Somehow, over the years, I had inherited a medium-sized statue of St. Rita. Had it not been for her name at the base of the statue, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to whom the statue represented. I actually found it to be a tad creepy at times as it portrays her with an open gash in the middle of her forehead. Over the years, I pushed back the urge to get rid of the statue as I also found it a bit intriguing.
In this month’s issue of St. Anthony Messenger there is an interesting article called “St. Rita, Peacemaker” by Rita Piro. After reading it, I have a new-found respect for the life of this great saint who experienced many facets of life. She was a daughter, a wife, a mother, a widow, and finally, an Augustinian nun. And I learned that she received part of the stigmata of Christ, living the last 15 years of her life with an open wound from a thorn that pierced her forehead while praying to Jesus.
St. Rita is the patron saint of many causes, including “impossible causes.” But did you know that she is also the patron saint of baseball? In the interest of making a blog story short, I’m going to focus on her patronage of America’s pastime by including an excerpt from the article mentioned above.
No, St. Rita is not the patroness of baseball because she was the star pitcher for the convent team. Rather, her patronage of America’s pastime is rooted in relatively recent events. In 1920 a convent in rural Texas financed the construction of a nearby oil well. The sisters named the rig The St. Rita, dedicating it to the saint of the impossible, and they prayed for more than a year that their well would produce a gusher, which it did. The men who built that well, however, also built a baseball diamond nearby where they played during breaks. Several pursued careers in the minor and major leagues.
Decades later, high school teacher Jimmy Morris would make an unbelievable debut as a major league pitcher at the age of 35—a time when most ballplayers are planning to retire. Jimmy’s story was made into the major motion picture The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. In that film, St. Rita is invoked several times as baseball’s patroness.
Though St. Rita’s patronage of baseball is unofficial, it has become widely accepted. Medals and holy cards are now made with her image on one side and “Patroness of Baseball” on the other. Many school teams and minor and major league players adopted Rita as their own.