Photo Feature by Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – Everyone who runs along 5th Avenue in Havana’s Miramar district knows Santa Rita de Cascia Church, located on the corner of 26th Street.
Built under the Order of St. Augustine, and designed by architect Victor Morales, it was inaugurated in 1943, by Father Lorenzo Spiralli.
The church is modern and integrates into Miramar’s landscape. Inside the church, you can see solid mahogany roofs, and the main altar, decorated with marble and alabaster.
Religious figures, such as St. John Bosco, the Virgin Mary, St. Anthony of Padua, Joseph of Nazareth, Our Lady of Charity and Jesus Christ, dominate.
There are different Catholic sentences printed on its walls: “Forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, Fraternal correction with those who do wrong, Comfort the sad, Pray for the living and dead, Pity the deceased, and other spiritual sayings.
The church has three sculptures dedicated to the saint; the first presides over the facade and is accompanied by the four Evangelists. The second statue is found in the garden, in the middle of the vegetation. While the third statue, built by Rita Longa (1912-2000), can be found on the left side of the entrance, in a chapel, protected behind glass.
The latter was misunderstood by the highest-ranking church members, as its innovative shape broke established standards, and they decided to remove it. It was replaced by a sculpture brought over from Italy.
This mistake was heavily criticized by the press, and nobody liked the new statue. Cardinal Monsignor Manuel Arteaga ordered for the Cuban artist’s sculpture to be returned.
Santa Rita de Cascia, part of her story
Baptized as Margherita Lotti, she was born in Roccaporena, Italy. She wanted to be a nun ever since she turned 14 years old, but she they married her to a man from the town and had two twin sons.
Her husband was killed by some of his enemies. For a vendetta, I’m sure. The widow asked the Lord for her sons to die so they wouldn’t go to avenge their father’s death, as the sin of revenge would condemn them to Hellfire. Later on, the teenagers got sick and they both died on the same day.
She received her nun habit and joined the monastery at 36 years old, dedicating her life to prayer and penance. As she was sleeping one night, a wooden splinter got stuck in her forehead, opening up a cut. It was the mark of the crown of thorns, of Christ on the cross.
Her sisters kept the divine relic, but her cut would open every night, giving off a foul smell. She had that wound for years, and it finally healed thanks to the nuns’ care.
She spent the last four years of her life with a blood infection. She was 76 years old when she passed away.
A pleasant perfume emanated from her lifeless body, as if she had been embalmed. Then, word spread that miracle cures came with her intervention. She was beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1627. She was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900.
St. Rita’s day is celebrated on May 22nd. She is the patron saint of lost causes, disease, losses, abuse, marital problems, family, peace, and desperate cases. She is called the Advocate of the impossible, and roses are her symbol.