These are my prayers to Saint Rita –
a single dandelion puff, white and waiting
to be blown away by wind or by wishing
a girl with cobwebs in her hair
and holes in her shoulders and forehead
a woman built from broken car parts
and rusting straight razors
all the text messages I ever saved
all the emails I never sent
a photograph of two girls facing away from the camera
arms around waists, touching temple to temple
a chapel with ribs made of timber, skin made of glass
and a universe of green forests in its eyes
two a.m. panic attacks and solitaire games
and sitting in the stairwell in the dark
and clutched in these trembling fingers both
a whispering rosary and a humming mala
hoping that someone will answer
Rita of Cascia, born Margherita Lotti, is a Catholic Saint, canonized in 1900, considered the patron saint of the lonely, mothers, the sick, the abused, the wounded, and lost and impossible causes. She lived from 1381 to 1457 in Cascia, Italy, where she was married off at the age of twelve to a rich, violent, nobleman who was involved with a long standing feud with another noble family. She was respected and loved in her community for trying to keep the peace between the two feuding families. After eighteen years, her husband was killed by the rival family. Rita forbid her sons from seeking revenge, thus ending the feud (though her two sons died early deaths anyway).
Soon after, she joined the Augustinian sisterhood and became a nun, and for the rest of her life she became known for the power of her prayers, the holy bleeding wound on her forehead, and the miracles associated with her intercessions. Because of her adherence to the older (now defunct) tradition of self-mortification of the flesh she is associated with the symbols of the whip and thorns, but is also accompanied by images of roses and bees: the former because stories claim a rose bush bloomed at her request near the time of her death, and the latter because her family claimed that white bees attended her baptism, flying into the infant’s mouth and then flying out again harmlessly.
As a lapsed Catholic, it is perhaps odd that I still hold so much fascination for hagiography in general and the stories of Saint Rita specifically. (This will not be a particularly religiously-themed blog, it’s more about depression and struggling for hope, but occasionally it creeps up on me). I am not particularly religious anymore, and haven’t been to a church in years, excepting for funerals. And yet Saint Rita remains an important touchstone for me. As one of those lost causes for which she is the patron saint, I have clung to her as a symbol of struggle, of the battle against depression and loneliness. She is a companion in my fight. She is an advocate for hope and help.
And yet, I continue to lose ground in the battle. Hope and help seem far away. Impossible. If Saint Rita if the patron saint of the impossible, than this is my last-ditch effort to make the impossible happen.
These are my prayers, such as they are. These are the things I do not say out loud. The letters I wrote but never sent. This is a repository for my despair, in the hope that releasing it from the silent cage of my ribs into this anonymous void will somehow purge it from my body, and make me free.
For more information about Rita of Cascia: