St. Rita is a surprising saint of something we might not expect: baseball.
The Italian saint is known for being incorrupt, having the stigmata, and bringing peace to warring families in Italy. But baseball?
The game wasn’t even invented when St. Rita of Cascia was born in Italy in 1381.
Why is St. Rita the Patron Saint of Baseball?
Baseball fans remember the 2002 film, The Rookie, based on the true story of Jimmy Morris. Morris carries a St. Rita medal in the film and in real life. That’s because Morris made history as a fast-pitcher for the major leagues while he was in his 30s. Pitchers at that age are usually retiring. Morris did the impossible with the saint of impossible causes.
While the movie alludes to the real reason St. Rita is affiliated with baseball it leaves out the details of how she became the unofficial saint of baseball.
In the roaring 1920s a group of Catholic nuns and women in New York invested in one oil rig project in Reagan County, Texas.
But the project was paying. The men working the oil rig had little to do because it wasn’t striking oil. To pass the time they started playing baseball in the field, waiting to strike oil as they hit balls and ran innings.
But start-up baseball games were not helping the nuns with a losing investment. The nuns asked a priest for advice who suggested praying to St. Rita. The priest also blessed a rose in St. Rita’s name.
Roses and St. Rita
The blessing of roses in St. Rita’s name is a long tradition in the Catholic Church. It begins with St. Rita, bedridden and asking for a rose from the garden. It was in the middle of January and no one expected to find a rose growing at that time. However, a single blooming rose was found. On her feast day of May 22 it is customary to have roses blessed by the priest during Mass.
The nuns who were losing money on the oil field knew this tradition and gave the blessed rose 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, according to the National Shrine of St. Rita website.
The Saint of Impossible Causes strikes oil!
The prayers worked because on May 27, 1923 the oil drill hit dolomitic sands, called “Big Lime” in the oil business. The drilling came to halt but the next day, just five days after St. Rita’s feast day, oil burst into the sky.
The oil sprayed over a 250-yard area. The baseball players put down their gloves and got to work on Santa Rita No. 1!
Image credit: Wikicommons of the tomb of St. Rita in Italy, where her body is incorrupt.
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