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This Italian monastery has provided wedding dresses to women in need for decades

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ABITI SANTA RITA

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Paola Belletti - published on 10/25/22

The sisters coordinate the gift of wedding dresses for future wives who cannot afford one at full price.

It is not true that the Church is always chasing the world’s trends; more often she anticipates them, but it’s not in her nature to seek publicity for it. The Church often prefers to proceed by the more classic technique of word of mouth, perhaps even just whispers. In the case of the following story, the soundtrack is precisely silence – the silence of a cloister.

The setting is the Monastery of St. Rita of Cascia, where one of the most beloved saints to ever have lived was received as a nun, after suffering immense trials and even being rejected by the superior. St. Rita is the saint of impossible causes, the saint of roses, and of total and trusting obedience.

Among the many flowers and fruits that continue to sprout from her charism and centuries-old devotion, there’s one that is destined to make many people happy: the gift of wedding dresses for future wives who cannot afford a new one at full price. The gowns brought here are collected with care and delicacy and cataloged with love and professionalism.

The custom of women donating their wedding dress to the monastery once their wedding is over began in the 1950s and continues to this day.

Charity and entrustment to St. Rita 

Sr. Maria Laura, who worked at her family’s tailor shop before entering the monastery, is in charge of St. Rita Atelier. She explains that wives who come to leave their wedding dresses are, along with the practical gesture, also making a spiritual act of trust and supplication. They are entrusting to the care of St. Rita – who was a wife, mother, and consecrated woman – the adventurous and sometimes difficult journey of their vocation to marriage.

Low cost, high yield

So it is not just a case of recycling, sustainability, and low cost; it is a true long-term investment. These women aren’t like the users of those trending apps that encourage us to resell anything, even souvenirs of past loves, in order to make cash (and spend money on other non-essential purchases). What they are doing is far more enduring: exercising charity, freedom from material goods, and sisterly love, as well as choosing powerful allies for hard times.

The sisters lend out the dresses to brides-to-be without asking for money, but if the bride decide to keep it afterwards, she often leaves an offering.

The unusual supply of St. Rita Atelier is quite substantial: every month at least 10 dresses arrive anonymously, from all over Italy – and not only from private individuals, but also from tailors, so they’re brand new. Shipped or left in front of the door anonymously, they are collected and Sr. Maria Laura sorts them by size, color, and pattern. When brides arrive to make their choice, they can try them on in a cozy parlor.

The “circular economy” may be a modern trend, but charity and giving from what we have to help others are ancient concepts that the Church has always espoused. Doing so while entrusting ourselves and our lives to saints is an added way to give a supernatural dimension to our actions. We may not all have religious communities nearby to act as intermediaries, but there are people in need everywhere. Are we open to giving things that have brought us joy to other people, so they may have the same experience?

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