Heroic In Suffering
An only child, married young, mother of twin
sons, abused, widow, buried her children,
saw her dreams denied and then fulfilled,
a nun… It has all the elements of a novel.
And yet it is the true story of a remarkable
woman. The story developed in Roccaporena,
The parents, Antonio and Amata, had lost
all hope of having a child when Rita – a
shortened form of Margherita – was born.
Obviously they were delighted and they gave
her the best. Among this best, they included
a sense of God. Children are natural mimics
and they do what they see.
Growing near a convent of nuns, she felt
a tremendous desire to join the sisters.
Her parents were hesitant. She asked for
advice. The priest told her to follow what
the parents said. The parents suggested that
she marries a reasonably rich, pleasant and
good looking young adult, Paolo Mancini.
The criteria for the choice were rather mundane,
no? They somehow overlooked a distinct worrying
trait in his character. He was so ill tempered
and abusive that he would turn into a beast
The marriage started well, as most marriages
do. They even had twins early on in their
life together, Giovanni and Paolo Jr. Then
things started going sour. Paolo Sr. wanted
more excitement. Some men and women never
understand that marriage demands a change
in their way of life. He wanted to be more
involved in politics which at the time was
brutal and could easily turn vicious.
He got more and more caught up in the power
disputes. Nights out. Covert meetings because
his faction, the Ghibellines, was very unpopular
in his town. Drinking.
When he returned home, he reversed all his
fury on his wife. Angry outbursts, disrespect,
selfish demands, physical violence. The pain
was big. Every little thing became an ordeal.
She tried to be nice to him. She tried to
speak with him. Nothing
Obviously she could have run away. Obviously
she could have tried to get even. But she
did not. She not only put up with Paolo’s
abuses for eighteen years, but somehow she
managed to see in all this a word of God
for her. There was no passive resignation
in her, just the daring awareness that suffering
has a meaning of redemption.
One day the husband was ambushed and stabbed
to death. Her sons swore vengeance on their
father’s killers. Vendetta! Rita was now
desperate. She just could not convince her
sons of the inutility of this course of action.
Above all she was concerned about their souls.
Hatred generates so much acid in our inner
She decided to have recourse to her only
ally. She pleaded with God to avoid this
ulterior tragedy. God listened to her prayers
and in an epidemic that hit the town, both
of her sons died. I suppose, God can be drastic…
“Deeply rooted in the love of Christ, Rita
found in her faith unshakeable strength to
be a woman of peace in every situation,”
commented once Pope John Paul II. Not by
chance that the people of God see in her
an advocate of hopeless and even impossible
Now alone, Rita felt called to her first
love – the convent. However her request for
entrance among the Augustinian Nuns of Cascia
was refused, not once but three times! The
Sisters were concerned because one of them
was a relative to the murderer of her husband.
Rita did not take no for an answer. The boldness
of the saints! She approached the family
responsible for Paolo’s murder and managed
to generate forgiveness.
Rita Lotti Mancini now became Sister Rita.
She was 36 years old. For the next forty
years she lived the normal life of an Augustinian
Nun. She was so devoted to the Passion of
Jesus Christ that she received a chronic
head wound that appeared to have been caused
by a crown of thorns, and which bled for
When very sick she asked for a rose from
her family’s estate and amazingly enough,
in mid January, they found a single rose
blossom on an otherwise bare bush! God is
a delicate lover.
Many today would consider the attitude of
Rita reckless and crazy. Maybe they are right.
But perhaps the Gospel was always meant to
be super-natural. Her secret, after all,
is the secret of the Gospel: a loyalty to
a Love that was crucified.
She is the patron saint of abused people.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright