May 22, 2017
"For nothing will be impossible with God."
Today is the Feast of St. Rita of Cascia, the patron saint of impossible causes. During her life, St. Rita faced countless situations that seemed hopeless and impossible. As a girl, her desire was to enter the convent, but instead she was forced to enter an arranged marriage with an abusive husband. Then as a wife and mother, she hoped to instill virtue and kindness in her husband and sons, but instead she watched them become entangled in a vicious, longstanding family feud. Through all this, her greatest goal—not only for herself, but for her husband and sons as well—was not any earthly happiness or success, but only Heaven.
Rita endured insults, physical abuse, and infidelities from her husband for many years. Such a man would surely seem a hopeless case. But gradually, through her patience and humility, Rita was able to convert her husband into a better person. As the family feud became more heated, he chose to become more amiable, trying to foster alliances instead of hostilities—which ultimately resulted in his betrayal, when he was murdered by a member of the opposing family.
Rita publicly pardoned her husband's murderers, but her sons were not so forgiving. Together with her husband's brother, they conspired to avenge his death. Rita could not persuade her sons to relent, and so she prayed fervently that they would never commit the mortal sin of murder. A year later, before any murder could be carried out, both sons died of dysentery.
At this point in her life Rita wished to enter the convent, but she was told that due to the scandal caused by her husband's death, she would only be allowed to enter once the feuding families were reconciled. Now this, of all things, seems an impossible cause, no? Rita prayed to her patron saints, and before long her husband's brother, inflicted with the plague, renounced his longstanding vendetta. A truce was formed, and Rita became an Augustinian nun, spending her days in meditation and prayer and, in later life, experiencing the stigmata.
At a glance, Rita's story doesn't seem particularly hopeful—rather, it seems like God answered her prayers by killing her family. Not the most upbeat story. However, Rita always had an understanding that this life is fleeting, and the length of our lives matters far less than the character of our souls. God allowed her husband and sons to die at a moment when He could take them to Himself and protect them for eternity. And He granted Rita, in her widowhood, the fulfillment of her childhood dream: to be wed to Christ alone. She was a saint amidst a family that didn't seem all that saintly, and God used her for great things at every stage of her life.
When Rita was on her deathbed, her cousin asked her if she wanted anything from her old home. Rita asked for a rose from the garden. This was January—not the season for roses. But upon arriving in the garden, her cousin found a single, blooming rose, which was brought to Rita to gaze at as she prepared to meet God.
Whatever your impossible cause may be—a blood feud, a lifelong dream, or a rose in January—remember the truth that St. Rita believed in so fiercely: nothing, nothing, is impossible with God.
"See, my children, we must reflect that we have a soul to save, and an eternity that awaits us. The world, its riches, pleasures, and honors will pass away; heaven and hell will never pass away. Let us take care, then. The saints did not all begin well; but they all ended well. We have begun badly; let us end well, and we shall go one day and meet them in heaven."
—St. John Vianney