The life of St. Rita can read like a Shakespearean tragedy. As a young woman, Rita desired to enter the convent and consecrate herself to God alone, but her parents had other ideas. They arranged for Rita to marry a nobleman, Paolo, and she humbly obeyed their wishes. Sadly, her husband was an abusive, violent man who treated Rita with little dignity. Paolo, however, died a sudden death when he was ambushed and stabbed by members of a rival family. Rita was left a widow with two young sons.
At her husband’s funeral, Rita forgave his murderers and pleaded for peace between the feuding families. So strong was her family’s vendetta that she asked God to take her sons’ lives rather than allow them to commit murder. Her prayers were answered rather brutally: both of her sons died of a fatal illness before they could seek vengeance. Rita was now a widow and childless.
Returning to her childhood desire, Rita again sought to enter the local convent of Augustinian nuns; however, the nuns objected to her entrance. Many of the nuns were related to the murderers of Rita’s husband, and they were wary of inviting dissension if they accepted Rita. Before allowing her into the convent, they required the impossible of Rita: bringing peace to the rival families.