Friday, July 11, 2014

A Woman Named Rita

I awoke quite early this morning, and rested in His Real Presence.  In the early hours, upon awakening, one can be quite aware of His Real Presence in the silence and freshness of having been for a few earth-hours, out of most conscious awareness and into that deep, still well of God-in-us.

A woman named Rita came to mind.  She is known more familiarly to some as Rita of Cascia, Italy.
She lived a few centuries ago, and I assume the Lord wanted me to remember her, as I read a book about her life several years ago.  The more I thought about Rita, I realized a week or so ago a friend had called and mentioned her name.  I had not pondered her situation, then; thus the reminder now.

Rita's husband was murdered, and their two sons attempted to avenge their father's death, against Rita's wishes.  She feared they would be killed, also, and that they were.  Rita's entire life as she knew it was stripped from her.  Eventually she was accepted into a religious order.  (I am shortening the story of her life, but I highly recommend her biography.)

When in the convent, at some point when Rita was praying, the Lord gave her a thorn in the middle of her forehead.  She could see it, and others could see the blood and also smell a horrible stench that came from this thorn He asked her to bear.  It marked her, and while in those times of no social media or technology, some people were aware, but not many, outside the convent.

However, among her religious sisters and the superior, the wound was obvious, even at a distance, due to the horrific odor that emanated from it.  Having an open, bleeding hole in one's forehead would present challenges in keeping it clean and dealing with blood flow. But there was nothing Rita could do about the stench.

As a result, none of the sisters nor her superior wanted to be near her.  She was ostracized, in a way, and isolated.  They were not intentionally being mean.  It was not that they disliked her, but it was human instinct to not want to be around someone who had an undeniable stench emanating from a bloody thorn-hole in her forehead.

Some of the sisters were going on a pilgrimage, and Rita wanted to go with them.  She asked her superior for permission, and the superior told her she could not go due to the horrible stench of the thorn wound.  The others could not tolerate that smell, and it would be all the worse for anyone else in the public who would smell it, in addition to seeing the bloody thorn mark.

So Rita begged God to remove the effects of this mystical phenomenon. She knew He knew why she asked.  He did remove it, and Rita was able to join her sisters and make the pilgrimage.  As far as she and others assumed, the phenomenon was gone for good.

However, on their way back from the pilgrimage, as they approached the convent, the thorn wound and the stench returned.  God had only removed it for the time period of the pilgrimage, granting her wish so the superior would allow her the pilgrimage.  Once back in the convent, her shunning began anew.  The sickening stench God allowed with the thorn in her forehead was just too much for others to endure.  Rita had to endure it, though.  There was no escaping it.

I forget if at her death, the odor became that of perfumed roses.  I know that some people who experienced the phenomenon known as stigmata (any one or several of the wounds of Christ imparted to their physical bodies either in visible or invisible form) had a perfumed odor emanate from their wound or wounds.  Only God knows why He chose perfume for some and stench for Rita.  For her, what one would consider a gift from God became that which isolated.  It certainly would be difficult for others to see any good fruit of this experience.  It was hard to believe that something so nasty and unedifying on the face of it, so to speak, as coming from God.

Such matters remain a mystery.  God only knows, and sometimes the person thus marked or afflicted with mystical phenomena have an idea as to His plan and purpose.  Such matters always affect various levels of meaning, significance, and outcome.  His will always includes the soul's progression, and the suffering required includes the soul's conformity to Jesus Christ.  The soul must undergo whatever necessary to prepare it for union with His Real Presence.

God bless His Real Presence in us and us in Him!

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