We live in a very divided world. The level of division we are experiencing here in the United States can at times appear so deep we may wonder if there is any hope for healing and reconciliation, let alone unity.
Saint Rita was married into a family that was rivals with another family. The rivalry between the two families was very deep seated and had spanned decades, leading to violence and division in her own community. The violence ultimately resulted in the murder of her husband. After her husband’s death, her two sons wanted to get revenge through murder of those responsible for her husband’s death.
Relying on Jesus’ message of forgiveness, Saint Rita tried to encourage her sons to forgive rather than seek revenge. Her two sons struggled to accept this invitation and continued to plot revenge. However, before they found an opportunity to do so, they both died of a disease that had broken out in their community.
Having lost her husband and two children, Saint Rita was left alone in the world. She ultimately discerned God was calling her to enter a nearby convent (a dream she had as a child before she was arranged into marriage by her parents).
However, when Rita asked to enter, the sisters denied her for fear that the unresolved conflict between her husband’s family and their rivals would negatively impact them. Saint Rita then went to her family and urged them to create peace, indicating that everybody suffers because of what is happening. Ultimately a peace agreement was reached and Saint Rita was granted permission to enter the convent.
Saint Rita’s message of forgiveness made little sense to her sons and others of her time. It may even make little sense to us when we examine the conflicts and divisions of our world today. Yet, Saint Rita’s closeness to the Word of God and her insistence on reconciliation over retribution ultimately created peace in her family and community. The peace that resulted from her witness was so profound that after her death she was canonized and recognized as the patron Saint of impossible cases and peacemakers.
Peacemaking is not easy on any level. However, like Saint Rita, peace in our world begins with our trust in Christ’s message of forgiveness and reconciliation and our willingness to take a step towards offering that message to others. We can rely on her intercession and life example to guide us in working to create a more peaceful world today.