22 May, Monday — Peace Be With You

May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious

St. Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

  • Patron Saint Index

Acts 19:1-8
Jn 16:29-33

I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world.”

My son asked me recently, “Why does God make us go through so many challenges before we can go to Heaven?” A fair question, and why indeed? I had to think for a while before giving him an answer; but in the end, I told him that while there were probably many answers out there, I believed that it was because God wanted us to build our faith by depending on Him and believing in Him every time we think we are unable to overcome the challenge.

As I add another year of wisdom to my life, I reflect on the road that I have traversed thus far, and the challenges that I have faced. Some make me laugh now because of my naivety back then, some I could have avoided had it not been for my stubbornness and pride, and some…some were painful but necessary to become who I am today. If I could go back in time to tell my younger self something, it would be, “Don’t worry, it will all work out well…in the end.” It would have saved me endless hours of fretting and heartache and anxiety. I might have been scarred, but I would have been alright.

In the earlier parts of John 16, Jesus foretells the trials and persecution that the disciples would encounter. They would be hated and reviled for trying to spread the Truth. Later, after the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion had occurred, it would be more apparent to them the extent of these trials and what Jesus had meant. But by then, they would have something so firm to hold on to keep them going — by then, they would have seen that Jesus had overcome death. Jesus had indeed conquered the world, just as he said he had done.

Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” And again, in today’s reading (John 16:33), he reassures them, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.” “In me you may have peace” – the only way we can surmount our troubles is to remain in Jesus, to believe in him and to trust him. God has called us by name, and His Spirit resides in us; with Him, nothing is impossible. Jesus keeps telling the disciples to be at peace so that they would remember that whatever the challenge, when their hearts are overwhelmed with anxiety and fear, and it feels as though they have been abandoned to their fate, “Don’t worry, be at peace, believe that I have overcome this challenge for you”.

I try to tell myself that every day now when I think about the future, both near and far. I might be worrying about something at work this week, or whether I am parenting well enough to help my children in today’s world, or if my husband and I will have enough financially to provide for the family… whatever it is I am fretting about, I have learnt to claim for my family and myself the peace that Jesus promised his disciples, and us, so many years ago. So long as I remain in him, I will have the faith and perseverance to survive another year. So long as I remain in him, I will thrive in His love for another year.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, only You know the future and Your plans for us. You have called us by name and claimed us as Your own. I know that there is nothing that we can’t get through without Your help. I pray Lord, in our hour of need, that we remember that and claim Your peace, in Jesus’ most precious name. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Praise be God forever and ever! He who sent His only Son to conquer the world for us, thank you for overcoming our challenges for us, thank you for having our backs.   

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