HER DEATH AND MIRACLES
ST. RITA knowing that the miracles of the figs and the rose were Divine predictions of her coming death, she already seemed to hear the very same words that the Divine Bridegroom of the Canticles spoke lovingly to His spouse: "Arise, make haste, My love, My dove, My beautiful one, and come. For winter is now past, the flowers have appeared, and the fig tree hath put forth her green figs. Show Me thy face, and let thy voice sound in My ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely."
St. Rita considered these words as spoken to herself, because from the day she saw the beautiful and marvelous rose and the ripe figs, she was certain that the time was near when the mortal bonds that bound her to this life would be burst asunder, and she would leave this valley of sorrow and tears to go to enjoy forever that life and that happiness which she most ardently desired with her Divine Spouse and Master, Jesus Christ.
To make St. Rita sure and certain of her near departure from this world and to invite her to the joys and delights of the Celestial paradise, Jesus Christ, accompanied by His blessed Mother, appeared to St. Rita a short time before her death, and thus said to her: "I am your Celestial Spouse, who kindled in your heart the fire of Divine love and filled your soul with virtues, in accordance with your ardent desires. I am now come to tell you glad and joyful news. Rita, within a few days, you will depart from this world, to enjoy an eternal rest in your Celestial country."
This visit of Jesus Christ and
His most blessed
Mother filled St. Rita's heart and soul with a flood of unspeakable
She knew now that the winter of her torments and sufferings was at an
and that the gates of Heaven were soon to be opened to receive her. A
was now going on between the body and soul of St. Rita. Her body,
weakened and emaciated by fasting and penance, wished to retain the
and the soul wished to break the prison bars of the body to be with
to whom St. Rita was already united, so that she could cry out with the
Apostle St. Paul: "And I live, now not I-----though
detained in this valley of tears-----but
Christ liveth in me." Many and fervent were the heartfelt thanks that
Rita gave to Jesus for having favored her with His Divine presence, nor
did she forget to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary, the sweet Mother of
Divine Spouse, whom she loved with a most tender and ardent love.
When the nuns of the Maddalena learned that St. Rita had been favored with a vision of Jesus Christ and His most blessed Mother, and that it had been revealed to her that she would soon leave them to be united with her Divine Spouse, who was their Spouse also, they kneeled around her bed, and gazed, with tearful eyes, on their beloved sister, whose face was radiant with Heavenly joy as she spoke these humble and tender words: "My dear Superioress and Sisters: The time is at hand when I must go to live with my beloved Spouse. I may have offended you by not loving you enough, or by not being at times as obedient as our holy rule prescribes. I ask you to pardon all my faults against charity and obedience. And because I know that I have caused you some inconvenience and annoyance by reason of my prolonged infirmity, and in particular on account of the ugly wound that I have borne so long on my forehead, I ask you most humbly to have pity on my frailty, and if I have offended in anything, even involuntarily, pardon my ignorance, and pray to God for me, that your prayers may obtain for my soul that mercy and peace I hope from the Divine clemency."
The nuns, hearing the tender words of St. Rita, wept bitterly at the very thought of losing her who had so often consoled them by her very presence, and edified them by her holy example. St. Rita, observing that the nuns were filled with sadness, consoled them by saying: "Sisters, I am not afraid to die. I know already what it is to die. It is to close the eyes to the world and open them to God."
St. Rita then asked to receive the last Sacraments, and having confessed, the while shedding abundant tears, she was anointed and received as viaticum the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, which calmed at once the tempest of pains that she had suffered without intermission, from the time her forehead had been pierced by the sacred thorn. Being consoled by the sacred iris of the Divine clemency, St. Rita began to enjoy a total rest from the antecedent torments, and to taste of the eternal delights in the contemplation of the riches and abundance of the home of God. St. Rita was now knocking at the gates of Heaven, asking her divine Spouse to open them. She also implored the help of the Queen of Heaven, the ever glorious Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Angels, and the intercession of her three powerful protectors, St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine and St. Nicholas of Tolentine. She felt sure that these three saints were waiting to introduce her into the palace of eternal glory, as they had conducted her into the haven of religion.
Realizing that her last hour had come, St. Rita humbly asked the blessing of her superioress, wishing by this last act of submission to enhance the merits of her most perfect obedience. And because she had always loved her sisters in religion with a holy love, her affectionate heart prompted these parting words: "Love God above all things. His goodness being infinite and His beauty without comparison, you should keep always before your minds the great love He has for you as Father, Spouse and Master. Love one another with a reciprocal chaste and holy love. Observe faithfully the rule you have professed, and venerate with a religious affection our great and holy father St. Augustine, who has pointed out to you, by his rule, the royal road to glory. Be obedient to Holy Mother Church, and to your superioress, as you promised when you made your solemn profession." Having concluded this exhortation, St. Rita blessed the nuns with the last words she was heard to utter on earth: "May God bless you and may you always remain in holy peace and love with your beloved Spouse Jesus Christ." Then, fixing her eyes on the Crucifix, St. Rita's soul took flight from this world to an eternal rest in the arms of her Divine Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. At the very moment St. Rita expired, one of the nuns saw her soul being borne to Heaven by Angels.
Sister St. Rita died during the reign of Pope Callistus III, on the twenty-second day of May, in the year of Our Lord 1457. She had reached the mature age of seventy-six years, of which forty-six years she had been an Augustinian nun.
SCARCELY HAD St. Rita left this world to enjoy the eternal happiness of Heaven than there took place events that prove how precious her death was in the sight of God. Immediately after she expired, her cell was filled and aglow with a supernatural light, and her body sent forth an odor so sweet and so fragrant, as if it were a mixture of roses, white lilies and other odoriferous flowers. The odor filled the entire convent with a celestial perfume, which doubly compensated for the unbearable odor that had previously come from the wound which disfigured her forehead. The little worms which had, indeed, helped to make the countenance of St. Rita abominable were changed into agreeable and pretty lights which twinkled like little stars, and the wound caused by the thorn shone with the brilliancy of a ruby. Her body had not the sign of a corpse; that body, which before death was almost a skeleton on account of her continual penances and the four years of illness she suffered, became pliant and soft and fresh, so that she did not appear to be the prey of death, but only sleeping peacefully. She appeared years younger than she was, and her face was more beautiful in death than, in life.
As if to celebrate the entrance of St. Rita into the kingdom and home of her Divine Spouse, Angels moved the inanimate tongues of the bells in the belfries of the holy places in Cascia. At the very moment of her death, the large bell of the Maddalena Convent began to ring out its joyous peals, and when it had ceased, the bell of the church of St. Mary, as well as that of St. Lucy's Convent, were also rung by Angels, according to the testimony of Father Donato Donati of Lucca. The pealing of the bells brought a large concourse of people to the church of the Maddalena, and when it was told them by the chaplain of the convent that the bells announced both the entrance of St. Rita into Heaven and her departure from this world, the people were silent for a few moments, then their eyes welled with tears and they wept bitterly. They knew and felt that they had lost a mother and a protector in their labors and afflictions. But bethinking themselves, they were consoled with the thought that St. Rita would still continue to be their patroness' and protectress if, by their holy and Christian lives, they would merit to retain her patronage. After the nuns had prepared the body of St. Rita for burial, her funeral shroud being the same habit and headdress she had worn from her entrance into the convent, the body was borne to the church and placed on a catafalque before the main altar. The church was thronged with people, for besides the faithful of Cascia very many came from the neighboring towns and villages. Each one in the church seemed to wish to be first to venerate the body of the Saint, and all were astonished and admired the celestial odor her body emitted and the Heavenly lights her countenance radiated, those of the wound on her forehead being the most noticeable, as they shone and glistened with all the brilliancy of the most precious stones.
Of the very many who were in the church, a goodly number had the happiness to kiss or touch the body of the Saint, and not a few were recipients of singular favors by reason of this contact. We will mention one remarkable case. A relative of St. Rita had suffered severe pains in one of her arms for many years. Medical science had failed to give her any relief, and the arm had become paralyzed and utterly useless. With an ardent faith and confidence in the intercessory power of St. Rita, the afflicted woman approached and touched the dead body of the Saint with the paralyzed arm, and the arm was instantly cured of its paralysis, to the great surprise of the very many persons who were witnesses of the miracle. Naturally the people broke forth into accents of joy and gladness, and with loud voices praised God and thanked Him for having given them so signal a proof of the sanctity of His holy servant, and their hearts were filled with veneration for the body of St. Rita, which had now become a most precious relic.
IN EVERY age, there have been holy and Saintly persons who have verified the saying of the Holy Ghost: "God is wonderful in His Saints." The pages of Church history are replete with names of Saints whom God has honored by making them the instruments of His power, and by communicating to them the gift of working miracles in His name and for His honor and glory.
Among the many and the great Saints to whom God has given the power of miracles, there is none more favored with this Heavenly gift than the humble Augustinian nun, Sister St. Rita of Cascia. In fact, so marvelous have been the miracles wrought through her powerful intercession that she has merited the singular and glorious title: "Saint of the Impossible."
Were we to relate the long list of miracles wrought through the intercession of St. Rita, we would be obliged to make the story of her life too long. We will only mention a few of the many miracles brought to notice during the Process of her Beatification.
That God gave St. Rita power and dominion over the common enemy of mankind is evident from the number of persons she liberated from the tyranny and slavery of the Evil One, who afflicted their bodies in various and violent ways.
We will relate two striking facts in proof of St. Rita's power over the Evil One. Perna, the daughter of Giovanni and Elena Tuzi, both natives of Norcia, had been for many years tormented by an evil spirit that had taken possession of her body. On the 10th of June, in the year 1491, Perna came to Cascia, and while kneeling in prayer before the body of St. Rita, the evil spirit was forced to leave and go out of her body.
Another woman, whose name was Casandra, a resident of Aquilla, became possessed of a devil, God permitting it in punishment for breaking her promise to go and venerate the body of St. Rita, through whose intercession her sick boy had been cured when he was at the point of death. For the space of three years the devil tormented her in a most cruel manner. One day the evil spirit told her that he would never abandon nor cease to torment her, unless she went to visit the tomb of St. Rita in Cascia. By force, two of her grownup sons brought her before the body of St. Rita, and Casandra was liberated at once from the power of the devil, who, on leaving the woman's body, proclaimed the details of the miracle. This miracle took place in the year 1541.
St. Rita's power in curing the blind was no less marvelous. A woman whose name was Lucia di Santi, a native of the village of Santa Maria, had been deprived of her sight for the period of fifteen years. On the 18th of June, in the year 1457, her blindness was cured after she had prayed for fifteen consecutive days before the body of St. Rita.St. Rita is also powerful against the ravages of earthquakes. In the year 1730, the city of Cascia was in a state of great anxiety and dismay. Hundreds of people from the outlying towns and villages came hurrying into the city to take refuge in the church of St. Rita, frightened by an earthquake, which in a few moments of time had destroyed many houses. At the very first trembling of the earth in Cascia, the body of St. Rita elevated itself in the coffin, and to the great joy of the frightened people who had sought the aid and protection of the Saint, the earthquake ceased without doing any damage.
These and many more miracles which we could mention
prove that God has endowed the humble Augustinian nun, Sister St. Rita
of Cascia, with a wonderful power of obtaining for her clients every
any good thing they desire including that of childbirth in couples
barren, and of protecting them from every danger of body and soul.