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Art for Meditation - May 2019

Galizzi Santa Rita da Cascia

Giovan Battista Galizzi (Bergamo 1882 - 1963), Entrance of Saint Rita to the monastery, oil on canvas, 1947, Cascia, Italy, Chapel of the urn in the Sanctuary of Saint Rita

 

Saint Rita of Cascia is one of the most invoked and venerated saints. She was born in 1381 in Roccaporena, a hamlet of Cascia, in central Italy. She was given the name of Margherita, but soon everyone started calling her Rita.

A mild-tempered, humble, obedient and well-mannered girl (her parents taught her to read and to write), from a very young age she became passionate about the Augustinian family, so much to want to take her vows and to attend regularly the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene of Cascia and the church of St. John the Baptist. But when she was 14, her parents promised her married to Paolo di Ferdinando Mancini, a violent man, and after three years she got married with him. Two children were born from the wedding, perhaps twins: Giangiacomo Antonio and Paolo Maria.

With her patience and meekness, Rita first converted her husband and, after he was murdered in 1406, she tried to keep her children away from revenge. For this reason, she never revealed the name of her husband's killers. Not long after, the two sons fell ill and died. Left alone, at 36 she tried to enter the Augustinian Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene, in Cascia. She was rejected 3 times for her widowhood and because in the monastery there was a nun related to Paolo's family, who was offended by the reticence of the Saint.

Only after pacifying the two dueling families, Rita was admitted to the Monastery where she remained until her death, which occurred on May 22nd, 1457, at 76 years old. It is said that she performed several miracles, including the one of the thorn (stigmata) of Christ's crown on his forehead, which she wore for the last 15 years of her life; shortly before dying, immobilised in bed, she asked one of her cousins to bring her a rose and two figs from her father's house. It was winter, but the rose and the fruits were there and the cousin brought them to her. The rose became the Saint’s symbol par excellence, a slender and humble woman who managed to flourish despite the thorns that life had reserved her, giving the good scent of Christ and dissolving the icy winter of many hearts.

The painting by Galizzi, one of the 7 that illustrates the life of the Saint in the chapel where her body is kept, represents Rita's entrance to the monastery: according to the legend, the 3 patron saints of the Augustinian order - Saint Augustine, of course, St. John the Baptist and St. Nicholas of Tolentino - carried her from the rock of Roccaporena, where Rita went to pray, to the inside of the choir. The poverty of the scene, the choice of soft and dark colors, the halo of light around the Saint, and the great concentration with which Rita is crossing the threshold tend to focus our attention to its essentiality: having lost all the earthly affections (the husband and the children) Rita chooses the Lord forever, who from that moment on becomes her consolation, her refuge, her life.

We pray you, our Lord, that on the example of Saint Rita, we carry within us the signs of your love and your Passion and we enjoy the fruit of a lasting peace.

 

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