocates, not to mention other extraordinary fasts which
she observed.  She took food only once a day, and never drank wine.
Her condiments were often wormwood, ashes, and tears.  For the greater
part of the year she lived on bread and water, and as she advanced in
years and progressed in sanctity she reduced her food to such scanty
proportions that it was looked on as a miracle how she could in such a
way support life.  St. Augustine's most prudent Rule does not prescribe
such things, and therefore Rita, by her heroic fasts, gave all the more
glory to the Most High; and by imitating the abstinences of the
Baptist, of St. Nicholas of Tolentine, and her other protectors, all
well-known models of penitence, she rendered them the truest honour,
for the best way of honouring the saints is to imitate their virtues.
But not only did she try to follow their example by penances of this
sort, but in all the other austerities of her life she endeavoured to
imitate them as exactly as her condition allowed.

The very dwelling-place in which she hid herself proclaimed her
penitential disposition, for it was only a little cell, bare and dark,
and had rather the appearance of a prison to which she had been
condemned for some serious crime.  We do not know for certainty whether
even for appearance' sake there was a bed in it, but we do know very
well that when Rita was overcome by natural weariness she took her
short repose stretched on the ground, or, at best, on a board.  She
rose without fail from that hardest of couches at midnight to begin the
infliction of greater torment on herself; for at that hour she scourged
herself with a scourge of iron in order to appease Divine justice in
favour of the souls in purgatory, who, though still of the communion of
saints and participators in our suffrages, are left to suffer the
greatest sorrow, deprived as they are of the Beatific Vision and
tortured by the pain of their fires.  Her great charity made her feel
the holiest compassion for these unhappy souls, and it was charity that
nerved her arm to continue these scourgings; but if she ever felt for
herself charity, too, might have induced her to lay aside her
ensanguined whip of iron.  On two other occasions every day she took
the discipline, once for the benefactors of her convent and Order, when
she used thongs of leather, and again for the conversion of sinners, at
which her whip was of twisted and knotted cords.  With all this she was
not satisfied if that rebellious enemy her flesh were not suffering
continual pain, and hence she always wore next her skin a cilicium made
of rough bristles, and on the inner side of her habit she fastened
thorns that pricked her painfully at every movement she made.  Amongst
these thorns and the painful practices of her life our saint lay
hidden, like the mystic lily of the sacred Canticles, inaccessible to
passions, guarded on every side, growing more beautiful and brighter
every day, because more like her heavenly Spouse crowned with thorns.



CHAPTER VII

RITA'S SPIRIT OF PRAYER

If Rita's body, oppressed by fastings, imprisoned in hair shirts and
galling bonds, made livid by scourgings, was forced to groan and sigh,
it was far otherwise with her spirit.  The more the body was crushed
under the weight of penances, the more were the spaces of the soul
enlarged, the greater its liberty, the more readily might it raise
itself above all earthly things, to be plunged into the sublime depths
of heavenly things and taste of their ineffable sweetness.  And if her
spirit sighed, it was a far different sigh from that of the body; it
was the sigh of the dove--a sigh of peace and love such as was foretold
by the Holy Spirit the Consoler by the mouth of the Psalmist to all
souls that devote themselves to penance and prayer--'Rise ye after ye
have sitten, you that eat the bread of sorrow.'[1]

The same wonderful effects of grace were experienced by St. Augustine,
who in his exposition of that verse of the Psalms could not refrain
from exclaiming, 'How sweet are the sighs and the tears of prayer!  No
pleasure of the theatres or of the world can equal the joy of such
tears.'[2]  We must not, however, come to the conclusion that this
interior joy was the chief motive that made our saint love prayer, for
she loved the God of consolations much more than she loved the
consolations of God; but it was an innocent attraction to her
God-loving heart, and on that account she never could interrupt
exercises so dear to her without feeling pain.

We have already related that from her childhood she had received the
gift of prayer, and which she developed in a striking way even in the
years of her early youth; and we have told how she gave herself
entirely to prayer during the year of her marvellous retirement in her
father's house, and how she continued to make progress in devotional
practices, especially when she was freed from the ties and cares of
matrimony.  Yet when we compare all these things with her advancement
after she has embraced a conventual life, they seem but the very
beginning of piety.  As a nun, Rita's prayers were offered in the
darkness of the night, in the early morning, throughout the
day--prayer, in a word, was her life, for not even for a moment could
she withdraw herself from the presence of her uncreated Love.  The
hours between midnight and the break of day were the fullest of delight
for her, and the most favourable in which to treat all alone with God
the most important affairs of eternity and to pour out the fulness of
her love at the feet of the Crucified One.  In the winter time, however
prolonged her vigils were, that time was always short to her, and
daylight came unlooked for.  It seemed to her, as once to St. Anthony
the abbot, that the sun was doing her wrong by appearing too soon, for
she feared that he was coming to scatter with his rays the beautiful
light of her heavenly exaltations and seraphic thoughts.  She never
wanted matter whereon to meditate, for the attributes of God and His
inexhaustible beneficence were to her subjects that she could never be
weary of considering.  The sole thought that she was in the presence of
the majesty of God, that infinite majesty that fills with its being
heaven and earth and the abysses, was sufficient to raise her above
every created thing and transform her into God Himself.

One subject, nevertheless, beyond every other, occupied Rita's
mind--that of the Passion of Jesus Christ.  It almost seems as if she
had inherited from her parents this particular devotion, and that upon
it she had laid the foundation-stone of her sanctity.  It was to the
Passion that she was accustomed from childhood to direct her thoughts
and affections, her sighs and tears.  The reader may remember how at a
tender age she shut herself into the little room at home, and there
continued to meditate on the sorrowful mysteries, which also were
depicted in the pictures which hung on the walls, and, better still,
were carved on her heart.  The senses should do their part the better
to assist the soul in its efforts after piety, and this was the reason
why Rita procured and kept in her cell in the convent certain
representations of the Passion of her dear Jesus.

To this end she kept in two distinct parts of her cell objects that
recalled to her the history of the Passion.  In one place she
constructed a representation of a mountain, which, whenever she looked
upon it, recalled Mount Calvary and all the torments which the Saviour
of the world suffered there.  She meditated with sighs and tears on her
Divine Spouse arriving there, falling under the terrible weight of His
torments, His cross, and all the sins of men.  With an outburst of
weeping she thought of Him deprived of His garments and fixed to the
cross with rough nails.  She meditated with the liveliest compassion on
the cruel strokes of the hammer that tore His hands and feet, and on
all the other terrible torments that Jesus suffered for love of men.
In another corner of her cell she had a representation of the Holy
Sepulchre, and at sight of it she considered how the adorable body of
Christ was placed in it, how for three days it remained buried, how His
spirit went down to console the holy fathers in Abraham's bosom, and,
finally, how the Redeemer rose again to a new life triumphant and
glorious.  During these meditations our saint was always alone; as
Jeremias says, 'she sat solitary and held her peace, and was raised
above herself';[3] in that sweet silence, in those loving soliloquies,
in that intimate intercourse with God she was superior to passion, to
nature, and to herself.  So great was her mental exaltation during her
meditation on the Divine mysteries that she was often raised above the
life of the senses and rapt in delicious ecstasies, and on one
occasion, so strong was the ecstatic influence, the nuns thought she
was dead.

Now, seeing that she soared to such sublime heights in prayer, it will
be no wonder that she possessed also as she did, and in a singular
manner, the gifts of wisdom and intelligence, so that she could reason
on the perfections of God and on the most abstruse mysteries of faith
with a subtle knowledge that could be acquired by no study nor any
natural capacity.  Thus God hides the secrets of His wisdom from the
wise of this world and reveals them to His humble servants, to those
who appear ignorant in the eyes of the world.  All these things excited
to rage the infernal enemy of all good and all sanctity, and in order
to make the holy nun desist from her pious practice he tried to
frighten her with horrible yells and dreadful apparitions.  But she
continued to be motionless in prayer, and by prayer itself triumphed
over all the powers of hell.  By the merit of her prayers, too, she
acquired a certain authority over devils.  A proof of this is that a
woman who had for years been harassed by diabolical interference was
freed from it by Rita.  Through prayer, too, she obtained the grace of
a supernatural healing for a young girl who was ill, whose mother had
the consolation of seeing her cured after having brought her to the
saint to ask the help of her prayers.  We know that God was accustomed
to grant whatever she asked for, and so great was the fame of her
successful intercession and sanctity that devout people, confident in
her advocacy, came to her in crowds, and of all who came none went away
dissatisfied.  Yet these were but the first-fruits that appeared
externally and to the eyes of men to testify to the extraordinary
efficacy of her prayers.  We shall see more clearly in the remainder of
her life, and much more so after her death, in the many prodigious
works that God performed through her intercession, how great was the
merit of our saint's faith and of her prayers.

We may also mention at the conclusion of this chapter the most fervent
prayers which she often offered before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
and before the pictures of the most holy Virgin; but it was not the
circumstance of place that chiefly enkindled her devotion, for at every
instant and in all places she found Jesus and Mary, and a thousand
objects adapted to excite her most fervent piety.


[1] Ps. cxxvi. 3.

[2] Ps. cxxvi.

[3] Lam. iii. 28.



CHAPTER VIII

  A THORN FROM THE SAVIOUR'S CROWN OF THORNS
  WOUNDS RITA'S FOREHEAD

Rita had lived thirty years in the convent, leading that saintly life
we have described, and had attained her sixty-second year, when, in the
year 1443, it pleased God to mark in a wonderful manner, and, as it
were, put His seal on her merit by conferring on her a privilege that
is well worthy to be described.

There lived at that time St. James of the Marshes, one of those
Apostolic men whom God then raised up, like St. Vincent Ferrer, St.
Laurence Giustiniani, St. Bernardine of Siena, and St. John of
Capestrano, to be strong barriers against the depravity of the world,
the rage of civil discord, the shock of schism, and the advance of
rising heresies.  After many years passed with great advantage to souls
in the missions of Bosnia, Hungary, and the East, he was recalled in
that year by Pope Eugene IV., who destined him to preach the Crusade in
the province of Aquila, against the infidel Sultan Amurath II., who had
already penetrated into the heart of Hungary.  On his return he had
occasion to go through the territory and towns of Spoleto preaching the
Gospel, and he expounded the word of God in Cascia amongst other
places.  His discourses in Cascia were on the subject of our Lord's
Passion, and Rita was present at them.  That a nun was present amongst
the people to hear the holy preacher will cause no astonishment when we
know that although the law of religious enclosure had been established
by many Councils and by Pope Boniface VIII., yet its observance was not
rigorously enforced until the time of the Council of Trent, and nuns
might go out of their convents, especially when there was question of
fulfilling religious duties or to hear the word of God preached.

Rita, then, with the other nuns of her convent, was present at the
sermons, which she listened to with that purity of intention that casts
out all curiosity, and has for its only objects the glory of God and
the sanctification of the soul.  The sanctity and zeal of the preacher,
who had long known the secret of touching the most hardened hearts,
will enable us to judge of the effects of his preaching.  That his
subject was our Lord's Passion--the chief object of Rita's meditation,
and which excited her to the highest point of the love of God--will be
enough to tell us how deeply his discourses must have impressed her.  A
divine compassion filled her heart, and she only restrained her tears
as she listened in order afterwards to pour them copiously forth when
she knelt before the crucifix in the old oratory of the convent.  One
day, as she was there prostrated, wounded in spirit by the vehemence of
her great sorrow, with much sobbing she prayed and besought her Love,
who had been crowned with thorns, to permit her whilst still in the
flesh to taste at least of the bitter chalice of His sufferings.  Her
heartfelt prayers were heard, and she saw one of the thorns of the
crown of the crucifix detach itself, as it were, and strike her on the
left side of the forehead with such force that it almost penetrated the
bone, causing her exquisite pain.  She fainted from the pain, and it
seemed to her that only by a miracle could she survive such great
suffering.  But love was stronger than pain in her, and grace supported
the weakness of nature itself.  The wound, which by time grew larger,
festered, and became wormy, was visible on her forehead for fifteen
years.  The worms and the offensive smell, similar to that which once
tormented Job, increased the pain of the wound and disgusted others.
But these things formed the delight of the patient nun, whose one
desire was to become like her Saviour, who, as the prophet Isaias
says,[1] was become for her and for the human race the most abject of
men and the Man of Sorrows, whose look was hidden and despised--a
prophecy so exactly fulfilled that He was unrecognisable when the
streams of blood flowed down His face from the wounds the thorns had
made in His head.  When Rita was asked, as she sometimes was, what the
worms were that occasionally fell from her forehead, she used to reply,
with a joyous smile, 'They are my little angels,' letting it thereby be
seen that the more she was humbled and afflicted in the flesh, the more
she rejoiced in spirit, as was also the case with St. Francis of Assisi
and St. Catherine of Siena, whose great privilege of the stigmata is
celebrated by feasts of the Church, and also with another Augustinian
nun, St. Clare of Montefalco, on the living flesh of whose heart
miraculous representations of the Passion were impressed.  Rita
rejoiced the more in this gift, inasmuch as it procured for her more
frequent occasion of exercising herself in humility, patience,
retirement, silence, prayer, and the love of that God who had conferred
on her so marked a distinction.  From thenceforward as long as she bore
that mark of the Redemption on her forehead, which was as long as she
lived, she never ceased to thank Him for it and to praise and bless
Him.  She, too, was become an outcast from amongst men, but instead of
being afflicted thereby she was only the more strongly united to God,
in whom all her desires and all her hopes of consolation were centred.
She considered that singular effect of Divine grace which is not
offended by unsightliness of body as abundant compensation for any
sufferings she had to bear and as a pledge of an ample eternal reward
in heaven.


[1] Isa. liii. 3.



CHAPTER IX

  RITA GOES TO ROME TO GAIN THE INDULGENCE OF
  THE JUBILEE

If Rita's life till the time when she received the wound in her
forehead may be called a hidden life, from thenceforward it was a
buried life, and invisible to the eyes of men.  On that account,
passing in silence over an interval of eight years, our history
proceeds to describe the events of her life in the year 1450.  The
intervening years were not, however, years of idleness for our holy
nun, or if she did enjoy repose it was not very dissimilar from that of
the blessed in heaven, and perhaps of more advantage to the Church than
any active efforts of hers.  The Western Church, as a matter of fact,
had just then, through the prayers of the saints, arisen from its state
of dejection and abasement.

The schism of the Greeks, Armenians, and Ethiopians had come to an end
ten years before, and the glory of that happy event was attributed
principally to the merits of St. Nicholas of Tolentine, who was
canonized at that time by Pope Eugene IV.  The other schism, of the
anti-Popes, died out, too, a few months later, when Felix V.
voluntarily abdicated; and Rita's penances and prayers must have
co-operated in bringing about so joyful a conclusion.

Nicholas V., who occupied the chair of Peter, was thus enabled to
proclaim peacefully a solemn jubilee for the year 1450, to throw open
the treasure-house of Divine indulgences for the advantage of the
faithful.  This was the sixth jubilee celebrated in the new Church of
Jesus Christ, and seeing that the Church was enjoying the lately
restored peace, and that piety had begun again to spring up, greater
crowds of people than ever before, from all parts of the world, were
flocking to Rome to participate in the extraordinary spiritual favours.
When even the least devout were hastening thither, we may judge how
ardent was Rita's desire of availing of so precious an occasion.  She
was aware that even her sisters in religion were preparing to set out
for Rome, and she, who for many years and until that moment seemed in
her retirement to hate the very light of day, was not afraid to leave
her cell for a purpose so holy; and making light of the inconveniences
of travel and of her advanced age, she threw herself at the feet of the
Superior, and begged leave to join the other nuns in their devout
pilgrimage.  But the Prioress did not think it prudent that Rita, owing
to the offensive nature of the sore on her forehead, should appear in
public or undertake a journey, and therefore sent her back to her cell,
telling her that she should first think of curing her wound, and then
she would grant the permission asked for.  The condition imposed almost
in jest was not long in being fulfilled, for Rita had recourse to
fervent prayer to the Lord, who had inspired her with the desire of
going on the pilgrimage, and who was accustomed to grant all her
petitions, and she received instantly the favour she so ardently
desired.  It is to be remarked here that Rita, who always, in her
profound humility, endeavoured to hide the favours of heaven, chose in
this instance to make use of an ointment in order to conceal the
miracle of her instantaneous healing.  But the work of God was too
evident, and the Superior had therefore no hesitation in granting the
permission that Rita sought, and her blessing.

She set out on foot in the company of her sisters in religion without
any consideration for her age, which was then about sixty-nine years,
with no dread of the long journey or the inconveniences of the season,
and she pushed forward joyously towards the metropolis of the Catholic
world.

It was on this journey that the incident occurred which was mentioned
when speaking of her spirit of poverty, that when she was crossing over
a river she threw into it the little sum of money that was given to her
probably to supply their wants on the pilgrimage.  Her companions
blamed her for what she had done; but not God, who had secretly urged
her to that act of generosity, and who afterwards provided herself and
her companions with all they needed until their return to the convent.
When she arrived at her journey's end she lost no time in gazing on
those monuments of profane antiquity of which Rome is so proud, but
directed all the feelings and sentiments of her body and soul towards
those things that were the objects of her piety--the memories of the
holy martyrs, the confessions of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul,
devout visits to the churches, and the gaining of the holy indulgences.
It would seem, indeed, that having led such a stainless life, and after
so great and so severe penances, that she had no need to have recourse
to those extraordinary means of atonement for sin; but holiness is
always deeply humble, and the same humility which led St. Briget and
St. Catherine to the second jubilee brought St. Rita a century later to
the sixth.  Enriched with new treasures of grace, and impatient to be
free from the din of the streets and the perpetual crush of people, she
with her companions, ever in the arms of Divine Providence, began the
journey back to Cascia, and after walking four or five days arrived
again at the convent and her beloved cell.  She had hardly reached home
when, wonderful to tell, the sore on her forehead, which had healed up
by the power of God a little before she set out from Cascia, suddenly
broke out again, and thereby made it more evident that the preceding
cure had been miraculous.  Never more, until the day of her death, was
Rita to be deprived of a privilege so dear to her.



CHAPTER X

RITA'S LAST ILLNESS AND DEATH

Rita survived seven years after her return from Rome.  The first three
of these, like the eight preceding years, are hidden under the veil of
God's deep designs, for it is not granted to us to discover anything of
her exterior life during that period.  Of her interior life, too, there
is nothing left, if we except certain general knowledge of her spirit
of penance, her continued love of prayer, and her union with God ever
becoming closer.

Three years passed, and Rita had reached the seventy-second year of her
age and the fortieth of her life in religion, when it pleased the Lord
to visit her with an illness which afflicted her for four years, and
ended only with her life.  This is the first time after so many years
that any illness of Rita's is mentioned, except the sore on her
forehead, which goes far to prove that even long-continued and rigorous
penances are not--contrary to the opinion of the world's
delicacy--opposed to bodily health or calculated to shorten life.  It
might seem, indeed, that, considering the great misfortunes she had to
bear, the many humiliations, and the many voluntary penances she
undertook, she ought to be exempted from this final suffering.  With
all that, God wished that this beautiful work of His hands should be
marked by the greatest perfection, and desired to exalt her to the
higher places in His glory, and He also willed to add to her past
sufferings and the still present troubles of her wounded forehead the
pain of this long illness.  We do not know with certainty what malady
she suffered from, but, whatever it was, it resisted all the remedies
of science.  It is not improbable that, as one of the writers of her
life suggests, it was a wasting fever, one of those maladies that sap
the vital strength by degrees through an obstinate and mortal languor,
and finally causes death.

During all that time she remained confined to her hard bed, and the
manner in which she bore all the pains and annoyances of her long
illness was a cause of the greatest edification to all who assisted,
for her face not only showed the resignation and serenity of her mind,
but she was always desiring to suffer still greater pain, and was for
ever thanking Divine Providence that deigned to purify her in this
world and give her some occasion of acquiring merit.  But there was one
pain she felt more than any other, and it was because through illness
she was become useless to the community, and even a burden and trouble
to her sisters, especially by reason of the deformity and offensiveness
of the sore on her forehead; yet not even the grief of this could take
away from her the merit of her most heroic resignation to the will of
God and equally heroic humility and patience.  Yet another matter there
was which must have weighed heavily on her, when we compare the very
lowly opinion she had of herself with that sublimest idea she had been
enabled to form of God's infinite majesty, and that was that she could
now no longer present herself at the Eucharistic table to receive her
Jesus with that frequency with which she had been accustomed to partake
of that heavenly bread, but was now, on the contrary, obliged to
receive Him lying on her miserable pallet.  But the holy soul supplied
in ardent desire and in the intensest internal acts of adoration and
love for that external veneration which her bodily weakness rendered
impossible.  As her disease progressed, or, rather, as her sanctity
increased, so small was the quantity of food she consumed that it could
not be told how she was able to live, and therefore the nuns who were
attending on her came to the conclusion that she was kept alive by the
bread of angels.  Nor was their idea so far from the truth, for Rita
herself had to confirm it when, on their pressing her to take some more
nourishment, she replied: 'My soul, fixed to the sacred wounds of Jesus
Christ, is fed with other food.'

Now, it happened that whilst the saint was in this state, and not far
from the end of her mortal life, a relative came to visit her, and
after passing some time in condoling with her and giving her comfort,
was about to go away.  Before her departure she asked Rita if she
wanted anything, and said she would willingly do her a service.  'Yes,'
said Rita.  'I beg you to go to the garden of my house as soon as you
reach Rocca Porena, and pluck a rose there and bring it to me.'  It was
then the month of January, the time in which the greatest rigour of
winter is felt, especially in that valley, which is closed in on all
sides by overhanging mountains, where the sun rises late and sets
early, and where at that season all nature is buried under snow and
ice.  At the strange request the woman did not know what to think
except that Rita was wandering in her mind through the severity of her
illness.  She pitied her, and went back to Rocca Porena.  When she
reached home it happened that she went to the garden, either through
curiosity or because God so disposed it, and she saw, conspicuous
amidst the frozen bushes, a full-blown red rose.  At the sight she was
seized by various feelings of wonder, joy, and devotion, and ran to
pluck the flower, with which she returned without delay to the convent
of Cascia to deliver the wonderful gift to the saint.  Rita took it as
coming from the hands of her Divine Spouse, and with holy joy offered
it to her sisters who were standing around.  They, too, were seized
with wonder and amazement, and joined with her in praising the goodness
and omnipotence of God.

Another prodigious occurrence, not unlike that we have just related and
not less wonderful, happened very soon after.  The same woman who had
brought the flower to the saint was bidding her farewell on another
occasion, and asked her again if she needed anything.  Rita thus
answered the charitable question: 'Since you are so kind, I beg that
you will go to the same garden, where you will find two figs, which you
will have the charity to bring me.'  This time the woman did not
hesitate a moment, but as soon as she heard the words hurried home, and
in a short time was in the garden mentioned.  There, on a leafless
tree, she found the two ripe figs, which she plucked with renewed
wonder and pleasure, and carried immediately to the sick nun.  At the
sight of this second wonder Rita broke forth into new acts of gratitude
and love to the Lord, in which her sisters joined.  The fame of these
miraculous events was spread throughout the neighbourhood, and wonder
seized on all the people, and they conceived a great veneration for the
dying saint, whom they clearly perceived to be beloved by God.

Thus compassed about with flowers and fruit, like the bride of the
sacred Canticles,[1] Rita felt that she was languishing with love, and
by this growing weaker, she eagerly desired to be free from the ties of
the body, and at last take flight to enjoy for all eternity her
Uncreated Good.  Her chaste sighs were not in vain, for her Divine
Spouse Jesus, accompanied by the most holy Virgin, appeared to her to
announce the joyous tidings that in three days she should be taken from
the world and from pain, and received into Paradise to receive the
reward due to her virtues and sufferings.  The vision disappeared, and
joy inundated Rita's heart, and well was this known from that
extraordinary and angelic serenity of her countenance which she
preserved till her last breath, in spite of the pains and sorrows of
death.  The nuns alone wept as they stood around her bed.  In these
last moments of hers, profoundly moved by her tranquillity and the
wonders they had seen, they had come to know her better, and to
appreciate more perfectly her extraordinary virtues.  In the midst of
these tears the saint turned to her dear sisters, humbly asked pardon
of all of them for any offence she might have given them and for the
trouble she had caused, left them in remembrance of her beautiful words
of peace, obedience, and piety, and then asked the blessing of the
Superior.  Her desolate sisters wanted, too, to get a blessing from her
as a pledge of that charity with which she had always loved them, and
with which they besought that she would love and protect them when she
was in heaven.  Rita blessed them, tried to console them, and then had
no thought for anything but eternity.

Our heroine, it is true, was assured from above of the possession of
future glory, yet she in no wise neglected to fortify herself with all
the aids and comforts with which our holy Mother Church prepares us for
the great passage.  Gathering, therefore, all the strength of her
spirit, she expressed her desire that the Holy Viaticum should be
brought to her, and Extreme Unction administered.  She received these
holy Sacraments with a fervour which cannot easily be imagined, much
less described, and with these fresh pledges of grace, and with her
eyes turned towards the home of the Blessed, her soul took its flight
thither, where she lives an immortal life filled with ineffable joy,
the reward of her heroic Virtues.  Her precious death took place during
the Pontificate of Calixtus III., in the year 1457, when she had
attained the seventy-sixth year of her age and the forty-fourth of her
religious life, on the night of the 22nd of May, when Saturday was
ending, a day specially consecrated to the honour of the Virgin Mary,
to whom she was always most devout, and towards the beginning of
Sunday, the day dedicated to the Lord and figurative of eternal repose.


[1] Cant. ii. 5.



END OF PART II



Part III

RITA IN HEAVEN



CHAPTER I

  WONDERFUL EVENTS THAT HAPPENED AT RITA'S
  DEATH--BURIAL OF HER SACRED BODY

In describing Rita's mortal life, we judged it expedient to give from
time to time some idea of the trend of events and of the calamities of
the times in which she lived, and we have hopes that it will not be
displeasing to the reader nor outside the scope we proposed to
ourselves if we continue to follow the same plan now that we are come
to speak of her immortal life in so far as it may be said to be visible
in those works in which God willed to give glory to His servant even on
earth.  For her, indeed, time was changed into changeless eternity, but
the world was, as ever, in its instability, and was perpetually
changing appearance.  The short-lived peace which had been established
at the Council of Florence had once more fled from the distracted East,
and Mahomet II., destined by God to punish those relapsing schismatics,
had at this time overturned the Empire of Constantinople, and was
threatening with ruin the newly-established Empire of Trebizond, as
well as other kingdoms.  It is true that in the year 1457--the year of
Rita's death--the infidel usurper was driven back out of Hungary and
Belgrade, and had been defeated by the brave Scanderbeg in Albania, by
Cardinal de Aquileia on the Ægean Sea, and by Uson Cassano near the
confines of Persia.  But these losses caused only a temporary check,
and were but the last flattering hope of the hardened and perfidious
Greeks.  Calixtus III. was then Pope, and from his Apostolic throne it
was his sad lot to see the heritage of Jesus Christ despoiled, and
could only weep over what he could not prevent.  The wise Pontiff
strained every effort to prevent still greater ruin, but the
effeminacy, egoism, and rivalry of the Courts of Europe opposed his
brave purpose, and left open a free passage to the progress of the
conqueror.  In the West the outlook was brighter for the Church and the
world, for affairs were directed by the Emperor Frederick III.,
surnamed the Peacemaker, and Pope Calixtus, whose great desire was to
see peace firmly established in Italy, from whence it had so long been
banished.  Indeed, it was only in the year before he ascended the Papal
throne that the first signs of reviving peace were seen in that
troubled peninsula.  It was through the means of a humble Augustinian
friar that in the end was obtained that peace which princes and
monarchs had in vain attempted to restore; for Fr. Simonetto of
Camerino, a priest of extraordinary piety, is famous in history for
being the pacificator of Italy.  Good morals and piety began to gain
vigour, and brought consolation to the Church for the irreparable
losses it had sustained in the East.  The reigning houses also that
were least friendly to national concord, and which had not remained
unstained by depravity, began again to give indications of sanctity.
In this very year of 1457, Fr. Gabriel Sforza, Archbishop of Milan,
styled the Blessed, passed to his heavenly reward, and a few months
after his death Blessed Christina Visconti followed him to the kingdom
of heaven.  Like Rita, both of these were Augustinians.  The
Governments of the republics of Siena and of Genoa were the last to
suffer from the disasters of war, the former having been attacked by
the ambitious Picunino, and Genoa having been engaged with the maritime
forces of Alphonsus, King of Naples; but even these wars had at last
come to an end.  Cascia, which still continued to be governed as a
republic, in common with the other States was enjoying in prosperity
the fruits of peace, and was now about to acquire greater renown
through the death of Rita, whose imperishable glory was soon to be
proclaimed.

Scarcely, indeed, had she breathed her last when began a long series of
prodigious events, which immediately spread her fame abroad.  The first
of these to excite wonder was that at the moment of her death the nun
who had been her closest companion in life saw the soul of the saint
take its flight to heaven, accompanied by angels, in the garb of
brightness in which it had pleased God to clothe her.  The second
wonder was that at that same moment the bell of the convent rang out,
tolled by no visible agency, and the saint's cell was radiating with an
unaccustomed splendour.  The sore on her forehead, too, which in life
had been most offensive, was now giving forth an odour of heavenly
fragrance, and that wound, which had been an unsightly deformity, now
took on the appearance of a shining jewel.  Her body, which before had
exhibited all the wasting effects of continual mortification, but was
the seat of a most pure soul and the temple of the Holy Ghost, was now
transformed and clothed with almost superhuman beauty.  In a word, not
only her soul, but her very body seemed as if it had been assumed into
the splendour of the saints.  At the manifestation of events so
wonderful the nuns and the faithful who were present changed their
sorrow into a holy joy, and ceased not to bless the Lord and recommend
themselves to Rita's patronage.  As the report of these prodigies
spread about, the people flocked in crowds to see and to venerate that
sacred body, and thus God was praised in the wonders He had worked, the
virtues of His saint were published, and in the hearts of many there
sprang up the desire of imitating her example.  The obsequies were to
be solemnly celebrated on the following morning, and meanwhile the
crowds arriving from all the surrounding country were continually
increasing.  Amongst the others came a woman who was a near relative of
Rita, whose arm had been many years paralysed.  This woman approached
the sacred body, and, to relieve her feelings of love, sorrow, and
devotion, clasped it around the neck.  On the instant her withered arm
suddenly regained feeling and strength.  She began to cry out that a
miracle was wrought for her, and all the bystanders took up the cry of
'A miracle! a miracle!' whilst she who was healed kissed again and
again the body of her deliverer, and returned thanks to God for His
great mercy.  The body was brought from the cell into the ancient
chapel, where it was quickly surrounded by a crush of impatient people,
who seemed as if they never could be satisfied with gazing on the
sacred remains of the holy nun.  The last solemn offices were
celebrated, but the body had to be left visible for a long time to
satisfy the pious curiosity and devotion of the faithful.  At last it
was placed in a coffin of poplar, which was enclosed in another of
walnut wood, in order that one who was so honoured by God should
receive honourable sepulture.  This was but the beginning of Rita's
renown.  We shall see as we advance how God gave greater glory to His
servant.



CHAPTER II

  MIRACLES WROUGHT BY GOD THROUGH RITA'S
  INTERCESSION BEFORE HER BEATIFICATION

The primary object of miracles is to establish the Catholic religion,
and this is the reason why the Son of God and His disciples performed
so many miraculous works that filled the world with amazement and
invited men to embrace the faith.  Even when the kingdom of Christ had
been established miracles did not altogether cease, but rather it
pleased God for His greater glory to raise up miracle workers in every
age for the edification of the faithful, to place a more distinctive
mark on His Church, and to confirm His followers in the faith.  A
little before Rita's time there were chosen, amongst others, St.
Nicholas of Tolentine, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Bernardine of Siena, St.
Francis of Paul to be famous ministers of His omnipotence and mercy.
Then followed St. Rita, who, although during her life she did not
perform marvels as did these Apostolic men, yet after her death became
celebrated, and is still celebrated throughout the whole world for the
many great miracles with which it pleased the Lord to publish the
merits of His beloved spouse.

But as St. John the Evangelist has said, speaking of our Lord, so very
numerous were the miracles He wrought that only a small proportion of
them is recorded in the Sacred Writings, we may say, preserving due
proportion, much the same of Rita.  For not only have lapse of time and
carelessness deprived us of the memory of many of the miracles worked
through her intercession, but even in the present, when nearly every
part of the world is ringing with the fame of her great prodigies,
authentic testimony is often wanting, and sometimes we are at a loss
for a simple relation of the facts.  We must therefore perforce be
contented with recording a certain number of them taken from the
process of her beatification, and we shall follow the order in which
they are related by those writers of her life who have preceded us.
The series of miracles of which we have authentic knowledge begins from
the third day after the saint's death.  We give it here in compendium.

On the 25th of the month of May in which St. Rita died a certain
Baptist d'Angelo of Col Giacone, in the territory of Cascia, who had
completely lost his sight, having heard of the miracles which God was
working through her intercession in those first days after her death,
had his faith quickly aroused, and with confidence recommended himself
to her patronage, and in an instant his sight was restored.

Two days later a woman named Lucrezia di Paolo, from Col Forcella, a
village also in the territory of Cascia, whose body was swollen and
doubled up through advanced years and owing to a sort of dropsy from
which she suffered, went to where the saint's body was lying, and,
having prayed there with strong faith, was enabled to return to her
home free from disease and in perfect health.

On the same day another woman named Frances, the wife of Antonio
Fucelli of Cascia, who had been deaf for five years, was praying before
the body of the saint in the presence of a multitude of people.  On a
sudden she felt that her hearing was restored.  The truth of this
miracle is attested by the people who were present.

Two days later still a man named Salimbene d'Antonio, from
Poggio-Primocaso, one of whose fingers had lost all power of motion and
was dried up for many years, went to pray that he might be cured, and
touched the saint's sacred body with his powerless finger; he, too, was
instantaneously cured, and went back to his home rejoicing.

On the last day of May a woman called Giacomuccia di Leonardo, from
Ocosce, a village quite close to Cascia, was miraculously cured of
grievous pains, from which she had been tormented for two years, and
which had reduced her to a state of extreme weakness.  This grace was
granted to her after having prayed most fervently for eight days, at
the end of which her persevering faith was rewarded by her restoration
to health.

Frances di Giovanni, from Bisella, in Nursia, who was deaf and dumb
from birth, was brought on the same day to visit the miraculous body of
the saint.  She ardently recommended herself to her patronage, and
performed the acts of devotion possible to a deaf mute.  Speech and
hearing were thereupon suddenly granted to her.  The first words she
uttered were 'Ave Maria,' a fact which amazed her parents and the
people who witnessed the miracle.

Still another miracle was wrought by the omnipotence of God, through
Rita's intercession, before the end of that month of May.  A certain
Lucrezia, wife of Ser Paolo of Golforalla, who was all swollen with
dropsy, and whose case the physicians judged incurable, had herself
brought before the saint's body, and there with the strongest
confidence begged that her heart's desire might be granted.  She, too,
was restored to health and strength.

On the 2nd of June in the same year a youth named Bernard, the son of
Matteo Del-re, from Ocosce, who was suffering from the gravel and was
in very great pain, was brought to where the saint's coffin was by his
father, who besought for him the pity of the saint, and was granted the
grace he prayed for.

The next day a man called Spirito d'Angelo, from Cascia, through the
intercession of St. Rita, was cured of chronic sciatica, from which he
had suffered grievous pain for four years.

Four days later a young girl from Rocca, in the territory of Nursia,
whose name was Maria d'Angelo, who had been deaf and dumb from birth,
went with her parents to do homage to the saint of Cascia, and, like
Frances di Giovanni, she, too, obtained hearing and speech.  When this
miracle was made known the girl had to get into the pulpit to satisfy
the pious curiosity of the people, and there for the first time she
pronounced the sweet name of Mary and the names of other saints, and so
great was the wonder of the people that a thanksgiving procession was
formed, in which the clergy took part, and a sermon was preached by Fr.
Giovanni Paoletti of Cascia.

On the 13th of the same month Francesco, son of Antonio Pasquali, of
the village of San Cipriano, in the district of Amatrice, who was also
a deaf mute, was brought by his father and others to Rita's glorious
tomb, and departed thence with the full use of his senses, astonished
at the novelty of his sensations and the greatness of the miracle.

Another miracle took place five days after in favour of Lucia di Sante
Lalli, from the town of S. Maria, in the territory of Nursia.  One of
her eyes was entirely blind for fifteen years, and the other was nearly
so.  She went, accompanied by her mother, to visit the holy body of the
saint in Cascia, and remained there praying for fifteen days, at the
end of which, through her faith and the intercession of the saint, she
regained her sight, as she had ardently desired.

After describing the last-mentioned miracle there is a break in the
ancient records, and we read of no other miracles till thirty years
later.  Under the date of the 3rd of June, 1487, we find that Pietro di
Giovanni of Paganelli, and his wife, a native of Nursia, made a vow to
St. Rita for the restoration to health of their son Pietro, who was so
tongue-tied that he could not utter a word.  The saint consoled them,
for in a short time their son was in perfect health, with full use of
speech.

A daughter of Gregorio d'Antonio of Col Giacone, who had lost the power
of speech after a severe illness, recovered it after being brought to
the saint's tomb.  This fact is mentioned under the date of the 22nd of
June in the same year.

About the same time Sante di Mariano of Rocca Porena, whilst playing
bull, was thrown violently against one of his companions, who had a
knife in his belt, and was accidentally so severely wounded in the
ventral region that the physicians despaired of curing him.  He had
recourse to the saint, and although he was not cured instantly, yet he
immediately began to improve, and ultimately he was restored to perfect
health.

On the 18th of May, about two years afterwards, Angela, wife of
Domenico Berardi of Logna, a town in the territory of Cascia, whose arm
was crippled and so diseased that it brought on feverish feelings every
day, had recourse to the invisible virtue of that holy body, and was
completely healed.

Father Nicola Galli, who had been confessor of the nuns in the convent
in which the saint lived, and who wrote her life, which to a great
extent we are making use of in this chapter, and who declares that he
took his account of Rita's miracles from the process of her
beatification given him by the nuns, relates as the sixteenth of her
miracles that a certain Giovanni di Rocca Porena was restored from
death to life through the merits of the saint, but he mentions no
circumstances.

A woman named Fior di Pier Antonio had a son named Spirito, who
suffered from a sort of insanity, which doctors would call
_lycanthropy_ (a species of insanity in which the patient imagines
himself to be a wolf), owing to which he was given to wandering through
the woods and mountains, and felt a tendency to hurl himself from high
places.  His afflicted mother, seeing that all the remedies of science
were useless, had recourse to St. Rita, and was consoled by her son's
being restored to health and his right mind.

About the year 1491 a certain Vannetta, daughter-in-law of Ser Antonio
di Nardo, from the town of Fogliano, near Cascia, was suffering from so
dangerous an affection of the throat that she could swallow neither
food nor drink, and therefore believed that she had reached the end of
her days.  Once, on being awakened from a heavy sleep, which her
friends thought was the lethargy of death, she complained of being
deprived by them of the beautiful vision she had been enjoying.  To
their questions about her vision she replied that she had seen St.
Rita, who had called to her and touched her throat with her finger and
disappeared.  It was found that the cure was not simply imaginary, but
that the girl was freed from her disease.

About the same time a boy named Amico, the son of Antonio of Col
Forcella, who was suffering great pain from gravel, was recommended by
his mother to the powerful intercession of the saint, and her faith was
rewarded by his instantaneous cure.

In the following year Giovan Marino, of Logna, was cured of a disease
called _serpentina_, through which his whole body was paralysed, for it
pleased God to hear, through the intercession of Rita, the fervent
prayers offered in his behalf by his aunt Donna Santa.

Towards the end of the same year Pier Marino, son of Marino Bruchi of
Nursia, who had received two mortal wounds in a scuffle, had recourse
to the patronage of Rita, and not in vain, for he was seen to get
better, and through persevering prayer was soon restored to health.

Three other miracles are described as having taken place about this
time through Rita's intercession.  The first was the healing of Donna
Santa (perhaps the same as was mentioned before), daughter of Domenico
of Logna, who was suffering from headaches, and tumours, and swelling
of the throat.  She besought the saint to obtain her restoration to
health, and vowed to send a florin as offering to her convent.  Rita
heard her prayers, and became her advocate before the Giver of every
good gift, who instantly gave her back the health she prayed for.

The next was that wrought in favour of a certain woman named Giacoma,
the wife of Martino of S. Anatolia, in the territory of Cascia, who
broke her shoulder-blade and her thigh by falling from a height on a
rock.  She was tortured by most violent pains, against which she could
find no better remedy than to have recourse to Rita, to whose convent
she vowed to present a half-florin.  Her prayers were heard, and she
was instantly cured.

The third of the cases, registered under date of the 18th of November,
happened thus: Antonio, the son of Giuliano and Gemma of Nursia, was
lying mortally wounded and left for dead, having received fourteen
wounds, one of which had almost severed his shoulder from his body.
His mother and his sister Maria determined to trust themselves to the
help of heaven, and had recourse to the intercession of St. Rita.  They
therefore made a vow to visit her venerated body and to bring a waxen
image.  Hardly had they made the vow than the young man was cured of
his wounds.

Lucchessa, the wife of Giovan Marino of Collecurioso, now destroyed, in
the territory of Cascia, had been possessed by the devil for many days.
She was brought to Rita's grave, and there was delivered from that
molestation through the saint's intercession.  When this favour was
conferred there were many present, religious and seculars, who also
bore witness to the horrible yells uttered by the infernal spirit as it
left the body.

In 1494 Monica di Colantonio of Colle, in the district of Nursia, was
cured of a fistula solely because her father, Domenico, had gone to
Cascia to honour the saint, to whose efficacious patronage he had
recommended himself.

Towards the end of the same year, on the 16th of December, a man named
Giovanni Andrea, son of Giovannuccio, from Atri, a town in the
territory of Cascia, came to Cascia to thank his protectress Rita, who,
he affirmed, had formerly delivered him from a serious illness, and had
saved him again from imminent danger of death when a chestnut-tree had
fallen on him and threatened to crush him.

Two years later a certain Paolo, son of Giovanni, a native of
Collecurioso, whose son Angelo was suffering torture from the gravel,
made a vow to bring his son to return thanks at the saint's tomb if he
were cured, and to have the miracle painted on a tablet.  His faith was
rewarded by his son being cured.

In the same year Andrea d'Angelo, from Onelli, in the Cascia district,
was cured, through the intercession of the saint, from an illness by
which he was confined to bed for ten months.

In 1501 a woman named Perna, wife of Marino di Aliena, who was
tormented by evil spirits, was delivered from them by favour of the
saint, to whom she had had recourse.

At the same time Giovanni di Bartolomeo, from Roccatervi, in the
neighbourhood of Cascia, who had cut a vein near his left instep eight
years before, and whose case was considered incurable, besought St.
Rita with fervent prayers to come to his aid.  When he perceived that
his prayers were heard, and that a cure impossible to human science had
been effected, he made an offering on the 10th of June of a silver
crown to the church that guards the saint's body.

Pier Angelo, son of Pier Domenico, from the neighbourhood of Spoleto,
had fled in the year 1503 from that district to escape an epidemic that
was raging there.  When he thought the danger was past he returned, but
one of his daughters was seized by the malady.  The afflicted father
bethought him of seeking the protection of the miracle-worker St. Rita.
He promised to visit her venerated tomb and to make an offering of four
carlins.  His faith was rewarded by his daughter's deliverance.

Vannuccio di Sante of Foligno, one of whose arms was withered, had
recourse to the saint to obtain the favour of being cured, and made a
vow to offer the figure of an arm in wax.  The power of his arm was
immediately restored.  He determined thereupon to fulfil his vow on a
certain Sunday, but when the day came he changed his mind, and meant to
go to Nursia.  But he paid the penalty of his ungrateful fickleness,
for he was seized with such a pain in one of his feet that he could not
walk.  Thereupon he resolved to fulfil immediately his vow, and he
added a second one of bringing also the waxen figure of a foot.  He was
relieved of the pain, and hesitated no longer to fulfil his double vow.
This happened in 1506.

It happened about the year 1510 that a certain Messer Francesco of
Monferrato, who was five years bedridden owing to gangrene of the
throat, saw St. Rita appear to him in a dream.  He paid no attention to
the vision, but the saint appeared to him a second and a third time.
On the third occasion she informed him who she was and whence, and
exhorted him to go to her tomb; she then touched his throat, and he was
restored to health.  He arose from his bed cured, and set out for
Tuscany, and from thence he went to Rome, for he did not know where
Cascia was, where Rita was buried.  But in Rome he found a farmer from
Nursia, who gave him the information he needed, and when he arrived at
Cascia he made an offering of a box full of silver coins, had a
procession of thanksgiving celebrated, and on the occasion of it a
sermon was preached by Fr. Ludovico of Cascia, a Franciscan.

Giovan Angelo, the son of Leonardo, from Ocosce, in the district of
Cascia, was freed on the 26th of April, 1525, from an evil spirit by
which he was obsessed, and to express his gratitude for the favour,
obtained through Rita's intercession, made an offering of four carlins
to the convent, a thousand wooden stakes for the vineyard, and his own
services as long as he lived.

In the same year and month another man obsessed by the devil, whose
name was Bernardino, the son of Domenico Saccomadi, from the town of
San Giovanni, in the Cascia district, was delivered from the infernal
enemy after being brought to visit the body of St. Rita, before which
public prayers were recited for his liberation.

On the 26th of December of the same year a son of Giovan Francesco of
Nardi, in the suburbs of Cascia, a child three years old, after a very
serious illness, which lasted for thirteen days, was become quite
blind, and could take no nourishment, and was, in fact, at the point of
death.  The father went to Cascia to beg the intercession of St. Rita,
and to his prayers were added those of the nuns, who also gave him a
little piece of Rita's habit.  He returned home, and with firm faith
touched his son's eyes with the relic he had received, and invoked the
name of Rita, and immediately it was seen that the grace he had sought
had been granted.  As a sign of gratitude he brought an offering of
eight florins' worth of articles to be used in the services of the
saint's church.

A similar miracle happened towards the year 1535, in the case of
Constantino, the son of Scolastica and Giacomo di Pietro Zocchi, from
Agriano, in the district of Nursia.  He, too, was suffering from a
mortal illness when his mother made a vow in his favour to St. Rita,
and he was cured on the instant.  To fulfil her vow and testify her
gratitude, Scolastica presented a vestment to the church on the 1st of
June.

About the same time it also happened that a little girl of ten years,
called Antonia, who was the daughter of Giovanni di Silvestro of Rocca
Porena, fell into the river Corno, then very much swollen by floods,
and was swept along in the strong current for nearly half a mile.
Before losing consciousness she offered herself to St. Rita, and the
waters bore her to the river bank as one returned to life from the dead.

Donna Brigida, wife of the noble Marsiglio di Marino of Nursia, was
also the recipient of a singular favour from St. Rita in the year 1548.
She was lying ill in bed, despaired of by the physicians and near
death.  A certain Girolamo di Giovanni, who occupied a room not far
from where the sick woman was lying, twice heard a voice commanding her
to make a vow to the saint.  At the second time of hearing he woke the
servants, the vow was registered by the invalid, who instantly spoke.
She was cured without the application of other remedies, and the same
day the little silver crown she vowed to send to Cascia was despatched.

The year after a certain Ferrantino di Benedetto of Collecurioso, in
the Cascia district, was so terrified by a phantom of the night that he
fell into convulsions and became delirious.  St. Rita, to whom he had
remembered to pray, appeared to him in one of his lucid intervals and
advised him to go to her tomb and pray there, and that he would there
regain his health.  He went on St. James's Day, and although he was as
ill as usual whilst going, no sooner had he reached the blessed tomb
than he was cured in body and mind.

Nicola, the son of Francesco Cascianelli of Antrodoco, in October,
1562, had recourse to the saint to heal him of a chronic illness,
promising to make an offering of three crowns at her sepulchre.  He,
too, was instantaneously cured.

On the last day of May, in the year 1563, there happened another
noteworthy miracle wrought in favour of Donna Cheava di Paolo, of the
Castle of Uncciafora.  Two months before she had an apoplectic fit, and
during all the intervening time her tender mother could obtain no
relief for her, and was herself condemned to useless weeping, till she
determined to make a vow to the saint.  After two days she had the
happiness of seeing her daughter restored to her former health.  On the
very day of the recovery the mother went to Cascia to perform her vow
at Rita's tomb, and the assembled people celebrated the miracle with a
procession.

Four years afterwards, on the 23rd of April, Angelina di Marco of
Poggio-Primocaso was prostrate at the saint's tomb, returning thanks to
her for having saved her nephew, who had been at the point of death
after falling down a precipice.

Many other wonderful cures are recorded in the process of beatification
without a date being mentioned.  We read, for example, that a woman
from Monte Leone named Pazienza, who was obsessed by the devil, was
freed from her great misfortune on being brought to the tomb of the
saint; that Ristorio Sarsio from Amatrice, who was brought almost to
death's door by pains in his sides, was cured whilst in the act of
making a vow in the saint's honour; that a child of four
years--Giovanni Andrea, son of Fabiano Fortunati--who had fallen into a
vessel of boiling water, and thereby lost sight and speech, as soon as
his mother had asked the saint's intercession for him, again spoke and
recovered sight, and in a short time was as well as ever; that a
certain Bernardino di Tiberio, who had become blind of an eye from a
wound, was brought to the saint's tomb, and instantly regained the
sight of his eye whilst the coffin was being uncovered; and that a
woman from Logna, who was returning from Cascia after being cured there
miraculously, suggested to another woman to make a vow to St. Rita in
order that a daughter of hers who was blind might recover sight.  The
daughter promised St. Rita to become a nun in the Augustinian convent
in Cascia, and her vision was immediately restored.  She was afterwards
Prioress of the convent for thirty-five years.  Fr. Galli, who wrote
the saint's life, through fear of wearying his readers contented
himself with simply alluding to many other like miracles and wonderful
favours worked by St. Rita.  Most other writers of her life have
followed his example, except that a few have given some little
additions.  We, too, shall imitate these older examples, and close our
list of miracles worked by St. Rita before her beatification.



CHAPTER III

EFFICACY OF RELICS OF ST. RITA

It is quite certain that the power of working miracles belongs only to
Omnipotence; nevertheless, the many wonderful works done at the tombs
of the saints seem to indicate that in those holy places there breathes
an air participated through that incommunicable virtue by means of
which not only those sacred bodies, but everything that belongs to
them, co-operates in performing the wonderful works of God and in
celebrating and making known these wonders.  This is the same power
that first accompanied the shadow of St. Peter, as the Holy Spirit
assures us it did,[1] and that afterwards, on the testimony of St.
Augustine, was communicated to those renowned chains that were the
instruments of his generous confession and his guide to martyrdom.  The
Church's history supplies us with innumerable examples of cases in
which similar virtue was annexed to relics of the saints and to objects
connected with the veneration of them, and in St. Rita's case we have a
special confirmation of this fact.  And, to keep to our subject, the
truth of this assertion as regards St. Rita is witnessed by immemorial
report, by such examples being recorded in the process for her
beatification, and by proven cases, some of which we here record.

Before the saint's body was removed to its new resting-place--that is,
before the year 1745--it was the long-established custom of the nuns to
cover it with a new veil every year, the old one being divided into
minute portions and distributed to the faithful to satisfy their
devotion.  'Many miracles were worked through them,' says Father Rabbi,
who cites the following case as an example:

On the 27th of April, 1652, twenty-four years after an office in honour
of St. Rita had been granted, a fire broke out in the house of Giovanni
Polidori in Narni, and soon spread to an alarming degree.  His wife
Chiara, seeing that human aid was of no avail in overcoming the
increasing flames, and recollecting that she had a little piece of the
saint's veil, hurriedly sent her daughter to the roof of a house that
had not yet taken fire to cast from there the piece of veil into the
flames.  The daughter did as she was told, and for fear the relic,
which was wrapped in a piece of paper, should not carry so far owing to
its lightness, she tied it with a thread to a piece of mortar.  As soon
as she had done so, she threw it, and the fire immediately ceased.
Then Chiara, her family, and the others who were living in the house,
went directly to St. Augustine's Church to offer their thanks to God
and His saint.  They found in the church the woman who had given the
piece of veil to Chiara, and who was of even greater faith than her.
Chiara considered that the relic was burned, but the woman maintained
that it must have escaped the fire, for the instrument of the miracle
ought not to have become the food of the conquered flames, and told
them to go and look for it amidst the ashes.  They went, and Chiara
soon had reason to wonder at a second marvel, for she found the relic
just as it had been when it was thrown into the flames, and neither the
paper around it nor the string was in the least burned.  They then
returned to the church to renew their thanksgiving for the wonderful
works done in their favour.  The report of the occurrence was soon
spread abroad, and a public account of it was printed on the 25th of
the following May.

It was also a pious custom of the nuns to distribute to the people the
dust, the scrapings from the walls, and such things, of the saint's
cell, and of the first coffin in which her sacred body had been placed
and in which it had lain until 1745, and many marvellous results were
obtained also from the employment of these things.  Amongst other
wonders Father Rivarola relates this one: A servant of Cardinal
Fachinetti, Bishop of Spoleto, had a daughter who was blind of one eye,
and whose other eye was so diseased that no hope could be entertained
of curing it.  She recovered the sight of both eyes by the sole use of
that dust, which her mother cast into her eyes, an act which would
naturally have further injured her eyes if the dust had not been made
salutary by the Omnipotent, who, as we read in the Gospel,[2] gave
sight to the blind by using clay.  A certain Francesco Armilli obtained
a similar grace by the same means.  Both of these afterwards went to
Cascia to give public testimony of the facts, and to return heartfelt
fervent thanks to St. Rita.

There are authentic documents in existence to prove that marvellous
cures were also wrought through the means of the oil of the lamp that
burns before the receptacle wherein the saint's body is placed.  By
means of that oil Alessandro Alessandrini of Amatrice, who had been
stabbed in the side, and was almost at death's door, got better in a
moment of the violent pain he was suffering, and was afterwards
entirely cured without the use of any other remedy, nor did any sign of
the wound remain on his body.

Granita, the wife of Antonio Vanatelli of Atri, was cured in the same
manner of a large abscess on her side.  Signor Pompeo Benenati of
Cascia, who was a captain in Ferrara, was cured of a dangerous
hemorrhage by the same marvellous remedy, and as a mark of his
gratitude sent a silver lamp to the sepulchre of the saint of his
native town, his deliverer.  A son of Signora di Giovanni Andrea of
Nursia, whose feet, legs, and arms were so crippled that he could not
stir from his bed, was healed by the virtue of that same oil, and was
afterwards as able to go about as if he had never been ill.  Don Sante
Mazzuti, parish priest of Castel San Giorgio, near Cascia, who was
attacked by the plague, which was devastating many parts of Italy in
the time of Pope Alexander VII., was also cured by applying the same
wondrous oil.

It was also customary with the nuns, from the year 1500 at least, to
bake little loaves on which they impress the image of St. Rita, and
these, after having placed them in presence of the sacred body, they
distribute in large quantities, and even send them to distant
countries.  Devout people who are seeking favours from the saint in
their necessities, after reciting a _Pater Noster_ and _Hail Mary_, or
some other prayer, eat a little of that bread, and they drink a little
water, perhaps in memory or in honour of the very little food the saint
was accustomed to use, for bread and water were her usual sustenance.
Now, as many authors testify, on the authority of the process of
beatification, and the witnesses cited for the canonization confirm
them, the sick have often found this bread a very efficacious remedy in
their illnesses, and especially those suffering fever.  Moreover, in
cases of storm by sea or land, it is a pious practice in some places to
throw a bit of the bread towards the sky or into the sea whilst
reciting a prayer to the saint, and it has often been observed that
thereupon calm and tranquillity succeeded.  It is, in fact, related
that many sailors have been thereby delivered from shipwreck, and,
amongst others, Pompeo Martini of Cascia and his companions whilst they
were on a voyage to Sicily.  They tell, too, that in time of pestilence
many were either preserved from infection by using this bread, or else
regained their lost health.

With regard to this matter, there is one fact at least which we ought
not to pass over in silence.  We have already made mention of that
contagious disease which was rife in the year 1656, to the great loss
of many Italian cities, and which brought desolation to Rome itself.
There lived in Rome at that time a girl of about twelve years of age,
daughter of an innkeeper, whose house was near the Church of St. Blase,
which had been dedicated about that time to St. Rita.  The little girl,
by reason of the great devotion which she had towards the saint, was
accustomed to make use of these little loaves.  It happened that whilst
she was sleeping one night with her two aunts they were both
unexpectedly attacked by the pestilence, and both of them died that
night whilst she was asleep.  When she awoke she was so frightened by
what had happened that she fell off into a faint so deep that she, too,
was thought to be dead, and she was put with the two corpses on a car
and carried to the cemetery of St. Paul that had been arranged for
those who died of that disease.  When they were removing the bodies
from the car she was found to be alive and conscious, and was carried
back to her home amidst the astonishment and joy of all who were
present.  When she was asked at home how it was that she was alive, she
answered, 'I do not know, except that when I awoke and saw that I was
lying between two dead bodies I said, "Blessed Rita, help me."'  Now,
let us ask how could a person of tender years, after being so long
between two persons just then dead of the plague, escape the contagion
without the special favour of heaven, or of that saint who had been the
special protector of her devout client?  How admirable, indeed, is God
in His saints!


[1] Acts v. 15.

[2] John ix. 6.



CHAPTER IV

MARVELS OF ST. RITA'S SEPULCHRE

It was the Almighty's will that the body of the saint, born of a mother
so long barren, visited by the wonderful bees, miraculously brought
into the convent, marked by a wound from a thorn of the Crucified One,
and in death crowned with splendour and clothed with a beauty almost
heavenly, should also be glorified in a singular manner after death.
And so it has remained for several centuries without showing the least
sign of decay, and may be seen even to the present day miraculously
preserved.  Before the year 1628--that is, for a space of 171
years--its eyes were always seen to be closed, and so they appear in
pictures taken before that date; but in that year there was a tumult
excited in the church by an insignificant cause on a day on which
ceremonies more solemn than usual were being observed to celebrate the
granting of an Office in the saint's honour, and on that occasion the
eyes of the saint were seen to open, to the great amazement of all
present.  The scandalous conduct of those who caused the tumult, and
through passion violated the laws of charity and the sanctity of the
holy place, seems to have awakened that venerable body from its long
repose; for it raised itself aloft out of its resting-place, whilst a
perfume as from Paradise filled the church, its eyes opened, and thus
struck terror into the hearts of the brawlers, and filled them with
penitence for their deeds, so that the sacred offices were finished in
peace.

The scene we have described calls us to consider a second prodigy, that
of the odour which is often observed in the vicinity of the saint's
body--an odour of unsurpassed sweetness, which invites to devotion and
brings spiritual comfort and consolation.  It lasts sometimes for a
considerable period, sometimes is very transient; it diffuses itself to
a great distance at times, or is only apparent in the vicinity of the
body, and at different times has different degrees of pleasantness.
This, which we might call an odour of Paradise, is sometimes so widely
diffused as to be noticeable not only in the church where the body is
preserved and in the adjacent convent, but also in the neighbouring
houses and in the streets, and it is wonderful that it has never seemed
unpleasant to anyone, but, on the contrary, has brought spiritual
consolation, and excited the devotion of those who have had the
happiness of experiencing it.

There are many documents in existence which give the fullest testimony
regarding this wonderful odour, and notably the processes of St. Rita's
canonization, which put beyond all doubt the fact that it is really
supernatural, for neither was Rita's body ever embalmed, as we have
said, nor were any spices or other odoriferous substances ever placed
either within or near the receptacle wherein it lies.

Moreover, it is an ancient tradition in Cascia, which is confirmed also
by the writers of her life and by the processes of beatification and
canonization, that on the occasions of the triduums that are accustomed
to be offered at the altar of the saint for the sick who have recourse
to her, it is not hard to discover whether they are going to get back
health or are going to die; for a sweeter perfume is given forth when
the object of prayer is to be granted, whereas an odour somewhat like
that of incense, or the absence of odour altogether, is an indication
of death.  Stranger still, the same wonderful fragrance has been
experienced even in distant countries, when extraordinary graces have
been obtained by the intercession and through the invocation of St.
Rita.  So the constant tradition affirms, and the processes of
canonization confirm tradition in this point.  Fr. Rabbi quotes a
specific case in proof of this belief.  A medical doctor, Signor
Andrea, came from Sinigaglia to Cascia with his wife Violante to thank
the saint for her intercession and to present a silver votive offering
for the healing of their son, who had been cured of a mortal illness.
The healing of their son had been signified to them a little before
they came to Cascia by the same wonderful fragrance.  These sweet
odours are also manifest, not to mention many other occasions, whenever
the Bishop of Spoleto or the Augustinian Provincial come to hold their
usual visitations.

Another fact calculated to cause still greater surprise is that Rita's
body has been seen to raise itself in its coffin from the bottom of
that receptacle up to the grating on its top, especially during the
time of the Provincial's visitation.  The same wonderful occurrence has
also been remarked during the visitations of the Bishops of Spoleto in
the convent, as if the saint thereby wished to renew her homage to her
episcopal Superior.  On these occasions the motion of the body is not
always the same.  Sometimes it has been remarked to be much slower than
at other times, and it has on occasions been seen to raise itself for a
moment and then sink back again into its usual place.  On many other
occasions besides at times of visitation this spontaneous raising of
the body has been noticed.  In order not to make so seemingly
incredible a statement without sufficient evidence, we transcribe a
deposition sworn by some of the most prominent people in the town of
Cascia.



NOTE TO CHAPTER IV

_In the Name of God.  Amen._

On Saturday the 16th May, 1682, in the church called anciently St. Mary
Magdalen's, but now called B. Rita's, we the undersigned, of the
territory of Cascia, diocese of Spoleto, by means of our oath, etc., in
the presence of me a notary and Chancellor forane of the bishop of the
territory of Cascia, give full and undoubted testimony, etc., for the
truth, and not otherwise, etc., that at the present the blessed body of
our B. Rita is entire, uncorrupted, with its flesh white, without any
stain of corruption, with its eyes open, and especially the left, which
is seen to be more open than the right, and with the eyelids separated,
and with the mouth somewhat opened, in which are seen and very clearly
distinguished the white teeth, the hands likewise white, etc.

Similarly have been observed by us, and recognised, the garments and
the veils, that she has on her head, which are the same that she wore
when she was alive, and with them was the blessed body placed and
arranged in the same coffin, where at present she is found, as by
relation and continued ancient tradition of the nuns of this convent,
which garments and veils have been found to be sound, entire, and not
corrupted by moths, nor by time, these garments appearing, as the veils
also, as if they were worn at the present time by a living person.

Similarly we attest as above, that we have felt many times an odour and
a fragrance wonderful and of Paradise, without being able to say what
kind of odour it is, and this sometimes has been observed in a manner
that it was felt outside the church.  And by much more is this odour
marvellous inasmuch as her body was not embalmed, or opened, but placed
in the coffin where it is found, with all the internal portions not
separated, nor divided from the body.

Similarly we fully testify as above, that we have many times observed
that her blessed body had raised itself from the place where ordinarily
it lies up to the top of the little grating which is above the said
coffin, where reposes the same blessed body, and especially this
happens on the occurrence of her feast, and when she has worked some
miracle, as happened in the year 1628 for the first time, when was
celebrated the feast of her beatification, of which appears authentic
testimony made under date 13 June, 1660, by deed of Signor Giuseppe
Benenati, native of Montefalco, with the legal form of this public
office, and so much we say and attest for the truth, etc., not only,
etc., but in every other better way, etc.

I Carlo Giudici, Vice-Governor of Cascia, was present, and affirm as
above with my own hand.

I Raffaele Cittadoni, Archpriest of the collegiate church of said
place, was present and affirm, etc.

I Dionigi Panfili, Vic. forane of Cascia, was present and affirm, etc.

I Ortensio Martini, Canon of the collegiate church of said territory,
was present and affirm, etc.

I Antonio Frenfenelli, Canon of the collegiate church of said
territory, was present and affirm, etc.

I Cerulino Berardi, Captain of the company of the cuirassiers of said
place, was present and affirm, etc.

I Angelo Graziani, Captain of the infantry of Cascia, was present and
affirm, etc.

I Alessio Martini, notary public of Cascia, was present and affirm, etc.

I Giovanni Graziani of Cascia was present and affirm, etc.

I Giovanni Battista Leonetti of Cascia was present, etc.


_In the Name of God.  Amen._

In the year of our Lord 1682, the fifth declaration, on the 28th day of
the month of May, 6th year of the Pontificate of Innocent XI., Pope by
Divine Providence, I Petrus Gentilis of Tutia in Cascia, of the diocese
of Spoleto, by public Apostolic authority notary, etc.

L+S.


_The Consuls of the Renowned Territory of Cascia._

To all, etc.  The aforesaid D. Petrus Gentilis and our other
fellow-citizens are such as they describe themselves in their public
and private declarations, and in this the usual and due forms were
observed, and in the present matter undoubted faith is to be given
them, etc., and therefore we have given these at Cascia from the
Consular Palace this last day of May, 1682.

L+S.

DOMINICUS DE LANCELLOTTIS,
    _Canc. Secr._



CHAPTER V

IMMEMORIAL WORSHIP OF ST. RITA

It had been provided by the sapient Pontiff Alexander III. three
centuries before Rita's death that no one, however remarkable for
holiness of life, and dying in the fame of sanctity, should receive
public and ecclesiastical worship, unless after the approbation of the
Holy Apostolic See.  But it must be admitted that Rita's sanctity and
miracles had more effect than any decree that interfered with the
devotion of so many, and, indeed, the decree was unknown to most of
them.  Hardly was Rita dead than there was a great concourse of the
people of Cascia gathered at the feet of the sacred body, with hands
raised in veneration and entreaty, beseeching the favour of their new
protectress.  The constant and wonderful works which it then pleased
God to perform to the advantage of those faithful people justified
their confidence, and served to augment their fervour and at the same
time the veneration and glory of the saint.  Following the example of
the people of Cascia, and incited by the fame of Rita's miracles, the
peoples of other places, near and far, hastened to offer her their
religious homage also, in order to become participants in her favours,
or to make votive offerings, or to leave memorials of graces received.
As a consequence, lamps and candles were soon burning around her
venerated tomb; her picture became honoured, and many votive tablets
and gifts in ever-increasing numbers were offered.  Hence, also, devout
processions began to be celebrated on the occasions of the more
extraordinary miracles, and hence her feast began to be kept on the
anniversary day of her death, or, rather, of her birth to immortal life.

This singular devotion to the saint never declined; it rather acquired
greater vigour and wider bounds as years went on.  The processions took
place only in Cascia in the beginning, but in the course of time they
began to be held by the faithful of the neighbouring towns and
villages, who had begun to invoke, as they still invoke, the favour of
their common advocate.  These pious demonstrations of public and solemn
veneration are usually celebrated about the time of her feast, and are
always accompanied by pious offerings.  The feast itself, which at
first used to be observed in an ordinary way, came to be celebrated
even magnificently when the devotion increased, and to be regarded as a
holiday of obligation.  The Offices of the Church, which were attended
by great crowds of people, many of them from distant places, were made
more impressive by the aid of the choicest music and the rich
decoration of the church.  But what has ever caused the greatest
edification in connection with this festival was to see the number of
strangers, and especially women, who came on pilgrimage in bare feet
and humble attire.

From that period the convent and church, which were formerly known as
St. Mary Magdalen's, came, in a beautiful way, to be called, as they
are so called at present, by the title of St. Rita.  For the pilgrims,
as they approached the goal of their journey, had no other care than to
find out where the convent of St. Rita was, and on their return were
used to say that they had been in the country and in the Church of St.
Rita.  Hence that manner of speaking, which has prevailed from an early
date, has finally succeeded in giving its fixed name to that venerated
shrine.

It is also deserving of notice here that the custom of calling her the
Blessed, which had been introduced even during the century after her
death, in a short time became public and general.  About eight years
after her most glorious death the learned Cardinal Girolamo Seripando
had already placed Rita on his list of the Saints and Blesseds of the
Augustinian Order; Panfilo, Crusenio, Gelsomini, and Ferrario had in
their works already confirmed these titles and honours; the
Fathers-General of the Order were already accustomed in their official
documents and letters patent to style her either by the title of
Blessed or that of Saint, and distinguished her convent by the same
title.  In a word, the general body of the faithful had already
beatified her long before the Vicar of Jesus Christ had her name
inserted in the Roman Martyrology or had granted an Office in her
honour.  Now, if the worship given to Rita was so great before it was
allowed by the Church to honour her publicly, we may imagine how much
it was increased when the decree of the Supreme Head of the Church, who
could do no less than add his voice to the general chorus of praise,
set his seal and approval on it.  Religious veneration to the famous
Rita then speedily spread throughout the whole earth, and together with
the people, Kings, Cardinals, Prelates, and personages of the greatest
distinction, bent their knees in devotion before the humble servant of
God, and deemed themselves happy in her patronage.  Amongst the
countries remarkable for devotion to her, the kingdoms of Spain and
Portugal were pre-eminent, both in their European possessions and their
vast colonies in the Western world; for throughout them all the name of
Rita was glorious, and their monarchs gave the most edifying examples
of piety and munificence.  And it was in these Catholic dominions that,
owing to the very many great miracles she wrought, she began to be
known by the title of '_the Saint of the Impossible_,' and in them hard
to find a church which has not an altar dedicated to her honour.  So
much was her veneration extended that the inhabitants of the city of
St. Sebastian, in Brazil, made a supplication to Pope Benedict XIII. to
obtain the extraordinary faculty of consecrating a church under the
invocation of B. Rita, and when the faculty had been granted their
pious intention was soon carried into effect.  Seventy years before
that Monsignor Giuseppe Cruciani of Cascia, chamberlain of Pope
Alexander VII., had obtained possession of the Church of St. Blase in
Rome, with the intention of rededicating it to B. Rita, and to-day we
find it so dedicated, and it has become the church proper to the people
of Cascia in Rome.  Still earlier, and immediately after her
beatification, Monsignor Fausto Poli, himself a native of Cascia, who
was then Maggiordomo to Pope Urban VIII., and afterwards became
Cardinal and Bishop of Orvieto, acquired possession of the house in
which the saint lived during her married life, and at his own expense
had it converted into a little chapel; and so it remains to the
present, and in it is preserved as a relic the mantle she wore in the
world.

We must not pass over in silence a noteworthy fact recorded by some
biographers of the saint, which is confirmed by a tradition in Rocca
Porena, and sworn to in a deposition included in the first process.  It
is this: The saint's room received its light whilst she dwelt in it,
and until it was changed into a chapel, from a little window, or,
rather, aperture, in the roof, and there, as is piously believed, the
angels used to appear who came to comfort her in her sorrows.  When she
entered the convent others dwelt there until the time of her
beatification.  Her successors in the house--and amongst them was a
priest, Don Diamante di Pier Felice, who was examined as a witness in
the first process--tried to close the aperture; but all their efforts
were fruitless, for as often as they closed it they found it opened
again, and it was, moreover, observed that through that opening neither
rain nor snow ever entered.

The convent cell, too, which Rita sanctified by so many years of her
presence, by her profound meditations, and by the pitiless scourging of
her body, and where the two coffins in which she was first buried are
at present preserved, began to be held in veneration from an early
period and to be looked upon as a private oratory.  In brief, it is an
undoubted fact that the religious honours shown to our saint began from
the very time of her death, and as time went on they increased without
any interruption and became more distinguished, till veneration to Rita
was spread in a singular manner throughout the whole Catholic world.
Thus are the humble exalted by God, and thus are the just in the
everlasting memory of the ages.



CHAPTER VI

SOLEMN BEATIFICATION OF RITA

A period of one hundred and seventy years had passed since Rita went to
live crowned with glory in the kingdom of the blessed, where there is
no change of years or of things, and from whence she was regarding with
compassionate eyes the ever-changing vicissitudes of this valley of
tears.  In that interval between Rita's death and her solemn
beatification the world had changed a hundred times its form and
appearance.  Convulsions of nature, ruling passions, kingdoms ceasing
to be, new Governments, dominions extended, fires of war enkindled,
extinguished, and enkindled again, heresies ever variable, now
spreading themselves, now kept within bounds, councils assembled,
Apostolic enterprises, and the barque of Peter always safe amid the
shocks of tempests--these are the things that make up the long history
of that time, and, indeed, of every epoch.

However, at the time in which the honours of beatification were being
prepared for Rita, the world and the Church were enduring only minor
afflictions, and the aspect of affairs would have been still more
serene but that the question of the succession to the extinct House of
Mantua was giving rise to some hostile movements in Italy, and that the
rebellious Calvinists were causing civil discord in France.  Still,
compared with the past, those were times of peace, of gentleness, and
of religion.  In the East, in fact, the infidel Amurath IV., sunk in
debauchery, had lost the taste for war and conquest.  The Emperor
Frederick V., in the West, was keeping the heretics in subjection and
preparing the way to restore to the Church the rights and property they
had usurped.  Italy had no longer to tolerate those wandering troops of
armed men of which we have elsewhere spoken, who, however they may have
bargained to bring help, were much more accustomed to bring ruin and
mourning in their train; nor was there that multiplicity of
Governments, each as ambitious and tyrannical as it was insignificant.
Cascia, too, although fallen from its primitive splendour, was yet at
peace, as was the rest of the Pontifical dominions.

The arts were flourishing and gaining new lustre in this time of
tranquillity.  But what is of most importance is good order, religious
and moral, and the Council of Trent had brought back order into the
bosom of Christianity, and there it continued to rule.

At that time the chair of Peter was occupied by Urban VIII., whose
virtue, learning, and illustrious enterprises have made his name
immortal.  Before ascending the Papal throne he had governed the Church
of Spoleto with great edification and splendid success, and there he
had every facility for inquiring into Rita's virtues and miracles, and
the antiquity and fame of the veneration paid to her.  God afterwards
so disposed it that he should take upon himself the government of the
Universal Church, and should co-operate in the fulness of power in
exalting our saint.  It is true that she had already been beatified by
the people from the time of her death, but in strict truth and in
accordance with the sacred Canons, it did not belong, nor does it
belong, to the people to declare anyone saint or blessed, for the
oracle of the Apostolic See is needed.  For Jesus Christ alone
sanctifies in the Church triumphant, as He teaches in the Book of
Leviticus, where He says, 'I am the Lord who sanctifies them,' and so
in the Church militant it is the prerogative of His Vicar on earth, the
Roman Pontiff, to set the seal of his approval on sanctification and
publish it to the world.

Never was there a more favourable opportunity than that which then
presented itself, when the Papal throne was occupied by a Pope who had
been himself a witness of the devotion with which the faithful flocked
to Rita's tomb and of the ever-increasing veneration in which she was
held; and therefore the Augustinian fathers, the nuns, and the Council
of Cascia, determined to unite their influence with that of Monsignor
Fausto Poli and other distinguished persons, amongst whom was
pre-eminent the Lady Costanza Barberini, the Pope's sister-in-law, in
supplicating him graciously to proceed to the anxiously desired
beatification of Rita.  Their petitions were sufficient for the Pope,
who ordered the Sacred Congregation of Rites to set about the affair.
The Congregation committed to the Bishop of Spoleto the task of
investigating into the fame of the sanctity, the virtues, and miracles
of the saint, and instructed him to prepare what is called the
informative process.

On the 16th of October, 1626, the legal inquiry was therefore begun,
and in due time brought to a happy conclusion.  In the month of March
of the following year the results of the Bishop of Spoleto's
investigation were submitted to a rigorous examination by the Sacred
Congregation and approved of.  The Cardinals of that Congregation
delivered the canonical relation of the investigation and its issue to
the Pope, who was rejoiced with the success of their labours.
Thereupon, by a Special Brief of the 2nd of October, 1627, he granted
leave to the whole Augustinian Order and the Diocese of Spoleto to
recite the Office and celebrate Mass in honour of B. Rita, and this
privilege was extended four months later by a Brief of the 4th of
February, 1628, at the instance of the Father-General of the Order, to
all priests celebrating Mass in any church of the Order, or of the
Diocese of Spoleto, on the day of Rita's feast.  The joy of the
Augustinian Order and of Spoleto for so sovereign and gracious a
concession may not be described.  But the solemn beatification was not
promulgated until the 16th of July, 1628, when the religious ceremony
was celebrated in the Church of St. Augustine in Rome in the presence
of twenty-two Cardinals and a great number of other prelates.  We make
no mention of the splendid festivals organized in honour of the
illustrious Blessed Rita, of the panegyrics preached, of the poetical
compositions with which her virtues and miracles were celebrated.  The
devout clients of Rita vied with one another in defraying the expenses
of these pious festivities, but the most distinguished for his
liberality was Cardinal Antonio Barberini, the nephew of the reigning
Pope.

The pomp of the ecclesiastical functions was renewed in all the
churches of the Order, but the people of Cascia and the nuns of Rita's
convent rightly determined that their celebrations more than any other
should be remarkable for magnificence.  The joyful pealing of the
bells, which continued for several days and nights; the bonfires on the
hill-tops that illuminated the whole country around; the silken
hangings and rich ornaments that decorated the church within and
without; the new paintings representing Rita's glorious deeds and her
miracles; the solemn procession in which all the clergy, secular and
regular, and all the confraternities of the town and district took
part, bearing in triumph the banner of the blessed one; the band of
children dressed to represent angels that accompanied it; the many wax
torches and gifts; the enormous concourse of the faithful, many of them
from distant places; the solemn religious functions; the sacred plays
and representations; and other like pomps, all publicly testified the
common applause and universal joy.

Even the body of the saint seemed as if, on so glorious a day, it
wished to add to the splendour and gladness of the extraordinary
festivity; for, after the many years that had passed since Rita's
death, it opened its eyes, as if to take pleasure from the solemn feast
and general rejoicing, and at the same time to appease that momentary
tumult of which we have already spoken.  Then, too, the church was
filled with that sweet odour we have described, and the sacred body
raised itself to the height of the grating at the top of its
resting-place.  And, lest anything should be left to mar the
tranquillity of that happy day, she imposed silence on the demons by
then liberating from their influence two women--one from Spoleto and
the other from Sinigaglia--who had been obsessed.  But all that we have
hitherto narrated was only accidental honour, and but a shadow of the
immortal glory which Rita enjoys in heaven.



CHAPTER VII

MIRACLES WORKED BY RITA AFTER HER BEATIFICATION

It is related in the holy Gospels that once when the Saviour was going
to Jerusalem, as He entered into a certain town He saw ten lepers
coming to meet Him, who began to shout from afar off, 'Jesus, have
mercy on us,' and that all of them were miraculously healed by Him, but
only one fulfilled the duty of gratitude by publicly giving glory to
God and going back to give thanks to his Divine Benefactor.

We are forced to think that something similar must have been the case
with those who have received extraordinary favours and graces through
the invocation and protection of Rita.  For, on the one hand, the
constant appeals of the faithful for her intercession, the numerous
triduums and novenas which the sick cause to be celebrated in many
places in order to be cured of their diseases, and the fame which is
spread throughout the earth of the benefits she has conferred and the
miracles she has worked, show with sufficient clearness the truth of
them and their frequency.  But, on the other hand, there are few who
give full praise to God by publishing the wonderful works He has done
in honour of His beloved, or, at most, they content themselves with
hanging a tablet or votive offering on her altars.  The present author,
too, may perhaps be not altogether free from fault, for he confesses in
his nothingness that he has neither sufficient zeal, nor correspondence
sufficiently wide, to enable him to know all the facts.  Nevertheless,
we shall for the last time, for the glory of God and of Rita, relate a
few of the more striking miracles we have been able to gather, and
which seem best authenticated.

When we were speaking of the marvels done through such relics of the
saint as the portions of the veil or by the use of the little loaves,
we took occasion to mention some miracles that took place after the
time of her beatification, and now, in order to avoid repetition and to
pass over what is hidden in the obscurity of a period long past, we
shall confine our attention to the century in which the cause of her
canonization was resumed.

A youth of fifteen years, by name Francesco Cavalieri of Cascia, was in
the year 1746 confined to his bed by gangrene of the leg, which had
broken out in five different places, and was so bad that the surgeons
had resolved to amputate the limb.  His father thereupon made a vow to
the saint, who heard his prayer, and deigned to appear to the sick
youth, first in the silence of the night, and again at dawn, telling
him to get up and go to her church.  He went as told by the saint, and
was restored to perfect health.

Sister Chiara Isabella Garofili, professed nun of the convent of
Cascia, was twice cured through the saint's intercession in ways that
were certainly more than natural.  The first case happened in 1775,
when she had been suffering for eight years from a complication of
diseases, of which the description would be long, and which had then
become incurable.  St. Rita appeared to her in a dream, telling her to
get up--that she was cured.  When she awoke she found that she had been
restored again to health.  The second case occurred in 1786, in which
year Sister Chiara's right arm unexpectedly lost all power of motion,
and she was also deprived of speech.  She tried several medical
remedies without avail, and ultimately abandoned their use, and put all
her confidence in the help of Rita alone.  Her trust was rewarded, for
then, to the surprise of the doctor and of the community, she found
herself well once more.  Yet the impediment in speech still remained to
some extent; but she went to the saint's tomb accompanied by her
sisters in religion, and the Superior anointed her tongue with oil from
the lamp that was burning there, and in an instant her cure was
perfected.  This fact is confirmed by the legal testimony of the
doctor, Laurenti.

During the year 1777 Giovanni Graziano of Poggiodomo, in the district
of Cascia, fell from his horse, and was dragged for a considerable
distance along the road, receiving a number of bruises and lacerations;
but as soon as he invoked St. Rita she appeared to him, and restored
him to his former health and strength.

Another miraculous recovery, which has been authenticated in legal
form, was that of Sister Vittoria Teresa Bargagnati, which took place
in 1781, when she was a novice in the convent of St. Teresa in Terni.
Her malady was that she could retain no food in her stomach.  She had
in consequence been confined to bed for several months, and seemed at
the last extremity.  In this state, seeing that all the resources of
medical science were of no avail, she resolved to have recourse to more
effective aid, the intercession of St. Rita.  Animated, then, by that
lively faith which is able even to move mountains, she applied to her
stomach a picture of her saintly advocate, and immediately after rose
from her bed, went to the refectory, and ate the same food as the
others, nor did she ever after experience any trace of her malady.

There is a still more marvellous recovery, which is also proved and
confirmed by legal testimony--that of Rosa Mazzi, a young lady of
Cittei di Castello, who was afterwards Sister Anna Rita of the
Augustinian convent of St. Maria Maddalena in Spello.  In the year 1780
she began to suffer from pains, difficulty of breathing, and vomitings
of copious quantities of blood, and afterwards from inflammatory fevers
and ischury, so that in two years she was reduced almost to the point
of death.  In this desperate crisis her confessor, who was attending
her as a dying person, told her of the miracle we have just related,
which had recently happened in Terni, and encouraged her to have equal
confidence.  She determined to make a devout triduum to the saint.  The
triduum was hardly finished when Rosa felt herself well again, rose
from her bed, and continued to be even haler and stronger than she had
been before her long and mortal illness.  This wonderful miracle
occurred on February 6, 1783.

Signora Rosalia, the daughter of Francesco Pelagalli of St. Anatolia,
but then living in Camerino, was seized in the year 1802 by constant
rheumatic pains, which tormented her for two years, and brought her to
a deplorable state.  One evening, when she was suffering more than
usual, and so much that she was forced by the pains to cry out aloud,
she thought of recommending herself in her extreme anguish to the
merciful intercession of Rita.  She put into her mouth one of the
little loaves blessed in her honour, and that instant was completely
cured, and she continued to enjoy good health from that time.  The
documents, drawn up in legal form, which attest this remarkable
recovery, are still extant in the archives of the convent.

For the sake of brevity we omit many other wonderful cures obtained by
those who sought the assistance of St. Rita.  But we must not
altogether neglect to speak of the solemn transposition of her body.
After death, as we have already said, Rita's body was placed in a
coffin which was enclosed in another coffin, and there it remained for
public veneration for the space of 288 years, from the year 1457 till
1745.  But in that year a devout client of the saint resolved to
provide a more worthy resting-place for those venerated remains, and a
new urn, ample and beautiful, was sent to the convent.  This the
Augustinian nuns adorned with hangings and ornamentations, so that its
appearance should in some way correspond with their devotion.
Monsignor Paolo Bonavisa, Bishop of Spoleto, added by his presence to
the solemnity of the occasion, and on Sunday, October 24, in the
presence of many notable witnesses, carried out with due formality the
transposition of the sacred body into its new place of repose, where
now it lies.  So may God grant us, through the abundant merits and
powerful intercession of Rita, to keep our minds and hearts raised
above earthly things, so that we may one day be transported with her to
participate in the immense and eternal joy of Paradise.



CHAPTER VIII[1]

MORE RECENT MIRACLES OF ST. RITA


[1] Added to this edition.


We must not pass over in silence the marvellous fact that, as the time
of the canonization of our heroine was drawing nearer, it pleased the
Lord to let men see more clearly how powerful before the throne of His
infinite mercy is her patronage in favour of those who piously invoke
her.

The devotion towards St. Rita, which was already of ancient date and
widely spread, has, in fact, in these latter years become more
universal and more fervent.  Amongst every class of persons are found
some who confidently have recourse to her intercession; triduums and
novenas are offered in her honour, her pictures are looked for
everywhere, relics of her are eagerly sought, and in the severest
crises her name is invoked.

This great increase of worship is due principally, we believe, to the
very many signal graces which have been obtained in every country
through Rita's intercession.

It would be too long to narrate all those cases we have knowledge of,
but we must not entirely disappoint the pious curiosity of devout
readers by omitting them all.  We select, therefore, a few cases from a
collection of these extraordinary favours made by Monsignor Casimiro
Gennari, titular Archbishop of Lepanto, who is himself a most devoted
client of St. Rita and most zealous in spreading veneration towards so
powerful an advocate.  We have chosen those which in our opinion are
most extraordinary and miraculous.

At the same time we wish to protest, out of veneration to the decrees
of Urban VIII. of the 13th of March, 1625, and of the 5th of June,
1831, and of those of the Congregation of Rites, that if anything we
have hitherto written or are about to write of the miracles of St. Rita
be not approved by the Holy See, it ought to receive only that amount
of credence to which the evidence adduced entitles it.

Sister Mary Consiglia Giona, a native of Naples, who entered the
convent of St. Cosmo in Conversano in the year 1859, contracted in 1863
a very painful malady of the eyes, which gave her no rest night or day.
During six years she consulted many doctors, who prescribed various
internal and external remedies, but always without result.  Ultimately
she had to leave the convent and go to live at Bari for six months
under the care of an expert oculist, but even then she experienced no
relief.  The malady went on increasing, till, to her great grief, she
lost the sight of her eyes, whilst the pain in them continued as great
as ever.  She thus returned blind to the convent, and having lost all
confidence in human aid, she turned to God and asked Him to cure her
through the patronage of the Blessed Virgin and the saints.  She
thought many times that in a dream she had seen the most Blessed
Virgin, who was blaming her for having too much complained of her
sufferings, and who exhorted her to offer her pains to God.  One night
when Sister Mary Consiglia had been suffering more than usual, worn out
she fell asleep, and she seemed to see in a dream the three Babylonian
youths, who wanted her to give them some bunches of grapes that were
not yet ripe which were hanging from a branch near her room.  She
refused, and the youths then said: 'Why do you want a grace that is not
yet ripe?'  They disappeared as soon as they had uttered these words,
and the nun was covered with great confusion.

She continued, however, to have Masses celebrated, and to address her
prayers to the most holy Virgin and to various saints, but the grace
she sought was still denied her.  About this time she heard people
speak of Rita of Cascia as the saint who obtains from God what is
otherwise impossible, but having lost her confidence she had no desire
to have recourse to that saint.  Nevertheless, she was induced, and
almost constrained by violence of pain, to begin a novena of prayer in
her honour.  Shortly after the saint appeared to her in a dream, and
assured her that she should soon be cured.  And so it was.  Her
recovery had not long to be waited for; it was speedy and complete,
without any human aid, for once more she joyfully opened her eyes to
the light of heaven, and her pain ceased as if by magic.  She has
preserved her sight strong and perfect even to the present day, nor has
she any need of spectacles even for reading, as so many of her sisters
in religion have.

This nun, grateful for the great favour conferred on her, began to
spread devotion to St. Rita with the utmost zeal.  She had her statue
placed in the convent church and exposed for veneration by permission
of the Holy See, and her proper Mass is said on the feast day, which is
celebrated with great solemnity and attended by a large concourse of
the faithful.  In this way special devotion to St. Rita began in
Conversano and the neighbouring towns, and many wonderful graces have
been granted in those places by this most powerful patron.

Sister Anna Rosa Biscozzi, a nun of the same convent, was, in 1885,
attacked by a violent pain in the ear, which continued for four months,
and not only rendered her completely deaf, but nearly drove her mad
with agony.  The disease made such progress that one evening blood
began to pour from her ear, and no means of stanching it could be
found.  The doctor's efforts were quite useless, and not being able to
suggest anything better he ordered the ear to be dressed with oil of
almonds.  But the invalid, instead of using the oil that was
prescribed, made use of oil from St. Rita's lamp, and she anointed the
affected part with it for seven days, reciting three Glorias and an
Ave, whilst she made the sign of the Cross with the oil, and finally
saying the ejaculation, 'Blessed Rita, pray for me.'  On the seventh
night she had a feeling as if something inside her head had opened, and
from that moment she noticed she could hear the ticking of the clock,
and in a short time every trace of her malady had disappeared.

Signora Nicoletta de Bellis of Rutigliano was often complaining of an
intolerable pain in her head, which came on every fifth or sixth day,
and had reduced her to a condition of the utmost emaciation.  She had
consulted many physicians, amongst them some of the most distinguished
in Naples, and had submitted to many courses of treatment, but all to
no effect.  The malady was obstinate, and her health was failing day by
day.  Her aunt, who was a nun in the convent of St. Cosmo in
Conversano, of which we have had reason to speak already, told her of
St. Rita's miracles, and persuaded her to have recourse to that saint
by a fervent novena.  The invalid followed her advice, and we may
imagine her joy and wonder on finding herself freed from her malady at
the very beginning of the novena.  The recovery was a perfect and
lasting one, and no vestige of disease was left.

A poor man from Conversano had the misfortune to get a fistula on one
of his eyes, which could be got rid of only by a difficult and costly
surgical operation.  He would have to go to Bari and pay 200 lire to
the surgeon, which it was quite impossible for him to do.  He had
recourse to St. Rita in his trouble, and besought her intervention with
a lively, ardent faith.  His prayers were heard; the fistula
disappeared from his eye without the intervention of the surgeon's
knife.  He had a solemn Mass of thanksgiving sung every year in honour
of his deliverer.

In 1886 a little boy of four years fell on the fire of a brazier, and
besides being badly burnt, his eyes were so seriously injured that he
could no longer open them.  His afflicted mother called in the doctors,
and applied the remedies they prescribed, but without effect.  Day
passed after day, and the child remained blind, nor was there any hope
left that he would recover his sight.  His pious mother then betook
herself to prayer to God and His saints; she addressed many appeals on
her child's behalf to various heavenly patrons, but the favour she
sought was not granted.  One night, whilst she was sleeping, there
appeared to her a nun, who said, 'You have had recourse to many saints:
why have you not applied to me?'  'And who are you?' asked the woman.
'I am Blessed Rita,' was the reply, 'whose statue is in the Church of
St. Cosmo.  I promise you that if you come to visit me your son's eyes
will be opened when you return.'  The woman was in the church early
next morning to pay the visit suggested to her and to beg the saint's
intercession.  On her return she heard her son calling, and on going to
him found him with eyes open and entirely cured.

In March, 1887, Signora Maria Soria Carcaterra of Conversano received a
remarkable favour from St. Rita, which she herself thus describes:


'I, the undersigned, testify that I have received the following favour
from B. Rita of Cascia.  A cyst having appeared on my right eyelid, I
consulted various distinguished doctors, who told me I should have to
undergo an operation.  But I thought it better to recommend myself to
B. Rita, and after many prayers she did me the favour of causing the
cyst to disappear without any need of doctors or of medicine.

'MARIA SORIA CARCATERRA.'


Signor Giovanni Biscozzi had in 1887 been ill for a long time with a
painful malady.  The physicians thought he was suffering from disease
of the heart, and therefore incurable.  It is certain that he had to
remain shut up in his room, for every changing of place caused him
grievous torment.  When his aunt, who was a nun in the convent of St.
Cosmo in Conversano, came to learn this, she sent him one of St. Rita's
blessed loaves, advising him to take a little piece of it every day and
then drink a little water in memory of the saint's fastings, and to
recite three Glorias and an Ave and the invocation, 'Blessed Rita, pray
for me.'  The sick man followed the advice, and immediately had
experience of its salutary effects, for he felt considerably better,
and very soon was restored to his former health.  As a mark of
gratitude he sent the convent a present of oil to be used in the lamp
at the saint's statue.

Paolina Giannetti, a lay sister of the same convent of St. Cosmo, had a
large pustule on her arm which was very painful, and since she could
not be dispensed from working, it festered, and her whole arm became
swollen, and in consequence of this she fell into a violent fever.  It
was thought indispensable that a doctor should be called in, and that
evening a message was sent to the doctor asking him to come next day,
that a lay sister had need of his services.  That night a picture of
St. Rita was given to the sick nun, and she placed it on her diseased
arm all night.  Hardly had she awakened from sleep when she found that
the swelling had entirely subsided, that the fever had left her, and
that every trace of the pustule had also disappeared.  The doctor came
later, and was told there was no need for his services.

Signora Natalizia Scattone of Conversano relates that her husband had a
large tumour on one of his legs, which forced him to keep his bed for
many days, and which had ultimately to be removed by an operation.  His
wife was very much afraid that the wound made by the surgeon would
become a fistula, for even the slightest scratch on her husband took
several days to heal.  She had before received many favours from St.
Rita, and was therefore very devout towards her; and on this occasion,
hardly had the surgeon departed after the operation, than she placed a
relic of the saint over the bandages, and prayed with all her heart for
her husband.  On the following day the surgeon returned to dress the
wound, but when the bandages were removed, it was found to be
completely healed, to his great amazement and that of the family.

Signor Domenico Lopriore of Conversano had a tooth extracted in 1887,
and perhaps owing to the damp to which he exposed himself by going into
the country at an early hour, an abscess was formed in his mouth, which
reduced him to the last extremity.  A very high fever, with swellings
in his throat, face, and tongue, deprived him of all repose.  His
tongue especially had grown so large that he had perforce to keep it
full two fingers' breadth hanging out of his mouth.  The doctors,
seeing that he was growing worse, ordered him the last Sacraments.  He
had a cousin who was a boarder in the convent of St. Cosmo, and who was
very devoted to St. Rita.  She, with the nuns, prayed very fervently to
the saint for the sick man's recovery, and his uncle, a priest, offered
Mass for the same intention on the saint's altar in the church.  The
holy sacrifice and the prayers soon brought about the desired effect,
for the sick man suddenly became much better, and in a short time was
completely cured.

Devotion to St. Rita has not only brought health to bodies, but
salvation to souls, as the following shows: Sister Genefosa Perrini,
nun of the convent of St. Cosmo, having to live out of _clausura_ for
some time owing to ill-health, had occasion to go to Bari one day with
her brother, Canon Francesco Perrini.  In that town they heard of a
young lady who was dying, and who, masquerading as a freethinker,
refused to have anything to do with priests or Sacraments.  Her
relatives, who were in the utmost affliction at such a misfortune,
begged the Canon and his sister to go and see her, in the hope that
their visit might excite some good thought in her.  They went to see
the invalid, but as soon as she caught sight of them she began to abuse
them bitterly.  Said the Canon to her: 'Signora, I am only come to pay
you a simple visit, and also, if you please, to bring you a cure for
your disease.'  'What cure?' asked she, growing calmer.  'If, indeed,
you have an efficacious one, you are welcome.'  By good fortune the
Canon had a little picture of the saint, and, offering it to the sick
lady, he said: 'Here is the cure.  If you will have recourse to this
advocate, who is called the Saint of the Impossible, you will be
saved.'  The sight of the picture, indeed, worked a wonder.  Instead of
flying into a passion and throwing it back to them, as she had done on
other occasions, the invalid freely accepted it, took it with devotion,
and placed it under her pillow.  After this the Canon with his sister
took his leave and went away, but hardly had he gone a few yards than
he was called back in a great hurry, and when he went to the invalid
she asked him to hear her confession.  The Canon showed her that he
could not hear confessions outside his own diocese, and he exhorted her
to avail herself of a confessor of the place.  She allowed herself to
be persuaded, a confessor was called in, and she made her confession
with great sorrow.  She said that Rita had appeared to her as a nun,
and incited her to die well.  She received the Holy Viaticum and
Extreme Unction with signs of sincere piety, and then delivered up her
soul to God.

In March, 1888, Signora Caterina Bianchini had a little son of five
years of age who was attacked by cancerous diphtheria in the throat,
which soon placed him in extreme danger of death.  The physicians had
despaired of him, and gave him only four hours to live.  His mother,
who at other times had received signal favours from St. Rita, had
recourse to her, confident in her assistance, and beseeching her with
tears to help her.  She anointed the child's throat with the oil of the
saint, and, most wonderful to tell, hardly had the oil touched his
throat than he moved himself, recovered consciousness, spoke, and in a
few days was well.  On the following day the doctor and their relations
called rather to visit the parents than the child, who they thought was
dead, but imagine their astonishment on seeing him restored to health!
'My mother,' said he, 'rubbed me with St. Rita's oil, and said.  "Saint
Rita, give me my son," and I was well again.'

In 1890 Signorina Susanna Pallieri of Conversano had suffered from a
severe pulmonary complaint, and when she recovered from it she was
troubled by a gathering in one of her eyes which remained from that
disease, and which resisted all the efforts of her doctors.  When she
found that none of the doctors of her native place could effect a cure,
she put herself under the care of Dr. Vitali, a distinguished oculist
of Bari, for three months.  But the gathering in her eye grew worse
instead of better, and finally the oculist, seeing that all his
attempts produced no result, had to throw up the case.  It would be
impossible to tell the sorrow of the poor young lady at so unfortunate
a result of her efforts.  Having lost all hope in human aid, she, with
her mother, began to beseech St. Rita either to cure her of her malady
or else take her out of this world to escape the intolerable anguish of
the pain she had to bear.  Their prayers were not in vain, for on the
very next day after beginning the prayers her eye was very much
improved, and that evening she was entirely cured.  Dr. Vitali was
immediately informed of what had happened, and at first did not believe
it; but when he saw that she had really been cured, he declared openly
that such a cure ought to be regarded as a real miracle.  From that day
Signorina Pallieri was entirely cured of the disease of her eye, and
enjoyed excellent health, nor does she cease to return thanks to the
Saint of the Impossible.

In the town of Turi, in February, 1893, a boy of five years of age
named Filippo d'Addabbo, who had just had an attack of scarlatina,
developed symptoms of violent fever accompanied by swellings of his
whole body.  For two days he had remained in bed unable to speak, and
the doctors gave him up for dead.  In this state he suddenly opened his
eyes, made a sign towards a picture of St. Rita that was hanging in the
room, and said to his mother: 'Take down that picture, and light some
candles before it,' and they did so.  Early on the following morning he
said: 'Mamma, write to Aunt Chiara Maria (she was a nun in the convent
of St. Cosmo) in Conversano to have a Mass said to St. Rita.'  And they
immediately did as he wished.  On the evening of that day the child
grew worse, and they were afraid he was dying, as the doctors had
assured them.  At a certain time of the night, however, he became
noticeably better.  When the doctors came next day to visit him they
found him, to their astonishment, entirely recovered, and repeating the
words, 'Blessed Rita has cured me.'

Natale Esperti, a shoemaker of Conversano, had been in a deplorable
state of health for a long time, for his feet and legs were swollen,
and a pain in the heart deprived him of all chance of repose.  The
heart disease became worse, and the doctors attending him lost all hope
of saving his life.  On Tuesday in Holy Week, 1895, he received the
last Sacraments, as he was almost on the point of death, and his end
was expected every hour.  His sister-in-law, who was most devoted to
St. Rita, pitying his sad case, went to pray for him in the Church of
St. Cosmo, and brought some candles to light before the saint's statue.
Whilst all the others were weeping about the bed of the dying man she
obtained a little picture of the saint, which was placed on his breast
whilst they recited the invocation, 'St. Rita, pray for him.'  They
also gave him a little piece of the saint's blessed bread, which he
tried to swallow.  A wonder was instantly seen, for the swelling
decreased considerably, and the pain at the heart disappeared.  In
three days the man who had been dying was able to rise from his bed
cured, to the incredible wonder of all who had assisted him dying.

Signora Antonia Bernardi of Cisternino also obtained a stupendous
favour from our saint.  In May, 1895, she had an attack of scarlatina,
which was epidemic in that town, and had proved fatal in many cases.
In her case it was so violent and so much resisted all the skill of the
doctors that she was declared incurable, and she was preparing herself
to receive the last Sacraments.  Her parents were distracted with
grief, but knowing the miracles that St. Rita works in every place,
they had recourse to her patronage in their sorrow.  The dying woman
also recommended herself confidently to St. Rita, and joined her
prayers to those of the others.  Whilst she was in a paroxysm of fever,
and hence could not say whether she was sleeping or waking, St. Rita
appeared to her, and with her another saint whom the sick woman could
not distinguish.  The saint came close to her bed, and said to her, 'I
have cured you; now you will be well, but mind, return me the visit at
Conversano.'  The saint disappeared, and the sick woman found herself
instantly well.  Her parents and relatives were seized with the utmost
astonishment, and they took care to betake them to Conversano to return
the visit of their beneficent visitor.  There is no need to say that
after this event the worship of St. Rita was extended to people of
every rank in Cisternino.

Amongst the very many places into which the worship of St. Rita has
been publicly introduced in very recent years, Noci, a large town in
the diocese of Conversano, is deserving of special mention.  There is
an altar, richly ornamented, erected in the principal church there in
honour of the saint, and never a day passes that crowds of the faithful
do not go there to offer their prayers or pay their vows.  And Rita,
looking with pleasure on the piety of the people of Noci, repays them
every day with help and favour.  For brevity's sake we shall mention
only three examples of this, and in the first place that obtained by
the priest, Don Francesco Morea, who is remarkable for promoting
devotion to St. Rita.  Here are his words:

'About midnight on the 10th of April, 1895, I was awakened by violent
beatings of my heart, so frequent and continuous that I could not
breathe.  I remained a long time sitting up in bed with my hand tightly
pressed over the region of the heart, in great trouble, without being
able to utter a word.  However, I turned to Blessed Rita in thought,
placed her picture over my heart, and vowed a silver heart if she
liberated me from this sudden illness.  I recited three Glorias in her
honour, adding, "O, Blessed Rita, pray for me."  As soon as I had done
this I was quite well.  The beating of my heart became regular; I was
able to lie down and sleep.  From time to time since this nervous
palpitation has returned, but never in the same form as that night, nor
for so long.  I redeemed my vow on the 14th of May by hanging on her
picture the silver heart I promised.'

The influenza, which was rife in many parts of Puglia in 1895, did not
spare the town of Noci.  Amongst others, Maria Luizzi, wife of Simone
Sansonetti, a bleacher, was attacked by it.  After struggling with the
disease for several days at last it left her, and the doctor allowed
her to leave her bed.  Hardly, however, had she put foot on the floor
than she felt entirely prostrated, and experienced such a feeling of
dizziness that she fell at full length on the floor, and was with great
difficulty got into bed again.  On the next and three following days
the same feelings of weakness and dejection continued.  On the evening
of the fifth day, animated with strong confidence in St. Rita, to whom,
as we have said, an altar in the parish church was dedicated, she
prayed in this way: 'O Blessed Rita, I promise to present you with my
breloque if you allow me to remain out of bed all day to-morrow.'  When
the time came to get up, she left her bed and dressed herself, without
the least doubt that her prayer had been heard.  She tried to walk
about her room, and found she could do so without difficulty, for she
felt herself fortified with new strength, and all the ill-effects of
the influenza vanished.  She redeemed her vow to the saint on the 5th
of June, 1895.

The following fact that happened in Noci on the 28th of June, 1895,
crowns all the wonderful works which the Saint of the Impossible
performs every day.  It is the case of a doctor--as pious and religious
as he is skilful in the healing art--who was unexpectedly attacked by
cerebral congestion and reduced to the last extremity, and even thought
to be dead, who, after simply being anointed by the saint's oil moved
himself, revived, and completely recovered.  But let us leave it to
himself to tell the story, for out of gratitude for the favour received
he has written the following with his own hand:


'On the 28th of last June, in the forenoon, whilst I was making my
usual round of medical visits, I began to feel unwell; and about eleven
o'clock, whilst I was standing by a sick man, I could not complete my
visit, for I almost fell into a swoon.  The women who were standing
opposite me noticed that I was ill and gave the alarm.  The priest, Don
Pietro Gentile, near whose house I was, was sent for and soon arrived.
He asked me how I felt, and I replied, "I mistrust myself."  "Do you
wish to go home?" said he.  "Yes," I answered, "let us go."  And with
the utmost difficulty I got there.  I threw myself on the bed, lost all
sense, was seized with epileptic convulsions of the Jacksonian type,
proceeding from congestion of the brain.  I had three attacks at short
intervals, each more serious than the preceding one.  Blood was let,
leeches were applied, many mustard cataplasms were used, ice was kept
constantly to my head.  My colleagues who affectionately attended me
already despaired of my recovery, and had the last Sacraments
administered to me; the priests were reciting the prayers for the
dying, and it was rumoured that I was dead.  The good people poured
into the church, and now had no hope except in a miracle.  Ceaseless
prayers were offered, especially before the altar of Blessed Rita.  The
oil of the saint was requisitioned.  I was conscious of waking as from
a calm sleep, whilst I felt a hand anointing my cheeks; I afterwards
learned that the same thing had been done over my stomach and on my
temples.  From that moment I WAS COMPLETELY RESTORED TO HEALTH, and but
for the concern of my friends I would have dressed myself and gone
about my usual occupations.  This event, really extraordinary, believed
by all the people to have happened by the intercession of Blessed Rita,
I consecrate in this account of it, as a proof of my gratitude, to the
glory of the same Blessed Rita.

'PASQUALE TATEO, M.D.

    'Noci,
'2_nd of July_, 1895.'


Since this case is so singular, and the miracle so great, we subjoin
the account of it given by the zealous priest of the place, Don
Francesco Morea:

'The deaths of the three ladies, Vavalle, Mansueto, and Anguilli, had
impressed the town with sadness, when a new and unexpected sorrow came
to disturb all the people.  In less time than it takes to relate the
sad tidings had passed from mouth to mouth; people of every condition
were seen to stop in astonishment, to ask news of one another, and turn
their steps to the house where the sick man lay.  It was singular to
see the stairs crowded with little children of both sexes, to see the
people come out tearfully on the balconies and ask news of the
passers-by, and the universal sorrow would have told you the great
esteem in which he that was so near the tomb was held.  The news that
he had already received the last Sacraments, and that the priests, who
with the doctors were about his bed, had begun the prayers for a soul
departing, made it clear to all that very few hours of life remained to
Doctor Pasquale Tateo.  In the midst of such heartfelt sorrow there
were some, however, who were offering fervent prayers for him to the
Most High through the intercession of the Saint of the Impossible.
There were some who, whilst they slept, felt inspired by the same
blessed servant of God to light a lamp before the picture of the
miracle-worker, and thus obtain for certain the favour they desired;
there were some who began in secret a triduum for the sick; and by the
dying man's bed were some who, provided with the miraculous oil,
anointed with it, whilst reciting the usual prayers, his head, his
stomach and abdomen, that were swollen to an extraordinary extent.  And
such great faith in the intercession of our new protectress was crowned
by a most singular grace.  As soon as the anointing was completed there
came on a more violent fit of convulsions than any that had preceded
it, and it was thought the doctor's last hour had come.  But that fit
was the last, and it seems that the powerful advocate wished to have it
understood that she intervened on behalf of her faithful clients
exactly when they were in direst peril, and when all hope of recovery
by human means had been abandoned.  Whilst the convulsive fit was in
progress they began again to anoint him with the marvellous oil, and
then he came to himself, and looked as if he were waking from a calm
sleep of three hours.

'The transition from death to life was so sudden that those who were
present could not but acknowledge that the recovery was a true miracle
granted to the prayers of the entire town by its new protectress,
Blessed Rita.  Pleasant to relate, there was no time of convalescence,
no getting better by degrees, no further remedy applied to him; but on
the 30th the doctor, without any trace of weakness from the
blood-letting, but full of energy, cheerful, and witty, as he usually
had been, woke early in the morning, and, hearing the bell of the
Capuchin church ringing, wanted to get up and go to Mass, as it was a
feast day, but he was not allowed to do this.  He rose later in the
day, was able to take his meals, and returned to his house without
assistance, amidst the wonder and applause of the people.  The next
day, early, he resumed his ordinary professional duties.  These
circumstances were such as would make those who did not know of the
miracle believe that the occurrence must have been the result of an
excited imagination rather than undeniable fact.  Yet such they were,
and the miracle is all the more wonderful on this account, and worthy
of being published for the glory of God and Blessed Rita.  To this end
the doctor, out of gratitude, promises to make the altar dedicated to
her in this principal church even richer than it already is, by
presenting a beautiful silver lamp to be hung from the arch in front of
it.'

On the 20th of January, 1896, Signora Anna Gregori of Rome was seized
by a violent fever, which at first was thought to be simply rheumatic
fever, but which very soon developed into that terrible malady
pleuro-bronchial pneumonia, which is in most cases fatal in Rome.  In
spite of the prompt and skilful treatment of the well-known Professor
Masciarelli, the disease continued to gain force so rapidly that the
patient, who was also _enciente_, received the last comforts of
religion on the 25th of the month, and also the blessing of the Holy
Father, and after having tearfully given her last messages to her
friends, she was awaiting the call of the Lord with resignation.

Meanwhile her husband, Signor Augusto Gregori, who was inconsolable at
the loss that threatened him after only eight years of married life,
turned with confidence to Our Lady of Pompei and to St. Rita of Cascia,
that well-known sketch of whose life he had read a few days before,
called 'The Saint of the Impossible.'  He fervently besought her aid,
promising to present a silver votive offering and to spread devotion to
her.  Even before midnight of that day the invalid felt relief, the
fever went down, her strength came back, and after two days the doctors
declared her out of all danger.  She was shortly after able to rise
from her bed completely recovered.  The favour was a complete and
perfect one, for after her serious illness there was no trace of
tuberculosis, which was feared, and after less than a month she gave
birth to a strong and healthy little daughter.  Her husband, who
quickly redeemed his vow, does not cease to give glory to the Saint of
the Impossible.

Simone Rotunno and his wife, Rosa Naracci, of Conversano, were
overwhelmed with grief at a serious illness that threatened the life of
their little daughter Maria, a child of four years.  On the 27th of
January, 1896, about five in the morning, they found her writhing in
convulsions and almost at the point of death.  Immediately they
besought the help of their great patron St. Rita, and anointed the
child's members with oil from the saint's lamp whilst they were
offering fervent prayers.  They had not long to wait, for at eleven
o'clock on the same morning the child, who had hitherto shown no signs
of life, stirred in bed, opened her eyes, and began to speak, and after
ten days was restored to perfect health.

A boy and girl, children of Doctor Vito Antonio Argenti of Polignano,
on the sea-coast, caught the influenza, which was rife there in 1896.
The disease took a very serious turn in the boy's case, and developed
into pneumonia, accompanied by high fever and pain in the shoulder.
The dangerous development of the disease caused consternation in the
family.

They immediately began a novena to St. Rita, to whom devotion is very
generally practised in that place, and in whose honour an altar is
dedicated in the Church of the Sacred Heart.  They had two lamps
lighted before her picture, and promised many gifts if their son should
be restored to health.  Their prayers were answered, for the child grew
markedly better during the novena, and was completely cured by the time
it was finished.  The same remedy was adopted in the case of the little
girl, on whom the disease had told severely.  They put a picture of the
saint on her breast, which she often kissed devoutly, another novena
was begun for her recovery, and an improvement was soon evident, and
continued till she was restored to perfect health.

A woman from Casamassima, who was married at Bari, had an only son of
about seventeen years of age, who was very wild and dissolute.  He was
for ever running away from home, getting into trouble, and giving vent
to his vicious inclinations, and staying out at night more often than
not.  Seeing that all good advice and even threats were thrown away
upon him, his afflicted parents applied to St. Rita in prayer, for they
had heard of the wonderful deeds she had done.  They began a novena of
certain Paters and Aves as well as they could.  On the third day their
son appeared at home, but shortly after went off again and returned no
more.  Nevertheless, they still had confidence in the saint, and began
a second novena after the manner directed in a little book they got
from an aunt of theirs.  When the novena was nearly finished the son
came back quite changed from what he had been.  He threw himself at his
parents' feet, and with tears asked their pardon for the grief he had
caused them, promising to lead a new life for the future.  To remove
all occasion of giving way to his vagrant propensities, he asked them
to have him taught some business in which he could by his conduct give
proof of his sincerity.  His parents, beside themselves with joy,
hastened to Conversano to return thanks to St. Rita, and as a proof of
their gratitude they had a lamp lighted before her altar, which they
made arrangements to keep burning on Friday in every week.

The brother-in-law of a certain Sister of Charity was dangerously ill
of pneumonia in February, 1896.  The doctor who was called to attend
him did not let his friends know how critical the case was, in order
not to frighten them, but he only said to the patient's wife, 'Pray to
God for your husband.'  Luckily for her, she had a copy of the book
'The Saint of the Impossible,' which her sister the nun had given her,
and she entrusted everything to the saint, and earnestly begged her
help for the sick man.  One night he almost swooned from the violence
of his cough, and had to sit up in bed.  About midnight he saw a nun
come close to him and gaze at him fixedly without speaking.  She stood
by his side for half an hour and then disappeared.  From that time the
longed-for recovery commenced, and to the doctor's astonishment went on
rapidly till he was entirely restored to health.  It would be
impossible to describe the joy of the family at this marvellous result.
The fame of it was spread about, and devotion to the Saint of the
Impossible spread to such an extent that a picture of St. Rita had to
be placed in the parish church to satisfy the people's veneration.

Twelve children of the house of Ventimiglia were all suffering from the
measles in March, 1896, in Vatolla, which is a town of the province of
Salerno, and the youngest, a little girl of two years of age, was, in
addition, attacked so badly by laryngitis that it was feared she would
choke every moment.  Her eldest sister, beside herself with grief, took
her little picture of St. Rita, and, fastening it about the little
patient's neck, earnestly prayed for the grace of her recovery.  Only a
few minutes passed when little Teresa--for so the sick child was
called--raised herself without assistance in her cot and asked for
milk.  That evening the fever, which had been very high, had almost
disappeared, and her cough, too, had ceased to a very great extent.  A
few days later the child was able to get up, fully recovered.  The
family, out of gratitude to their great protectress, had a Mass
celebrated at her altar in Conversano.

In 1896 the marriage of Giuseppe Centrone to Maria Rotunno, two very
good and pious young persons and fairly well off, was to have taken
place.  Through a slight quarrel, however, the marriage was broken off
by the bridegroom.  The bride, troubled at this sinister turn of
events, together with her parents had recourse to St. Rita, and
promised to present a golden votive offering if the groom should of
himself reopen negotiations for the marriage that had been abandoned.
On the vigil of her feast the saint appeared to the bridegroom in his
sleep, and said: 'Beppino, your wife must be Maria and no one else.'
This was enough to bring him back to his bride and to have the marriage
take place, as it did, in fact.  The vow to the saint was not only
fulfilled, but they had a High Mass offered on her altar.

One night in 1896 a young woman from Castellana was sleeping on the top
of a very high rick of straw, when suddenly it gave way and fell to the
ground.  The young woman, who would have been crushed to death under
its weight, immediately invoked St. Rita, and was rescued from danger
without receiving the slightest injury.  The saint appeared to her the
following night whilst she was asleep, and said: 'I have saved you from
death, and I want in return that new dress you have made.'  The poor
girl had, by dint of careful saving, made a new dress for herself, with
which she wished to make an appearance on the feast days, but she made
the required sacrifice to the Saint of the Impossible.  She sold it and
brought its price to be used in spreading the devotion to St. Rita from
the church in Conversano.

In 1896 there was a family in St. Vito dei Normanni which was plunged
in the greatest misery owing to its head having entirely abandoned
himself to a disgraceful vice, which he still continued to practise in
spite of the terrible consequences it brought upon him.  For although
symptoms of paralysis and rheumatism showed themselves, and he was
reduced to a state of the utmost weakness and almost blindness, he
still went on to follow the path that ends in ruin of body and soul.
His unfortunate family, having heard of the innumerable miracles of the
Saint of the Impossible, had recourse to her.  They made a most fervent
novena in her honour, and ended it with receiving Holy Communion, and
very soon the good effect of their prayers was evident.  After a couple
of days the man who had been brutalized by his base pursuits began to
take heed for himself; the spirit of prudence awoke in him again; he
abandoned his wicked practices, regained sight and strength, and
recovered the health he had squandered.  It is no wonder that the name
of St. Rita is glorified in that family, or that the eldest daughter
has made a vow to recite the prayers of St. Rita's novena every day as
long as she lives.

A young lady named Franceschina Gabrielli, from Noci, fell dangerously
ill in 1896, whilst she was on a visit to some relatives in Rutigliano.
All the doctors of the town were called in successively to prescribe
for her, and others were brought from distant places, but they could
not stop the progress of the disease that was killing her.  The grief
of her family and relatives was indescribable on being informed by the
doctors after three consultations that nothing but a miracle could save
her.  The young lady, worn out by the disease and in her last agony,
had received the last consolations of religion, and the special
benediction of the Holy Father, and was preparing herself for the
passage to eternity.  All preparations were made for her funeral, the
dress for the corpse and the coffin were got ready, and the clergy and
confraternities appointed to assist in the procession to the tomb.

But Franceschina had very special devotion to St. Rita, and was
recommending herself to her protection with most fervent prayers.  She
held a picture of her in her hand, which she was kissing every minute,
and although resigned to make the sacrifice of her life to God, she
promised the saint to honour her by procuring a little statue of her if
she should obtain the grace of recovery.  One evening she was suffering
a great deal, and the doctors foresaw that she would die that night.
The priests were watching by her bedside and comforting her by reciting
the prayers for the dying.  At midnight she thought that St. Rita with
St. John appeared to her, and that St. Rita said: 'Do not be afraid;
you will be well.'  What is certain is that just at that time she broke
silence and began to sing a hymn of St. Rita.  But the really
astonishing fact is that all danger was at an end from that moment, and
her disease disappeared as if by magic.  The next morning she was
convalescent, and the doctors in their astonishment had to confess that
in this wonderful recovery God had intervened.

The Salesian Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart amongst other
occupations are employed in the religious and literary education of
young girls, whom they watch over with a care that is truly maternal.
Their mother-house is in Rome, and there is attached to it what is
styled a providential boarding-school for young women who attend the
normal schools, and at the end of their course get a Government
certificate that entitles them to teach.  Providential this college
really is, for its pupils attend the Government schools and yet are
carefully preserved from every danger.  In 1896 the annual examinations
at the end of the scholastic year were approaching.  The students were
in a state of trepidation, for with all their diligence and labour in
study very little was needed to have girls make mistakes in the
presence of examiners who were perhaps not too favourable to them.
Having heard of the miracles of St. Rita of Cascia, they confidently
turned to her, and confided to her care the result of the examinations.
They had recourse to her patronage, they offered prayers in her honour,
and other works of piety.  Nor were their hopes frustrated.  The
examinations resulted most brilliantly, and to the entire satisfaction
of all who took part in them.  To thank her for so remarkable a favour
the grateful girl students elected St. Rita their special protectress.

On the 29th of May, 1897, a Calabrian gentleman arrived in Conversano
on a pilgrimage, and, going into the Church of St. Cosmo, he went to
the altar of St. Rita, and, prostrate before it, offered his thanks to
the Saint of the Impossible.  He afterwards told the nun who was
promoter of the devotion that his name was Luigi Naccarato, of the
province of Cosenza, and that he had come to redeem a vow made to the
saint for a remarkable favour granted to him.  He had been suffering
for many years from a disorder of the brain that rendered him incapable
of doing anything.  His brother, a doctor, had used every means to
eradicate his disease; he had consulted the most eminent medical men in
Naples and elsewhere, but without any good effect.  Having lost all
hope in human means, he had recourse to the aid of Heaven by prayers to
several holy patrons, but it seemed that Heaven, too, was deaf to his
appeals.  At last a lady in Cosenza had advised him to trust himself to
the Saint of the Impossible, who had granted many extraordinary graces
to those devoted to her.  The young man, who was truly religious,
willingly followed her advice.  He began to invoke the saint, and made
a vow to visit Conversano if his prayers were heard.  His petition was
granted; the disease that had hitherto baffled every remedy
disappeared, and he felt himself free in mind and vigorous in health,
as if he had never suffered from any malady.

Not dissimilar from the preceding case was the disease from which the
Princess Telesio Antonacci of Naples suffered, and by which she was
brought to a deplorable state.  Her brain was so weakened that she
could not fix her mind on anything or do anything.  When all the
efforts of medical science had proved vain, her sorrowful sister, who
had the book we have so often mentioned, wrote to Conversano to have a
novena offered to the saint.  The novena was made, and some of the
blessed oil was also sent to have the invalid's forehead anointed with
it.  Instantly a wonderful change was wrought.  As they anointed her
forehead the disease grew less, her mind became clear, and her strength
came back.  The application of the oil was persevered in and so did the
improvement continue, and the oil of St. Rita was recognised as the
only remedy against that terrible disease.  The Princess, in gratitude
for so signal a favour, sent a present of a barrel of oil to
Conversano, and money also to be employed in worship in honour of the
saint.

A little girl, the daughter of Sebastiano Giannuli, a merchant of Bari,
had suffered from her earliest years from a tumour in the knee.  The
doctors of the town held different opinions as to the nature of her
disease, and the well-known Doctor Giuseppe Luciana was consulted, who
diagnosed the case as caries of the bone, and declared a surgical
operation indispensable for a cure.  This operation would be painful,
difficult, and full of danger.  The family by this opinion was reduced
to a state of consternation, and had recourse to prayer, and by the
suggestion of a nun made a novena to St. Rita, but the favour they
prayed for was then denied them.  The operation had to take place on
the 22nd of July, 1897, and the tibia was almost entirely separated
from the thigh-bone; the knee-pan was almost entirely removed, nearly
four fingers' length of the tibia was removed, and as much of the
thigh-bone, and both were united so as to form one bone only, whence
all power of bending the joints was lost.  Owing to the difficulty of
the operation the doctors could not promise that she would surely
recover; they only said the child would have to suffer a great deal.
And, indeed, the poor child did suffer a great deal from high fever,
excruciating pains, and a weakness so extreme that she could not even
cry out.

On the next day the child, who up to that time, owing to the pain she
was suffering, had not even opened her mouth, asked for a picture of
the saint that was hanging in the room, and began to say, 'O, Blessed
Rita! oh, grant me the favour, because I am suffering very much!  It is
true that I have been ungrateful towards you, because when the others
were saying the novena I was distracted, and I took very little care to
pray to you; but now I know how wrong I was, and I ask your pardon.
Oh, grant me the favour, for I think I cannot suffer any more.'  And
whilst the attendants were drawing close to her bed, she added: 'Make
way; she is coming now.'  'Who?' they asked.  'A nun,' answered the
child.  'Where is she coming from?'  'From there--from that door.'
'What is she doing?'  'She is moving about my bed--coming to sit near
me.'  The child then remained motionless, as if she were listening to
something being said to her, and soon after said: 'With the help of the
saint, doctors, how well she has settled my leg!  She has put her
beautiful hands on me and cured me!' and, turning to those near her who
were weeping, 'Do not cry any more,' she said; 'be all very glad.  Do
you not see how glad I am at getting so beautiful a favour?  I have no
more pain.  Blessed Rita has told me that all my pains will end in
three days; with my injured leg I shall be able to dance, to jump, to
run about without trouble.'

And so it turned out.  The child was able to get up after three days
free entirely from all trace of disease.  But the most stupendous part
was that her right leg, from which half a palm's length of bone had
been cut off, and which would be shortened, even supposing her cured,
and quite incapable of bending, was found after the intervention of
Blessed Rita to be of the same length as the left, and equally flexible
and sound.

Most grateful for so great a miracle, the family did not put off going
to Conversano to return thanks and redeem their vow to the Saint of the
Impossible, and many people took notice of the child that had been
cured, how she walked without difficulty and without a halt, both her
legs being precisely of the same length.

The following stupendous fact that happened in the case of a person who
had never even heard the name of St. Rita of Cascia shows how much God
wishes glory to be given to His famous servant.

To Vito Palazzi and his wife Rosina Surico of Gioia del Colle, near
Bari, a child was born in 1897, who was christened Filippo.  From birth
the infant had one of its feet turned, so that the sole of the foot was
twisted to a right angle from the place it ought to occupy.  Doctors
were consulted, but to no effect.  They declared no care could remedy
the defect, and that an operation would be dangerous and useless.  The
poor mother could only weep distractedly.  One night, after crying
excessively, she was sleeping, when a nun appeared to her in her sleep.
'Rosina,' said she, 'why do you weep?  Can you not have recourse to me
in your affliction?'  'And who are you, O, blessed sister?' said she.
'I am Blessed Rita of Cascia,' said the nun.  'O, Blessed Rita,' said
the afflicted woman, 'cure my little Filippo for me;' and she showed
the saint her infant's twisted foot.  'Have faith, Rosina,' said the
saint to her; 'the defect in the child is a serious one, but God can do
all things;' and so saying she made the sign of the Cross three times
on the foot and disappeared.  When the woman awoke on the following
morning she remembered the vision, and, hurrying from her bed, she ran
to the infant's cradle; she undid the bandages and looked at its feet,
and found them both as they ought to be, for the deformity of the left
foot had disappeared.  She knelt on the floor and thanked the saint
most earnestly.  She then called her husband, showed him the infant's
foot, and told him of the vision and miracle.  She remembered St. Rita,
and wrote to Conversano for a large picture of her, which she had
framed, and before which she keeps a lamp burning night and day; and
she likewise had a High Mass sung before the saint's altar, nor is she
ever wearied in telling the miracle and giving glory to the saint to
whom she owes it.



CHAPTER IX

HER CANONIZATION

In reading the wonderful and miraculous facts of the life of St. Rita
and the very many prodigious works done by God through her
intercession, the reader must have asked himself more than once how it
is that so grand a soul, whose heroic virtues shine so brightly, and
who was, like the greatest saints of the Church, favoured by God with
most singular graces and sublime privileges, should be adorned with the
aureole of a saint and raised to highest honours of the altars only
after more than four centuries had passed since she had gone to
immortal glory in heaven.

The only reasonable answer to this question, the only explanation of a
delay not by any means unique in the history of the canonization of the
great heroes of the Church, is that the judgments of God are
incomprehensible and His ways unsearchable, and the Divine wisdom which
in His own time makes each cause produce its effect, and all things
regulates in number, weight, and measure, so disposes it that the
exaltation of His servants on earth then takes place when it is for the
greater glorification of His Church and the greater spiritual advantage
of Christians.  This just reflection ought to console us in the sorrow
we naturally feel at the long delay that has occurred in bringing to a
happy termination the process of the canonization of our heroine.

After the privilege of reciting the office and celebrating Mass in
honour of the saint had been granted to the Augustinian Order and the
Diocese of Spoleto in 1627, as soon as the solemn festivals we have
described were brought to an end, devotion to St. Rita increased to
such an extent, and the desire of the faithful became so fervent to
have their great advocate enrolled by the Church's supreme authority in
the catalogue of the Blessed and afterwards of the Saints, that in
August, 1737, her cause was resumed in the state and terms in which it
was found.  On the 3rd of August in that year an ordinary session of
the Congregation was held to debate the point whether the case excepted
in the decrees of Pope Urban VIII. was fully established, and in the
result the Congregation found the answer to be in the affirmative, and
Pope Clement XII., on the 13th of the same month, confirmed the finding
of the Congregation.  On the 25th of July in the following year
remissorial letters were therefore sent to the Ecclesiastical Courts of
Spoleto, in whose jurisdiction Cascia then was, authorizing them to
institute an Apostolic process of inquiry regarding the virtues and
miracles of Blessed Rita, it being the unbroken practice of the Holy
See not to grant the supreme honours of the altars unless it be shown
that the theological and moral virtues were practised in a heroic
degree.  But the process then begun was interrupted by various events,
and was not resumed until 1851.  Without further interruption it was
finally perfected in 1855, and its validity was approved in 1856 in
Rome by Pius IX., of happy memory.  Meanwhile the fame of the
extraordinary graces and miracles granted by God through the saint's
intercession was everywhere increasing, but it is hard to collect the
proofs and institute a process that will satisfy the rigorous
requirements which the Church exacts in those matters.

Nevertheless, juridical proofs of some of these miraculous occurrences
were not wanting.  In fact, in the years 1851 and 1852 there was held
by Apostolic permission in the Ecclesiastical Courts of Nursia, under
the jurisdiction of which Cascia had passed, a process of inquiry into
the reported case of instantaneous curing of a girl--Elisabetta
Bergamini, who had been suffering from conjunctivitis complicated with
ulcerous keratitis.  Owing to the efforts of the Most Rev. Mons.
Casimiro Gennari, then Bishop of Conversano, and at present titular
Archbishop of Lepanto and Assessor of the Inquisition, who is most
zealous, as we have said, in spreading devotion to St. Rita, the
authorization of the Holy See was asked for and obtained in 1887 to
institute a formal Apostolic process of inquiry into the case of Cosimo
Pelligrini, of the town of Conversano, who was reported to have been
miraculously cured.  As soon as the inquiry was perfected, it was
scrutinized in an ordinary Congregation of the Rota on the 28th of
June, 1892, and its validity recognised.  On the 17th of the following
month the Holy Father deigned to confirm the sentence of the Sacred
Congregation.

Almost at the same time there was held, by virtue of remissorial
letters of the 18th of February, 1892, in the Ecclesiastical Courts of
Nursia, a special inquiry, in which the Promoter of the Faith, Mons.
Agostino Caprara, intervened, into the most sweet and miraculous odour
which from time immemorial is at intervals experienced about the
blessed body of St. Rita.  By other remissorial letters of the 22nd of
August following, the Promoter of the Faith was empowered to examine
the venerable body itself, in order to make certain that it had never
been embalmed, nor any odoriferous substances placed in it.

When this process of inquiry into the marvellous odour was brought to
an end, it was decided to join it to the process that had been executed
in the courts of Spoleto by ordinary authority in 1626.  On the 25th of
February, 1896, the Sacred Congregation of Rites delivered its judgment
that the validity of the two processes of 1626 and 1892 had been
established, the reporter of the cause being his Eminence Cardinal
Gaetano Aloisi-Masella, Prefect of that Congregation.  As regards
another process of inquiry executed in 1775, with only ordinary
authority, into the instantaneous and miraculous curing of an
Augustinian nun of the convent of Cascia, it was decided to supplicate
the reigning Pontiff, Leo XIII., that he would deign to make good the
defect of jurisdiction, and make the acts of that process valid.  But
the Holy Father, rather than grant the convalidation, was pleased to
dispense, by most special favour, with the fourth miracle, for from
time immemorial the proof of four miracles has been required for the
canonization of the servants of God.

Owing to the sovereign concession of the Holy Father, the promoters of
the cause of canonization had high hopes of bringing it to a happy
conclusion before much more time should pass.  They obtained leave to
introduce the Ordinary Process of 1626 as having equal value as proof
with the Apostolic Process that closed in 1855; and the presence of the
consulters and their voting being dispensed with, on the 6th of April,
1897, in an ordinary meeting of the Congregation, the writings of St.
Rita were inquired into, and it was further debated and discussed
'Whether the virtues of Blessed Rita had been so clearly established
that the discussion of her miracles might be proceeded with?'  The
session gave an affirmative decision, which was confirmed by the
Sovereign Pontiff on the 9th of the month.

The way was thus prepared for the discussion of the miracles.
Information regarding them and summaries were prepared, and the
opinions of two distinguished experts were added.  On the 27th of June,
1899, the Congregation met under the presidency of the Most Eminent
Cardinal Aloisi-Masella, reporter of the cause, to discuss the
miracles, and on the 9th of January, 1900, the preparatory Congregation
held its meeting in the Vatican palace, and on the following 27th of
March, in the general Congregation, assembled, as is customary, in the
presence of the Holy Father, the following subject was discussed:
'Whether any, and what, miracles have been conclusively proved, after
veneration had been allowed to the Blessed, in case and to the effect
of the present discussion?'  And by a very special favour of the Holy
See the following was also discussed: 'And granted the approval of the
miracles, whether her canonization may safely be proceeded with?'

The Most Eminent Cardinals and Most Rev. Consulters delivered their
opinions on both matters, and were heard most attentively by the
Sovereign Pontiff; and although he described the cause as _most rare_
and _most noble_, he nevertheless, according to the usual custom,
deferred giving his definitive decision, but _redoubled his prayers to
implore the help of Heaven_.

On Palm Sunday, the 8th of April following, the Holy Father, after
having most fervently offered to God the Eucharistic Sacrifice, had the
decree of approval of the three miracles, of which we shall speak
afterwards, read and published with the accustomed solemnity by
Monsignor the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites.  He next
published the decrees, called the 'Tuto,' for the beatification of
seventy-three Venerable Martyrs of China, Tonquin, and Cochin China,
members of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders, the Congregations of
Missionary Priests, and of Foreign Missions; and the decree of
beatification of the Venerable Martyrs of the West Indies, members of
the Order of Discalced Carmelites, and that of the beatification of the
Venerable Servant of God, Maria Cresenzia Hoss, professed nun of the
Third Order of St. Francis.  His Holiness then deigned to address to
the assembly a Latin allocution, in which he manifested the joy that he
felt, especially for the decrees regarding Blessed Rita of Cascia, the
glory and ornament of the Augustinian Order, and the jewel of the
Umbrian province, which gave birth also to St. Benedict and St.
Francis, and where for many years the Sovereign Pontiff himself had
exercised as Bishop his pastoral ministry.  All the more did he rejoice
since it was a question of this most humble and most holy woman's
canonization, a solemn religious ceremony, and supreme act of the
Pontifical authority and of the infallible teaching of the Vicar of
Jesus Christ.  He added that it was desirable that the marvellous odour
which is diffused and given forth from time to time near the sacred
remains of the Blessed Rita, and called prodigious from the time of
Urban VIII., should soon be renewed, as a happy augury of a better
future in this Holy Year and in this century that is about to commence.



CHAPTER X

THE THREE MIRACLES APPROVED FOR HER CANONIZATION

_First Miracle_.--The odour which is felt near St. Rita's body,
especially when miracles are worked through her intercession, and which
is diffused in a wonderful manner.

As regards this miracle, we told in full everything about it in the
fourth chapter of the present part.  We have only to add our joy that
the oracle of the Holy See has solemnly confirmed what historians have
written regarding this sweet odour, and what has been alleged in the
processes and confirmed by experience.

_Second Miracle_.--Complete and instantaneous recovery of Elisabetta
Bergamini from conjunctivitis complicated by ulcerous keratitis of the
small-pox form.

Elisabetta Bergamini of Terni, about seven years before the time of
which we wrote, had been attacked by the small-pox in so virulent a
form that it left her whole face pitted, and destroyed the sight of her
eyes, so that she could hardly distinguish light from darkness.
Several physicians consulted by her parents had submitted her to
different forms of treatment for the recovery of her sight, but to no
purpose.  She was then sent as a boarder to the Augustinian convent of
Cascia, where her father's sister was a nun, known as Sister Maria
Maddalena, in order to pray the Lord through St. Rita's intercession
either to restore her sight or else take her to Himself.  She was there
principally because her father's stepmother had been miraculously cured
by St. Rita some years before.

The girl was brought to the convent and confided to the nuns' care in
1833.  Pitying the sad case of the afflicted child, they took most
loving care of her.  The doctor who attended the convent was called in
to visit her, and he confirmed the opinions of the doctors of Terni
that her disease was incurable, and that only a miracle could restore
her sight.  The poor child suffered great pain, and even the light
caused her so much inconvenience that two patches of green silk had to
be hung over her eyes.  Besides, there was a constant flow of humour
mixed with tears, which was so corrosive that it ate away channels on
her nose and cheeks, and gave forth a nauseating and insufferable
stench.  To give some relief to the little patient, her aunt and the
mistress of the boarders used to wash her eyes, by the doctor's
directions, with a decoction of marshmallows; but even from this
treatment she suffered a good deal, for in the course of it her eyelids
had to be raised as much as possible, and this caused her acute pain.

Elisabetta continued in this deplorable state till September of that
year, when the nuns thought of getting her to wear a black votive dress
in honour of St. Rita.  This dress was first blessed by the confessor
and touched to the receptacle in which the saint's body lies.  She was
dressed in that habit and her eyes touched with a little silver rod,
which tradition says once touched St. Rita's forehead.  The mistress
noted that afterwards the flow of humour from her eyes had decreased,
and this fact gave Elisabetta courage to have greater confidence in the
saint's protection.  That morning the nuns, according to custom, were
sorting in the courtyard the corn to be employed in making the little
loaves of St. Rita.  The mistress brought Elisabetta to them, and she
sat down near one of the nuns, and, owing to her blindness, began,
instead of selecting the best, to mix what had already been sorted with
the inferior corn.  The nun told her to keep quiet, and the mistress
then gave her a cup with some corn in it to play with.  As soon as
Elisabetta got the cup she began to stir the corn with her little hand,
and suddenly called out that she could see, and as she did not know
what corn should be rejected, she held out a grain in her hand and
asked whether that should be put aside or not.  At the same time she
threw off the green patches, and the nuns ran in astonishment to look
at the child's eyes, and saw that they were most beautiful and entirely
cured.  To make sure that she had recovered her sight they made her
sort all the corn that she had in the cup, and she did it perfectly.
Then they all went together to where the saint's body was to thank her
for so great a miracle.  The child then saw for the first time the body
of her benefactress, and she wept with love, and with her arms crossed
returned her thanks in a loud voice.  When the doctor of the convent
saw Elisabetta he declared that the saint had worked a great miracle,
and that otherwise she never would have been able to see.

The child remained in the convent for nearly three years after, and her
eyes were always strong.  She learned so well to read that she used to
recite the office in choir with the nuns, and read instruction for the
lay sisters.  She also learned to write and sew, and do other feminine
work that needs very acute sight.

As a complement of the narration of this miracle, we judge it right to
quote the words of a famous Roman physician, who was called on to give
his judgment on this prodigious event.  His learned opinion, delivered
in writing, ends thus:

'It is a matter of conscience and of necessity to reiterate my opinion
that this cure has been instantaneous, perfect, and lasting, in no way
caused by art or by natural forces, impossible to take place except by
miracle, which by science and by conscience must be classified with the
great inexplicable portents which the Omnipotent God allows to be
performed by His faithful servants, and in our case by Blessed Rita of
Cascia; and this I again repeat in my deposition under my oath.'

_Third Miracle_.--Instantaneous and perfect curing of Cosimo Pelligrini
from chronic catarrhal gastro-enteritis, hemorrhoidal affection, and
serious and permanent chronic anæmia.

Cosimo Pelligrini, of the town of Conversano, in the province of Bari,
a tailor by trade, and fifty years of age, broken in health by long
years of labour and by troubles of mind, began to lose strength, and
his eyesight became so weak that although he used very strong glasses
he could distinguish only with difficulty objects a short distance
away.  He had, besides, grown so deaf in both ears that it was
necessary to speak in a very loud voice to make him hear, and so great
was his deafness that he did not even hear the strokes of a hammer with
which on one occasion his cloak was nailed for a joke to a bench on
which he was sitting.

Besides his great loss of strength and the weakening of his organs, he
also suffered from serious disorders of the stomach, pains in the
abdominal region, frequent vomitings and hæmorrhoids.  He, moreover,
experienced frequent sudden attacks of dizziness, which were so serious
as to make him fall to the ground unless he speedily retired to bed,
and stupefied him for hours, during which time his sight was altogether
obscured.  At night he often suffered from muscular contractions, and
if he spoke for long or listened to others for any length of time he
was seized with shakings in all his members.  His ways of curing
himself made his already sufficiently deplorable state of health still
worse.  For, instead of consulting a doctor, following his own caprices
he took frequent purgatives, and bled himself so often and to such an
extent that he developed chronic anæmia, which showed its presence in
his pallid, emaciated countenance.  He was thus often forced to keep
his bed, and his bodily weakness and mental agony made life a burden.

Such for many years was Pelligrini's miserable condition.  About the
year 1877, on the 22nd of May, the feast of St. Rita, to whom he had
great devotion, when he was entering his house after hearing Mass at
the saint's altar in the church of the nuns of St. Cosmo, he fell to
the ground, deprived almost entirely of sense.  He was put to bed, and
the doctor immediately sent for.  On his arrival the doctor instantly
saw the very grave state of the man, prescribed some remedies, of
which, however, almost no use could be made, and ordered the last
Sacraments to be administered.  After being anointed, Pelligrini became
so ill that he lost all strength and the use of his senses, and was
hardly able to breathe; his face became corpse-like in its pallor as he
lay motionless in bed.  In this state he passed two days, and on the
third day the doctor was of opinion that he would not live till evening.

Meanwhile a lay sister of the convent, who was sister of the sick man's
wife, sent to ask how he was, and in sending an answer his wife
requested the nuns to light the lamp at the saint's altar and offer
prayers for her husband, who was in his last agony.  The request was
immediately attended to by all the community.  Little over an hour
passed when Pelligrini, as if waking from a profound lethargy, opened
his eyes, began to move his arms, and, calling his wife, said to her,
'I am cured.  Blessed Rita has made me well.'  He then began to tell
how the saint had appeared to him, had touched him on the forehead,
shoulder, and breast, and assured him that he would be cured, and that
after only a day or two of weakness he would be entirely well.  He also
gave the same account of the vision to others who came to see him, and
the fact proved that the saint had miraculously saved him from imminent
death.

The next day he left his bed completely cured, as Rita had told him he
would be.  He was able to eat and digest his food as well as any person
of strong robust health, and all those chronic ills that afflicted him
for so many years were instantaneously and entirely eradicated, and his
deafness and lack of vision also were entirely gone.  He could see as
well as if he had never been shortsighted, and could detect the least
noise, and although he was seventy years of age he had regained full
vigour and strength.

Many people went to see Pelligrini, who seemed as one raised from the
dead to a new life, and who was filled with a new strength.  All who
saw him gave glory to God and to Rita for so wonderful and surprising a
fact.  After ten years, when he was eighty years old, he was examined
by doctors, and found perfectly healthy and full of vigour.



CONCLUSION

We have now come, oh, reader, to the end of our journey, and however
short it has been, you, the faithful follower of our steps, cannot fail
to look back, as travellers do after a difficult passage, and consider
with us the difficulty and roughness of the way that Rita traversed in
order to reach her sublime goal.  We are convinced that it is not
simply curiosity that has moved you to follow our plain narration of
facts, but the proposal to follow on the path that Rita has travelled
by, and walk in her footsteps, for the lives of the saints are written
and read for no other object than with the Divine assistance to cause
their virtues to be imitated.  And you must have remarked that Rita's
virtues have this peculiar characteristic--that persons of both sexes,
of all ages and conditions, may put themselves in the way of practising
them and turning them to account.  The young, married persons, parents,
widows, persons in religious life, the troubled and afflicted of both
sexes, have each in the life of this saint a bright and shining mirror
wherein to behold their stains, their weakness, their imperfection, and
see also how to remove these blots under Rita's care and protection.

The incident of the wondrous bees flitting about her cradle, described
in the first part, seems to us to symbolize the great multitude of
Christian souls, each of which in its proper place may extract, like
industrious bees, the honey and fragrance of virtue from this mystic,
odoriferous, and precious garden.  She is indeed the jewel of the
Umbrian province, as the inspired Pontiff, Leo XIII., styled her in
most happy phrase on April 8, 1900, whose beauty can never fade, about
which thousands of souls may gather and be excited to thoughts of
ineffable sweetness that will produce good fruits in time and in
eternity.

You young people, you parents, you religious, you troubled and
afflicted, never lose sight of your model!  Have recourse to her in all
your trials, and even when your troubles seem irreparable, do not lose
courage, for she who is commonly called the _Saint of the Impossible
and of desperate cases_ will then especially guard you and bring you
consolation.



R. & T. WASHBOURNE, 4 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON





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This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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