Amy, Joseph and I visited the National Shrine of St. Rita Cascia in Philadephia on Joseph's birthday, April 4th. I mentioned earlier that we were going to visit the Shrine but never actually wrote anything about the visit. On an unfortunate note, we arrived rather early around 9 a.m. so we weren't able to attend Mass (at noon) or visit the gift shop (opened at 11), but we were able to spend some time in prayer in the beautiful church.
Finding a parking space was a bit of a challenge. The shrine is located in an area of Philly where their are cars parked in the middle turn lanes up and down the street (I'm not sure if I have ever seen this anywhere before), so if you are visiting the St. Rita (the female patron of hopeless causes) then you had better pray for her intercession to find a parking space. We eventually found one in an alley behind the church.
The church has two levels, the upper main body of the church and the basement where a more modern rendering of the shrine is present (all though much of this was obscurred by current construction that seems to be going on). In the upper body of the church there is the actual shrine, a side altar dedicated to St. Rita that includes a reliquary of her body. In front of this altar between two kneeler is a hopper filled with petitions folded up and piled up in a way that anyone could come in and pick them up and read them. They made me think of "bets" that one might give to a bookie--I'm not sure why they struck me in this fashion (maybe it was an impression from the neighborhood or just the fashion of the petition receptacle or because we had just left Atlantic City).
The Blessed Sacrament was exposed and after praying before the Shrine of St. Rita and writing down a few petitions which cast into the hopper, we went to the center of the Church and knelt and prayed for a bit there.
Over the past months, I have become convinced that prayer is a constant enterprise something that we must do at every moment of the day. Equally necessary is focused prayer periods throughout the day. We must stay focused on God Alone! When we do so it is amazing how much more we value the people around us, how anxiety becomes a distant memory--when we don't the opposite is just as amazing (why we would ever choose to live in such a fashion!).
A short visit in the basement revealed plastic hanging around a beautiful bronze statue of St. Rita offering a thorn from her crown (or was she receiving it?) from a bronze image of Christ bound and crowned with thorns in front of her some twenty feet. The rest of the basement was shrouded in plastic due to construction that was in the process.
Overall a beautiful Shrine and place of prayer. Philadelphia residents are lucky to have three such shrines in their city--St. John Neumann, St. Katharine Drexel (in Bensalem) and St. Rita. I included all three in my novenas used at Shrines in the U.S. called Mention Your Request Here: The Church's Most Powerful Novenas.