St. Rita’s Feast day

This is so Catholic and too Italian!

May 22 was a special day in my family, at least for my parents. It’s the feast of St. Rita. My parents grew up in this South Philadelphia parish and my father had particular devotion to St. Rita. They planned their wedding so that it fell on the Saturday just after St. Rita’s feast day. When I was a young girl, my father and I would drive to South Philly after dinner to make the annual novena. We did that until I was a teen and too cool to do it. My father passed away on St. Rita’s feast day – something that greatly comforted my mother, because she believed my father was called to heaven by St.Rita.

In later years, as my mother got older and couldn’t drive into the city anymore, I started taking her for the annual religious service. I used to wonder what it was like for her to revisit the church where she spent the Sunday mornings of her childhood, the place where she met my father and where she walked down the long marble aisle as a bride. When I’d ask her, she didn’t seem particularly sentimental about it. That is, until we walked outside and my mother would take me (and sometimes a priest or two) to the exact spot where she first met my father.

After church my mom and I would go to the famous 9th Street Italian Market where my mother would tell me stories about picking out chickens for dinner or watching the lambs which eventually became their dinner. We’d get something good to eat – like sausage and peppers on a roll, and then wind up at one of her favorite Italian bakeries.

In 2007 the old grade school next to the church, where my father went, was torn down to build a community center. When it disappeared so did the iron gate that was the spot where my parents met. It was the last time my mom and I did St. Rita’s (as we would say).

My mother passed away earlier this year but tonight I’m “doing St. Rita day” in her memory. I’ll be with my spouse and cousins, who each have their own unique St. Rita connection. I wish my mom could be with us…and I guess she – and my father – probably will be….

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