On Rita's Day, The Pope's Tribute
"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.As veterans 'round these parts know, that's a scribe-whistle if ever there were one – after all, the national shrine to the mother-peacemaker turned Augustinian mystic is right here at home.
"Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible. Amen."
Even if it's held every Wednesday through the year, the main Novena (prayers) at St Rita's on Broad Street comes over the week leading up to today's feast, its observances culminating in dawn-to-dusk rounds of Masses and confessions, the patroness' trademark roses all over the place and cars strewn everywhere outside, yet left unticketed out of deference to religious freedom... and, this River City being what it is, the high municipal official among the devotees who keeps the Parking Wars people down.
Much as Francis' tribute is a special thing for everyone who's kept up Rita's cult through the years, that it's remained the case here is a reminder of this town's particular debt to the venerable Fr Michael DiGregorio, who rebuilt the shrine with such great dedication and care before his election as vicar-general of the Augustinian Curia in Rome. To him, the whole dear family of the Friars, and everyone celebrating today – a group which, so it seems, now includes the Pope – tanti auguri per una buona festa.