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  • Writer's pictureAugustinian Vocations

A Year at the Shrine of St. Rita

By Br. Michael Riggs, O.S.A.

Every day is a pilgrimage when your daily ministry takes place at a shrine. I take my fifteen-minute journey from our friary, nestled in the heart of South Philadelphia, passing by the dogs barking in the park and the cars rushing down Broad Street (where laying on the horn is as commonplace as shaking hands) until I finally arrive at my oasis.

The morning mass at the National Shrine of Saint Rita takes place in lower chapel where beautiful metal sculptures of the saints surround the path, illuminated by red votive candles, all facing the centerpiece of our patroness, St. Rita. And suddenly, all the city noise that battered my ears on my walk is drowned out with the flood of silence that washes over me when I come to the shrine. Ahhh, peace at last!

Peace is what we all long for in this life, and only guaranteed in eternal life. It is what many in our world today are hungering for, and, of those who are starving, some eventually find their way to St. Rita. For the past nine months, I have spent my pastoral year serving at the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia, a site of daily, monthly, and annual pilgrimage for many people, both locally and nationally. It is a place where people find hope for their hopeless causes, and peace in their troubled lives. I’ve had the privilege of hearing some of those stories about how St. Rita has touched the lives of our visitors, and I am always in awe of Rita’s powerful intercessory prayer.

One day, a man who came from Florida told me about how his mother was in the hospital with COVID-19, and all the doctors were saying how her situation did not look good. He was desperate for prayers, and someone told him about St. Rita and her patronage of those with impossible cases. He turned to her immediately, and in a matter of days, his mother began to heal, until eventually she was discharged from the hospital free of the virus. He was shocked and amazed not only of his mother’s recovery, but that this little saint was completely unknown to him since his hometown was actually Philadelphia. He had no idea the shrine existed until he really needed her, but he travelled all the way back here to give thanks for this miraculous gift that St. Rita gave him.

Stories like this sustain me in my ministry; something extraordinary happens when we turn to St. Rita in prayer. This act strengthens our faith that the impossible could be made possible, that peace could be made between rivalling families, that those stricken with severe illness would be restored, and that a man once crucified could be raised from the dead. We all face seemingly impossible cases regularly, and St. Rita is a reminder for us to never lose hope in our God who loves those who trust in him. As we honor this incredible Augustinian saint, let us remember to always keep hope alive in our hearts, because if we can hope for the greater things to happen, we can certainly keep hope alive in our everyday life. Saint Rita of Cascia, pray for us!

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