Rita of Cascia
The Rose Legend and Why Roses are Associated
For four years after her return from Rome, St. Rita suffered more pain from
the wound on her forehead than before she made the journey to Rome, so that
her life became really a martyrdom. Moved with compassion for her suffering,
or pleased with her wonderful patience, the Son of God came from Heaven to visit
and console her with His Divine presence. This Divine visit filled the soul
of St. Rita with extreme delight and gratification, and her heart was so consumed
by the words of her divine Spouse, that, having sunk her understanding in the
extreme bliss she enjoyed from gazing on the Divine beauty of Jesus, she would
have broken the earthly bonds that detained her soul in the prison of her body,
to enjoy forever the happiness she saw, were she permitted to do so. St. Rita
gazed attentively at her beloved Spouse, who, like a flower from the Heavenly
paradise, and a lily from the celestial valleys, invited her to satisfy her
thirst and fill her heart with delights by enjoying the sweetness His Divine
presence cast around her. But recognizing that the ocean of happiness in which
she was engulfed was only temporal, and thirsting to enjoy the eternal, she
ardently desired to follow her Divine Spouse, who disappeared from her view
after He had given her a foretaste of what His chosen ones enjoy in Heaven.
After Our Lord had disappeared, there remained in the heart of St. Rita so
deep a wound that she became so ill with Divine love, suffering so violent an
attack of fever, that she was obliged to betake herself to her poor and hard
bed, whereon she lay, more dead than alive, without anyone knowing the cause
of her illness. Thus for four long and weary years, St. Rita suffered the pains
of love, in order that the gold of her patience might be refined and that
she might make a new ring, set with the most precious jewels, which she would
wear at the celebration of her espousals with her Divine Lord when she made
her entrance into the Kingdom of His glory. Besides the pains of her illness,
she suffered the torments of the wound on her forehead, and these torments were
made more poignant by the continual movements of the little worms which had
also increased in number. But anxious to suffer more and more, St. Rita bore
every pain of her agony with the most admirable patience, and during all the
years of her illness, she never uttered a single sigh or word of complaint,
but respired rather, in all her actions, the celestial love that was consuming
her heart with the flames of the Divine fire. Having become ill with Divine
love, because her beloved Spouse had left her after a short visit, St. Rita
experienced a love, strong as death, which, however, did not take away her life
but rather spared it, so that she actually suffered the pains and agony of death
without dying. However, in the midst of all her afflictions, St. Rita sought
no human relief. Her chief delight was to feed her soul and body with the Bread
that came down from Heaven, and to quench her thirst with the bitter chalice
of the Passion of her Divine Spouse, Jesus Christ. Thus for four years her life
was really miraculous, nourished only by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
To show how dear St.
Rita was to her Divine Spouse and to make manifest the fact that St. Rita
can obtain even the impossible from God, if she asks it, Divine providence disposed
her, while she was ill, to ask that a flower and two figs be brought her from
the little garden which St. Rita at one time owned and cultivated with her own
handsa garden which could be truly called the inheritance of God, and
the garden of her Heavenly Spouse, because she had sold it before entering the
convent and had distributed the proceeds amongst His needy poor.
One day in the month of January, a cousin of St. Rita's came to the Maddalena
Convent to visit her. The visit was a short one, for that particular day St.
Rita was very ill and suffered much. On taking her leave, her relative asked
St. Rita if she could do any favor for her. "Yes, Cousin," said the
Saint; "bring me a rose from the garden of my old home in Rocca Porrena."
St. Rita's request surprised her cousin, who thought that perhaps her mind was
affected by her illness, and besides, as it was midwinter and the climate of
Rocca Porrena exceedingly cold, her relative and the nuns who were in attendance
could not be persuaded that the rose could be found. Nevertheless, to humor
the Saint, her cousin told her that she would try to fulfill the errand, though
she thought it would be impossible to find what she asked for. St. Rita responded:
"My dear cousin, there is nothing impossible to God." The security
with which St. Rita spoke these words determined her cousin to set out at once
for Rocca Porrena, and to her great astonishment and amazement, on entering
the garden she saw, on a sapless and leafless rosebush, a beautiful red rose
in full bloom. She plucked the rose, and returned to Cascia as quickly as possible
and gave the rose to St. Rita. The Saint received the rose with great joy and
gladness, and a heavenly smile lighted up her countenance as she kissed it reverently,
while her heart gave thanks to God as she contemplated in that rose her sweet
Jesus crowned with thorns. St. Rita then handed the miraculous flower to the
superioress, and from her hand it passed into the hands of all the nuns, who,
after admiring its marvelous beauty, returned fervent thanks to God, who, to
make manifest the sanctity of their beloved sister Rita, had caused a most beautiful
rose to grow in the midst of a cold winter. To commemorate this miraculous event,
roses are blessed each year in all the churches of the Augustinian Order on
the feast of St. Rita and distributed to the faithful.
Shortly after the miracle of the rose, God wrought another miracle at the request
Rita. On the occasion of another visit to the convent, in the same month
of January, St. Rita asked her cousin to go and bring two figs she would find
on a certain frozen fig tree in the garden of Rocca Porrena. This time, without
the least doubt in her mind, the woman hastened to bring the figs. She had no
difficulty in finding the tree St. Rita had described, and on it were two ripe
and luscious figs. With no less joy than admiration at seeing this second miracle,
she picked the figs and brought them to St. Rita. St. Rita received the figs
with the greatest joy, and again did the nuns thank and praise God for having
qualified, for the second time, the sanctity of their holy and beloved sister.
But St. Rita, elevating her spirit to a contemplation of the mysterious, considered
the two miracles a warning that the time was near at hand when she would pass
from this life, to enjoy for all eternity the incorruptible flowers and seasoned
fruits of the Celestial paradise.
Taken from St.
Rita of Cascia by TAN Books
& Publishers, Inc.
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