In the case of most holy people who have been graced with the Stigmata, like St. Francis of Assisi, and the saintly Padre Pio, the fragrance exuded from the holy wounds smells like a beautiful perfume from Heaven, more pleasing even than that of flowers. With the wound of St. Rita, came humiliation, estrangement and isolation. The wound had such a pungent, putrid odor emanating from it that she had to suffer the ostracism and rejection of her fellow Nuns who, at best, feared it might be infectious and, at worst, could not bear the smell. She spent the next fifteen years alone, suffering more and more excruciating physical pain. But although she was isolated from her Community in a small cell far away from any of the consoling companionship of other Nuns, she had the Consoler! Instead of looking toward herself and her pain, she focused on Jesus and His Crucified Head of thorns and all the thorns in her life were turned into roses of love by her Lord as she offered them to Him.
Here we have a perfect case of Redemptive Suffering. Stated simply, redemptive suffering goes like this. You have suffering which will not go away. For some reason, the Lord allows you to have it. You can’t pray it away; you can’t wish it away. You can become angry, and turn away from God, or you can offer it up to God for the souls in Purgatory, the conversion of sinners, or to relieve the suffering of someone here on earth.
We believe that Redemptive Suffering is a powerful offering to Our Lord. It’s a way of taking a terrible negative, the pain inflicted on us by the suffering, and turning it into a great positive, by offering it to Our Lord Jesus. We believe that St. Rita used this unusual twist of not receiving the fragrance of Heaven that accompanies the Stigmata, to glorify Our Lord Jesus. She offered up to him the isolation caused by the putrid odor of her wound.
In 1450, Pope Nicholas V declared the first Holy Year, proclaiming Rome, once and for all, the center of the Christian world, and of our Faith. The popes had been away from Rome for sixty seven years. Our Lord wanted to unite His Church, to end the scandal of division and dissension caused by self-interest and resultant schism, so He inspired the pope to institute this Holy Year. And unite He did! All the Religious of Italy, as well as pilgrims from all over the world converged on Rome.