Two years ago today I took this photo of the statue of Saint Rita, my parish’s patron, in the cathedral of Buenos Aires. It is the closest statue to the bishop’s chair, which so recently belonged to the man who is now pope. I am grateful, as a Christian, that I do not have to believe in coincidence, that I get to call things grace. I have no problem asserting that God engineered this for me: the choice of the sculptor, the election of the pontiff. I am not saying I deserve it, I am just saying God did it. I cannot help his generosity.
When I set foot in Argentina for the first time that week, I had no idea how important it would become to me. I didn’t know I’d find so much healing there, that I’d become an adult there. I owe a lot of that to the prayers of others, and not least to those of this woman, who has been a guardian to my community for so many years. Saint Rita is the patron of the impossible, of hopeless causes, of the most despairing among us. It felt impossible that I should long to be in that church, but there she was.
Saint Rita is also the patron of heartbroken and abused women—she was herself a battered wife and troubled mother who single-handedly ended a mafia war. Her patience, in earthly life and eternal life, knows no bounds. She gives me shame of the best kind, to know how many men she forgave, how many souls she saved with that mercy. It felt impossible that I could be capable of that same mercy on any scale. But there she was, and here I am, on the anniversary of our meeting, free of so many of the crosses that drove me under her care. God did this, I know.
It feels tacky and proud to say so, very out-of-place, embarrassingly literal. There is so much in me that tells me to keep it to myself, go live the proof. One of my favorite gospel tropes, though, is how every time Jesus heals someone and asks them to keep it to themselves, they immediately tell everyone they know. I am also like that. I look at this picture and I cannot believe what my life is, and how hard God is working in it. I am so full of the best kind of shame, as I stumble through Holy Week, praying to Saint Rita that I am even a fraction her daughter in it all.
Doy gracias a mi Dios siempre que me acuerdo de vosotros, orando siempre con gozo en cada una de mis oraciones por todos vosotros, por vuestra participación en el evangelio desde el primer día hasta ahora, estando convencido precisamente de esto: que el que comenzó en vosotros la buena obra, la perfeccionará hasta el día de Cristo Jesús.