As we all prepare to hear once again about the arrests and beatings that will take place in Cuba this sunday, especially at the church of St. Rita in Havana, a word or two about St. Rita.
Today is the feast day of St. Rita of Cascia (1381-1457), an Italian nun who was canonized in 1900, over 400 years after her death.
St. Rita married at the age of 18 and gave birth to two sons. Her husband — a violent man — was killed in a fight. Her two sons died young. Widowed and childless, she became a nun and dedicated herself to a life of prayer and acts of mercy. Her care for the sick was exemplary. She also counseled lay people who sought her advice.
St. Rita was a miracle-worker who is now venerated as the patroness of hopeless causes.
It’s no accident that the parish church of St. Rita in the Miramar suburb of Havana is where the Ladies in White attend Mass every sunday. Calling for an end to oppression in Cuba certainly seems a hopeless cause. Their presence there — an affront to the Castro regime — has lent St. Rita Church an aura of righteous defiance and of hope for a better future.
The church was built in 1945, in the Art Deco style. It was designed by architect Víctor Morales, who also oversaw its construction.
Ironically, the image of St. Rita venerated at this church was scultpted by Cuban artist Rita Longo, a long-term Castronoid who ended up with a high post in the Castro Ministry of Culture. You can visit the parish web site HERE.
Personal note: that image of St. Rita used to terrify me as a child, so much so that I would beg my parents not to go to Mass at that church, even though it was only four blocks from our house.
I prefer to think that it was the Castronoid malevolence harbored in the artist’s heart that made the image seem so frightening rather than any other natural or supernatural factor.
May St. Rita, patroness of the hopeless, intercede for all Cubans at the Heavenly Court, especially those who risk life and limb every Sunday at the church named in her honor.