St. Rita: Hope and Honeybees

st. rita bees

Have you ever felt like you need a cheerleader? A friend who knows how to speak courage, hope, peace, and possibility to your troubled mind as you agonize over details beyond your control?


This is the antithesis of the sometimes destructive inner-monologue we can have with ourselves when things get hectic. It is the peace Jesus wishes for us, and yet it can feel so out of reach. Unfortunately it’s not the first tool I reach for in my own toolbox, and I recognize the need to hear it from another source when I have to make that scary appointment, analyze the likelihood of reconciliation between family members, and assess how I’m parenting during a difficult phase of kiddos. The list goes on.

St. Rita and Hopeless Causes

In the month of May, we celebrate the feast of St. Rita. “Rita” (Margherita) has been a patroness on my journey since college where I became fixated on the word “hope”.  It was in the name of the organization with whom I finished my senior year internship, and it has followed me around, showing up when I’d least expect it, like roses in a novena to St. Therese.

Ironically, St. Rita is the patron saint of hopeless causes (along with St. Jude). The intercessory yin to my yang.

She earned this title in a myriad of ways. At her parent’s request, she entered an (unfortunate) arranged marriage rather than religious life. Later, after her husband’s murder, she prayed that God would take her two sons so they would not be tempted to perpetuate a feud and avenge their father’s death. Her sons each took ill and died within the year. This was a turn of events she both mourned and celebrated, as it meant her sons hands remained innocent of the evils she feared. Having lost both sons and her husband, she decided to return to the idea of joining the Augustinian monastery. Only after reconciling the feuding parties was she offered admittance to the monastery.

St. Rita Can Relate to Us

Rita was an eclectic mix of things in her lifetime: daughter, wife, mother, peacemaker, and nun.

Spiritually, St. Rita’s deep prayer life is akin to many prayerful mothers, which is why she is known as the patroness of so many familial issues. The ones that feel hopeless.

Rita is celebrated as a woman who persevered in prayer on behalf of her family and one who knew hardship. Her influence, it was believed, impacted her husband and sons for the better. At her husband’s funeral, she publicly pardoned those responsible for his death.

For one waiting with bated breath for any variety of outcomes, St. Rita’s prayerful reputation is added strength and nourishing balm to my waiting spirit in a handful of scenarios.

St. Rita and Honeybees

Once I began keeping bees, I was reminded that St. Rita is often depicted with bees in iconography. This imagery is due to an event where a swarm of white bees surrounded her on her Baptism day, some even in her mouth, yet she remained unharmed. Since her death, a colony of bees has taken up residence near her grave, and has been seen between Easter and her feast day. This is fitting imagery in a lot of ways.

As a beekeeper, I have a soft spot for honeybees and the metaphor they provide for the Christian life. Turns out, the Church does too.

From cathedrals to candles, from vestments to the Easter Vigil Exsultent, the church honors, depicts, and implements honeybees into its representation of life offered for others. Common words, like the “cell” in a monastery, derive from the cells of a hive. It’s a group of celibate worker bees, supporting one another for the survival of the whole. The high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica is covered in bees. St. John Chrysostom once shared in a homily:

The bee is more honored than other animals, not because it labors, but because it labors for others.

This is especially true for all men and women living holy lives, whose example and spirituality are lives offered for others. It is life-giving, hope-sustaining nourishment when we offer ourselves for the good of another.

That we might too, bear fruit.

St. Rita, pray for us.

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Katie Cassady is a wife and mom to two little girls in Denver, CO. Steeped in theological reflection, beekeeping and motherhood, she is appreciative of any and all wisdom she can glean from those living intentional lives of faith. Find out more about her here.

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  • Reply
    May 23, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    It’s actually not the altar of St. Peter’s “Cathedral” that is covered with bees; the proper term is Basilica. The Cathedral of the diocese of Rome is St. John Lateran.

    • Reply
      September 17, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      Thank you for pointing out the proper term for me–good catch!

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