Soon Rita experienced anew the call to enter the Augustinians but had trouble being accepted due to the complex political situation which had resulted in the death of her husband. She also had the added stigma of not being a virgin, something which was usually required for nuns at that time. It took great courage and humility to deal with these things, but with patient trust in God’s call she persisted until they finally agreed that she could enter their convent. Rita’s holiness continued to grow as she devoted her life to prayer and contemplation. However, she was holy not because she endured the drama of an arranged marriage, an abusive husband, or vengeance-seeking sons. Rather, it was her response to these events which made her holy. Actually, she had been unsuccessful in acting as a peacemaker between the political factions, between her extended family members, and with her own sons. But it was her prayer, filled with incredible love, patience, and acceptance of the role God had placed upon her during that time, which bore the most fruit.
May we value the pearl of great price we have been given, taking St. Rita as our inspiration and role model for patience, humility, and trust in God! May we pray for the intercession of St. Rita that we might be patient with the events of our lives, especially when we feel frustrated and confused! May we take the time for prayer, Scripture reading, and reflection, that we might grow in the way of the gospel as taught by Jesus! And may we be courageous in living the Christian life in a world that is often hostile to the way of peace and justice, turning to Jesus often and always! Let us continue to meet in the heart of the Risen Jesus! Alleluia! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* Here is a link to an excellent article that briefly tells of the life of St. Rita, but also has a good explanation of her suffering 'with' Jesus. http://www.saintritashrine.org/life-of-saint-rita/
Note: Next post will be June 5.
1. This icon is called St. Rita of Cascia Patroness of the Impossible, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I love this icon for its simplicity, but especially because the crown of thorns forms her halo. The entire gold circle around her is the glow of her holiness and it is not contained only within the context of the crown. Though she has the wound, there is a joy about St. Rita in this icon. Perhaps she is content in knowing that her love for Jesus is enough for her. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this icon, it can be found at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-rita-of-cascia-patroness-of-the-impossible-206-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
2. This painting is called Bouquet of Sunflowers, (1881) a still life by Claude Monet. I chose it because it reminded me of the fields of sunflowers found in Umbria in the summer. A number of years ago I was on a pilgrimage that went through Umbria. The sight of acres upon acres of sunflowers was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately the bus never stopped while we were in the area, so I have no photos. I thought that it was likely that St. Rita would have seen such beauty in her little town of Roccaporena, (near Cascia), where she grew up, or in Cascia where she lived most of her adult life. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437112
3. This is a painting by Vincent van Gogh called Wheat Field with Cypresses, (1889). I am a big van Gogh 'fan,' I admit, so this painting came to mind readily because parts of Umbria look like this. However, I chose it because I felt it would not be a stretch to think that as St. Rita contemplated the life of Jesus she might have envisioned times in the gospels when Jesus was teaching His disciples using parables that involved wheat fields, particularly the pearl of great price in which a man bought the field to ensure that he would have the pearl secured. You can find this painting at http://metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436535 and also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_Field_with_Cypresses#
4. I took this photo in a rose garden in Ireland. At the time I was captivated by the color of the flower. I chose to use it here because it reminded me of St. Rita’s miraculous rose, though this one was in bloom in the proper season.
5. I chose this icon, called The Pearl of Great Price, (20th century) after stumbling upon it quite 'by accident.’ As soon as I saw it, I was taken in by its beauty. Jesus is pointing to the open Scriptures, revealing the text of the parable of the pearl of great price. One can also see the pearls that are fixed to the icon, comprising the halo of Jesus. But what I love is that the iconographer connected Jesus to the lesson of the parable: He is the pearl of great price to which we give all just as He gave all for us. You can find this icon at http://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/icons/of-christ/pearl-of-great-price-20th-c-st-anthonys-monastery-11r08/. Another page I found while researching this icon contains a wonderful hymn of St. Ephraim the Syrian (4th century) called The Pearl in which he describes Jesus as the pearl of great price. It can be found at http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2011/01/pearl-by-st-ephraim-syrian.html.
6. This is a photo I took in Big Bend National Park, TX, which captures the remarkable sight of a bird's nest securely ensconced upon a prickly cactus plant. The spines on the cactus are pronounced and certainly nothing I would want to brush up against, and yet perched between two ‘branches’ is the nesting place of a bird! I chose this photo because it contains a paradox: the dangerous thorns are actually upholding life, since nests are homes for birds and are often the place where baby birds are hatched. It reminded me of how the thorns that pierced the head of Jesus were part of what it took for us to have eternal life since they were part of the process of His death and resurrection. Out of suffering and death comes new life.
7. This is also one of my own photos. This sunset was over the Pacific Ocean as seen from Gold Beach, Oregon. I chose this photo because it speaks to me of being one with the world since everyone will see the same sunset, even if at different times, at the end of any given day. We are one people and one Body of Christ.