Ok, so this Saint tale needs some backstory…
A few months ago, I was visiting a friend for the weekend to do some activist brainstorming. The last night I was there, we went out to dinner and she told me of a conversation she’d had with a priest in Mexico City a few years ago. It was heavy and I’ll leave the personal details out, but at the end of their conversation he gave her a beautiful crucifix. As she was walking off, he stopped her and pulled another one from his pocket. He said “I don’t know who this one’s for, but you will.” Just then, she pulled it from her purse and told me the story of the Rosary that she’d attached to it. The beads were made with roses left at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
So much thought and care was put into this gift and when she handed it to me, I had tears in my eyes. Even though I’m not Catholic, I understood how precious this gesture was. She told me to take it with me to Juarez where my team has been working at a shelter with women who’ve experienced sexual assault, many becoming pregnant because of it. Juárez is notoriously dangerous and quickly becoming the capital of femicide in South America. She told me to keep it with me at all times for protection.
The following month, I took the rosary with me as we visited the shelter again. I didn’t want it to be damaged so I wore it as a necklace and kept it tucked under my shirt, because I’m still not sure what the rules are for how you’re supposed to carry one, but I figured it might be inappropriate to wear it as jewelry.
At one point, I was standing in the middle of the street at night, in a somewhat rough area, when suddenly the crucifix broke off of the rosary. It was kind of strange since I hadn’t snagged it on anything, but I immediately wrapped it up and tucked away in my pocket. When I got home, I figured I would go to a local craft store and get the supplies to repair it, but I didn’t dare tell my friend that I had broken this precious gift.
A few weeks later, I shared with the woman who runs the shelter in Juárez how I’d accidentally broken it. And while she’s a faithful Catholic, she never really talks about her beliefs with me so I was surprised when she stopped dead in her tracks and asked me to tell her more about the Cross. I told her how it was just a normal silver crucifix with a Benedictine Cross behind Jesus’ head. She responded that the Benedictine Cross is believed to work in a protective manner by stopping demonic spirits sent to harm us. She went on to say that the fact that it had broken was somewhat interesting, and that as crazy as it sounded, it might have been from something evil trying to come against me.
And here’s the thing, I don’t know if I even believe in any of this stuff… but I don’t mess with dark shiz. So, if there was even a chance that this item had somehow become a demon catcher, I figured I should probably get it blessed.
I reached out to a friend of mine, Fr. Joshua Whitfield, who’s a local priest, and asked him if he had whatever priestly blessing powers were necessary to scoop demons out of objects. He told me he had mighty priest powers and to come on over. We arranged a time to meet at his parish and it ended up being on the feast day of the Rosary.
Weird stuff like that keeps happening.
I’ll write about a saint and then find out after the fact that I’ve shared their story the week of their feast day. Or I’ll talk about a difficult time we’ve had in Juárez and share it on Facebook only to find out that it’s the feast day of Our Lady Of Sorrows. In fairness, you guys have so many feast days it could just be like that thing where you read a horoscope and it’s so generic it seems customized to each person, or maybe there’s something to all this. I honestly don’t know.
Anyway, when I finally met up with the Fr. Whitfield, the blessing process was rather anticlimactic. I told him I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t hear any demons screaming as they were cast out of my crucifix and he told me that’s because they were all mute. Because of course they were. I evidently caught some basic lazy demons, not the Linda Blair kind. Oh well.
We talked for another half hour about all the issues I have with the Catholic Church that would prevent me from ever converting and as I was leaving, he gave me one of those charm things you guys are so big on. It was of St. Rita—Fr. Whitfield’s church is dedicated to her.
When I got home I looked her up and laughed when I realized she was the patron saint of lost and impossible causes. I messaged Fr. Whitfield and told him just to just @ me next time. He said, “Yes, but that was because she was a boss surrounded by an idiot husband and sons. You’re not a lost cause; you’ve got her strength.” Side note: I also have an awesome husband and two great sons. Just needed to throw that in there to avoid any future fights in the De La Ro house.
After that, I decided to dig deeper and holy moley, St. Rita’s story is pretty wild. She was born in 1381 in Italy and according to her parents one time when she was a baby there was a cluster of bees swarming above her crib. I don’t know what type of parenting books they had back then but I guess it’s good that that they didn’t have one that said “if your baby is ever being swarmed by bees, grab said infant and run away,” because next thing you know, the bees flew into Saint Rita’s mouth and then flew back out, signifying that she was evidently someone special.
Years later, after her husband (who she was forced to marry at 12 – not okay) finally died, she joined a religious order (where she’d always wanted to end up) and studied the “mortification of the flesh” which—not gonna lie—sounds sorta like holy masochism. It’s basically this belief that you can get rid of sin through physical suffering. Maybe that’s what happened to Macaulay Culkin in My Girl when he also got swarmed by bees, who knows…
Anyway, later in life she developed a head wound that was considered a ‘partial stigmata’ wherein very holy people start getting markings on their bodies resembling the torn flesh of Jesus on the Cross. Her crown of thorns wound in the middle of her head never stopped bleeding, even after her death when she was exhumed multiple times. Good thing Carter Blood Care never got her number because her lack of proper clotting capabilities would’ve made her a terrible donor.
And, now, I know I said I’m not into dark shiz, but I’m all about creepy shiz. Especially stuff that can’t be scientifically explained. Beyond the bees and stigmata, Saint Rita’s body was also believed to be incorruptible because every time she was exhumed its recorded that she hadn’t decayed at all. Even in death she still had tricks up her sleeve. I know in a previous column I called Saint Lucia the Queen B, but for the sake of solid puns, maybe we should reallocate that title to Rita.
As a small aside, I get really irked when I think of all the amazing women Saints I never learned about growing up as a Protestant because they were deemed too Catholic. Supernatural miracles are supernatural miracles, and sometimes I wonder if I’d still be a “lost cause” agnostic if I’d always been surrounded by these stories of the impossible.
Destiny Herndon De La Rosa is the founder of the secular pro-life New Wave Feminists organization. She is a frequent op/ed contributor to the Dallas Morning News and a sought-after speaker.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.