A Powerful Patroness
Along with Saint Jude, Saint Rita holds the title of being patroness of causes that are impossible to human skill or effort.
Exemplified by her immediate forgiveness of the family that murdered her husband, Saint Rita is patroness of reconciliation.
The Saint of Cascia didn’t just forgive, she helped two rival families set aside a vendetta and make peace with each other.
Having lived the last decade of her life with the painful but cherished stigmata, Saint Rita is a patroness of healing.
The Unofficial Patroness of Baseball
Saint Rita of Cascia has long been loosely associated with the game of baseball. It’s an unofficial honor, to be sure, but when the rally towels are flying, the prayers can’t hurt!
Die-hard baseball fans might remember The Rookie, the 2002 film based on the true story of Jimmy Morris, the unlikely fast-pitcher who made it into the MLB well into his 30s. Jimmy carried a Saint Rita medal for good luck. Can you spot it in the movie?
But here’s the true story of how the Patron Saint of Impossible Causes became the unofficial Patron Saint of Baseball, too.
It all started during the roaring 20s. Oil business was booming, Texas was hot, and investments spread like wildfire. A group of Catholic nuns and women in New York invested in one oil rig project in Reagan County, Texas, but the project seemed ill-fated, plagued by slow progression and insufficient funds. Because of this, the men hired to work the oil rig had little to do. Cash was slim and the oil wasn’t coming, so they set up a baseball field in the shadow of the derrick. When they weren’t attending to drilling at the dry well, they played America’s favorite pastime.
Meanwhile, the women asked a priest for advice. What do you do when you’ve invested in an oil well that isn’t striking oil? The priest suggested they pray to Saint Rita, the patroness of impossible causes. He blessed a rose in Saint Rita’s name. That rose was given to Frank Pickrell, a partner of the oil project. Pickrell returned to Texas and scattered the rose petals from the top of the derrick, naming the well Santa Rita no. 1.
On May 27, 1923, the drill hit dolomitic sands, called “Big Lime” in the oil business. They had to stop drilling. The next day (just five days after Saint Rita’s Feast Day), the miraculous happened! Even though there had been no more drilling, oil burst into the sky! Here was the answer to the nuns’ prayers. The oil sprayed over a 250-yard area, and those baseball players quickly had to put down their gloves. It was time to get to work. Santa Rita no. 1 had struck oil!
The story of the Santa Rita oil rig and the ragtag group of oil men who played baseball in its shadow isn’t a well-known tale, but it was the beginning of Saint Rita’s association with the boys of summer. And even if you’re not convinced that an unofficial patron saint can help you out in the bottom of the ninth, just remember that Saint Rita most certainly is the Patroness of Impossible Causes!