May 22 – Basiliscus of Comana; Rita of Cascia

Basiliscus of Comana (d. 308) was arrested with his brothers, but while they were killed, he was sent off to prison in Comana. In a vision he was promised divine help, but told he’d die a martyr anyway. He asked his guards to let him go say goodbye to his family, and knowing his honesty and miracle-working reputation, they gave him a three-day pass. He was just on his way back when a detachment of soldiers, sent by the enraged governor (“you let him what?”), was sent to fetch him. They draped him with chains, nailed shoes onto his feet, and marched him back to Comana.

Stopping for a drink in the heat of the afternoon, the soldiers went into a house (owned by a woman named Troana, although it’s not clear why that matters) and left Basiliscus tied to a tree out front. He prayed, and there was an earthquake, after which a spring of water gushed up where he could drink from it. The house emptied as all came to see what had happened. Somewhat unnerved, the soldiers set Basiliscus free, and he healed a number of sick people from the local village who came to see the man who made an earthquake.

Eventually he ended up before the governor, who predictably ordered him to offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. “My sacrifice is praise and thanksgiving to the true God,” Basiliscus said. Unimpressed, the governor had him dragged to the local temple, but just as they arrove, it was struck by lightning and obliterated. The governor then flew into another of his trademark blind rages and ordered the saint beheaded, and his remains tossed into the river. They were soon after fished out and respectfully interred, and a church was eventually built to house them. It is said that the saint appeared to John Chrysostom (Sep 13) shortly before his death, telling him, “Tomorrow we shall be together.” We are not told what John replied. Basiliscus’ relics and prayers have been associated with many healings.

Rita (Margarita) of Cascia (1381–1457) wanted to join an Augustinian convent, but bowed to her elderly parents’ wishes and married at age 12. Her husband was “cruel and brutal,” and my source says everybody in the district knew it. She put up with him for 18 years, at which point he was murdered, to the regret of few. Her sons determined to get revenge, but Rita begged them not to, so they didn’t. This isn’t called the first of her miracles, so she must have done some previously.

When her sons died, she applied for admission at the closest Augustinian convent, but they turned her down—ostensibly because she wasn’t a virgin, but one source says relatives of her husband’s murderers were sisters there. Sex or politics: you make the call. She applied a few more times, then bypassed the abbess and sent her application straight to St. Augustine (Aug 28) himself, as well as two other saints, just to be safe. The next morning the nuns awoke and found her in the middle of the locked convent, looking like nothing at all had happened. She was admitted to the sisterhood.

As a nun she was severe in her self-mortification, and efficacious in her prayers. Once, after she heard a sermon on our Lord’s crown of thorns, she felt a sharp pain in her forehead, and over the next few days an inexplicable wound opened up there. Except for one brief respite, it remained with her until her death. When that was near, a visitor asked if there was anything she could get her. “A rose from my family’s estate,” said Rita. It was January, but out of love for Rita the visitor went to the estate and, lo! a rose was there blooming.

She is the patroness of people in abusive marriages, and of lost causes.