I remember the first time that I read the story of St Rita of Cascia and her prayer that her sons would die if it saved them from dying later in a state of unrepentant mortal sin I was horrified. They were so young, barely into their teens, making bad choices as we would say today (if we can call setting out to commit murder a bad choice…I’m pretty sure that it is one), but still not much more than babies.
I looked around the room at my own tiny children, and couldn’t help but wonder – what kind of mother called down death on her babies? (For those of you who don’t know, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version – Rita’s husband’s family had been involved in a long-running blood feud, when he converted to Christianity and tried to make peace, he was betrayed and stabbed to death. His two sons, at the urging of their male relatives, decided it was their duty to avenge their father’s murder. Rita prayed that if this would lead to their dying in unrepentant mortal sin that God would take them first. Both boys died within the year.)
A good one, it turns out. (Don’t go calling Child Protective Services on me, I’m not fixing to do anything rash around here.)
It took a long time for me to understand the beauty and selflessness of what she had asked. With her sons set on avenging the murder of their father, Rita put the spiritual welfare of her children above her own desires to have them near her. She had the wisdom to know that the condition of their souls was infinitely more important than anything in the flesh, and so she asked that God, in His mercy, spare them the damnation of dying in a state of sin, and so she willingly gave them up.
Throughout my years of motherhood, I’ve come back to the example of St Rita’s motherhood time and again. While I’ve never asked God for the mercy of a holy death for my children ( I don’t know that I’m strong or brave enough for that), I have followed her example of surrender. I pray often that God remove from my children’s lives anything which would turn them from Him.
This constant realigning with the Will of God rather than the accolades of the world is often painful for all of us, and yet it is absolutely necessary for the well-being of all of us.
St Rita taught me about the painful necessity of being willing to give up everything for the spiritual welfare of our children, even the children themselves. It’s not a popular or an easy example to follow, and yet I have no doubt that it is how we, as Christian mothers, are called to love our children. We are charged with the duty of leading our children to God, and to following His will. Please, God, may we have the courage to always do so.
photo credit: By Georges Jansoone (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
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