An only child, Rita was born in 1381 at Roccaporena (Cascia, Italy), which is located in the Umbrian Mountains, north of Rome. At a young age, she felt the call to enter religious life, but her parents promised her in marriage to Paolo Mancini at the age of 14. She accepted her parent’s decision, as she felt this was God’s will for her. Paolo was a man of good will, but restless by nature. However, through her own goodness, Rita was able to smooth over the rougher side of her husband's character and to live with him in harmony for about eighteen years.
As watchman for the town, Paolo found himself in the middle of political conflict, and one day he was ambushed and killed. Rita not only forgave his killers, but prayed to God that she would prefer the death of her sons rather than see them revenge their father's murder. As it happened, both of her sons died from illness shortly after their father.
Now totally alone, but still a loving woman, Rita thought of fulfilling the longings of her youth by seeking admission into the religious life. Having overcome formidable difficulties, she was finally received into the Augustinian convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Cascia. Here she lived as a cloistered nun for her remaining years of life.
Throughout her final fifteen years of life she bore the mark of a thorn of our Lord's passion on her forehead. According to our present day reckoning, Rita died on Saturday night, May 22, 1456.
Saint Rita was noteworthy in that she experienced all the possible states of life for a woman and overcame the difficulties of each with a generous love and a profound spirit of penance while always being a peacemaker and a healer of divisions. Her body is preserved to this day in the Sanctuary of Saint Rita in Cascia.
Saint Rita, by far the most distinguished Augustinian saint of the fifteenth century, acquired world-wide fame, especially after her canonization in 1900. In Italy, Saint Rita is immensely popular. In South America and the Philippines, many churches are dedicated to her, and many towns and villages bear her name.
Because of the many and serious obstacles St. Rita overcame in her life with prayerful acceptance of God's will, Saint Rita is known as the Saint of Hopeless Cases. Her feast is celebrated in Augustinian communities on May 22, and is frequently preceded by a novena in her honor.