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 Table of Contents  
COMMENTARY
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 97-100  

Saint rita of cascia: Patron saint for women with frontal fibrosing alopecia?


1 Center for Dermatology and Hair Diseases Professor Trüeb, Wallisellen; University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
2 Department of Dermatology, Fluminense Federal University, Antonio Pedro University Hospital, Niteroi, Brazil

Date of Web Publication12-Jun-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Ralph Michel Trueb
Center for Dermatology and Hair Diseases Professor Trüeb, Bahnhofplatz 1A, CH-8304 Wallisellen
Switzerland
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijt.ijt_30_19

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   Abstract 


Roman Catholic tradition has made Saints the protectors of various aspects of life. Christian hagiography deals with the account of the Saints' lives and passion, and Christian iconography with the Saints' depiction in religious art. Catholic churches are full of images of Saints. Appreciation of religious art is deepened by knowledge of what is depicted. Saints are only sometimes labeled with their names. The clues to their identity are rather given in their appearance or in what they are holding. St. Rita of Cascia (1381–1457) is a Saint venerated in the Roman Catholic Church and bestowed the title of Patroness for impossible causes. Various miracles have been attributed to her. In Christian iconography, she is depicted with a bleeding forehead wound and sometimes holding a thorn. The forehead wound is understood to represent partial religious stigmatization and external sign of mystical union with Christ. In our opinion, it is at the same time reminiscent of the thorn frontal fibrosing alopecia represents to women affected with the condition, and its treatment with intralesional triamcinolone injections along the frontal hairline, much alike the forehead wounds caused by the crown of thorns. Few practices of the Catholic Church are so misunderstood as the devotion to patron Saints. Nevertheless, Saints help to find community and to break out of the isolation, anonymity, and dumbness of modern society. The communion of Saints is a spiritual union, in which each member shares in the welfare of all. The patron Saints help to believe in the possibility of miracles and miraculous healings. Ultimately, the exemplary lives of the Saints show us how salvation can be the positive effect of suffering.

Keywords: Forehead wound, frontal fibrosing alopecia, patron saint, Rita of Cascia, salvation


How to cite this article:
Trueb RM, Dias MF. Saint rita of cascia: Patron saint for women with frontal fibrosing alopecia?. Int J Trichol 2019;11:97-100

How to cite this URL:
Trueb RM, Dias MF. Saint rita of cascia: Patron saint for women with frontal fibrosing alopecia?. Int J Trichol [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Aug 19];11:97-100. Available from: http://www.ijtrichology.com/text.asp?2019/11/3/97/259989




   Introduction Top


“O excellent St. Rita, worker of miracles, from thy sanctuary in Cascia, wherein all thy beauty thou sleepest in peace, where thy relics exhale breaths of paradise, turn thy merciful eyes on me who suffer and weep!”

- Oration To The Saint of The Impossible

Roman Catholic tradition has made Saints the protectors of various aspects of life. The practice of adopting patron Saints originates in the founding of the first public Churches in the Roman Empire, most of which were erected over the graves of martyrs. The Churches were named after the martyr, and the martyr was believed to act as an intercessor for those who worshiped at the respective site. Later, the practice spread beyond Churches to the ordinary interests of life, such as health, family, trade, maladies, cities, and countries. Saints were chosen as patrons of occupations that they had actually held or had patronized during their lives. Hence, St. Joseph became the patron Saint of carpenters, St. Cecilia of musicians, etc. The same is true of patron Saints for diseases, who either suffered from the illness assigned to them or cared for those who did. Sometimes though, martyrs were chosen as the patron Saints of diseases which were reminiscent of their martyrdom. Thus, St. Laurence is invoked for burns because he was put to death by being roasted on a gridiron, and St. Bartholomew is invoked for skin diseases since images of his martyrdom depict him with his skin draped over his arm. St. Agatha was chosen as the patron of women with breast cancer,[1] since her breasts were cut off when she refused marriage to a non-Christian. Finally, St. Agnes of Rome has been proposed as protector Saint for women with hair loss and patron Saint for trichologists[2] on the basis of the miraculous growth of long hair to cover her body when she was stripped naked in her martyrdom, her feast day when seasonal hair growth is peaking at its maximum,[3] and her attribute in Christian iconography, the lamb, with the Australian Hair and Wool Research Society being one of the original major international, not-for-profit organizations to bring together premier doctors and scientists involved in the treatment and research of hair disorders.

Christian hagiography deals with the account of the Saints' lives and passion, and Christian iconography with the Saints' depiction in religious art. Catholic churches are full of images of Saints, in stained glass windows, sculptures, murals, and mosaics. Appreciation of religious art is deepened by knowledge of what is depicted, and that includes all the mysterious figures carrying various objects and dressed in different ways. Saints are only sometimes labeled with their names. The clues to their identity are rather given in their appearance or in what they are holding. These objects may be the instruments of martyrdom, representations of events in their lives, or symbols of their teachings, and are called the Saint's attributes.

[Table 1] gives a summary of Saints with peculiarities and symbolism related to their hair.[4]
Table 1: Summary of saints, peculiarities, and symbolism of their hair[4]

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   Saint Rita of Cascia Top


St. Rita of Cascia (1381–1457) is a Saint venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in Italy. She was an Italian widow and Augustinian nun. She was married at the age of 12 as a child bride; her marriage lasted for 18 years, during which she is evoked for her Christian values as a model wife and mother who made efforts to convert her husband from his abusive behavior. On the murder of her husband by a feuding family, she sought to persuade her sons from retaliating but to no avail. Ultimately, she petitioned God to take her sons rather than yield them to mortal sin and Hell. Her sons eventually died of dysentery, which reverent Catholics believe was God's reply to her prayers, taking her sons by natural death. Rita subsequently joined an Augustinian community of religious sisters, where she was acknowledged for the efficacy of her prayers. At the age of approximately 60 years, a small bleeding wound appeared on her forehead while she was meditating before an image of Christ crucified, as though a thorn from the crown that encircled Christ's head had penetrated her own flesh. For the next 15 years, she bore the forehead wound which is understood to indicate partial religious stigmatization and external sign of mystical union with Christ.

Rita was beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1626 and canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900. Her feast day is celebrated on May 22. At her canonization ceremony, she was bestowed the title of Patroness for impossible causes, whereas in many Catholic countries, Rita came to be known to be the Patroness of heartbroken women, specifically for sterility, abuse victims, loneliness, marriage difficulties, parenthood, widows, and bodily ills. Various miracles are attributed to her intercession.

In Christian iconography, St. Rita is depicted with a forehead wound [Figure 1] and sometimes holding a thorn.
Figure 1: St. Rita of Cascia. The depiction of the forehead wound. 18th-century wooden figurine from Brazil. Purchased at a São Paulo open-air antiques market

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   Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia: the Connection Top


Frontal fibrosing alopecia represents a peculiar condition predominantly but not exclusively affecting women in the postmenopause. Originally reported by Kossard,[5] the condition presents with progressive marginal alopecia along the frontal and temporal hairline. Since the original description in 1994, the number of cases has exploded exponentially worldwide, while its etiology remains obscure.

In the case of St. Rita of Cascia, specifically her depiction in Christian iconography, the frontal wound is representative of the thorn the disease represents for women affected with frontal fibrosing alopecia, and at the same time of its effective treatment with intralesional triamcinolone injections along the frontal hairline,[6],[7],[8] reminiscent of the forehead wounds caused by the crown of thorns.


   Why a Patron Saint? Top


Few practices of the Catholic Church have been so misunderstood as devotion to patron Saints. From the earliest days of the Church, the faithful have chosen a particularly holy person who has passed on to intercede for them with God. Seeking the intercession of a patron Saint does not mean that one cannot approach God directly in prayer. Rather, some consider it an act of special devotion toward God to display humility in asking a Saint for intercession rather than expecting to be answered directly.

The doctrine of Saintly intercession reaches back to the earliest Church, and points to Scriptural passages as: Tobit 13:12–15, Revelation 5:8, and Revelation 8:3–4, which depict heavenly beings offering the prayers of mortals before God, and James 5:16, where all those in heaven can be presumed to be living righteously, which states the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. The justification for calling on a Saint in prayer is that the Saints are close to God because of their holiness and accessible to humans. Historically, the belief matched the earthly patterns of patron-client relations that were the standard way of attempting to deal with the bureaucracy of the Roman Empire. The Saints were seen as God's courtiers in a Heaven that was often imagined as resembling somewhat the courts of earthly rulers. In fact, it is the communion of Saints in actual practice.[9]

Saints help to find community and to break out of the isolation, anonymity, and dumbness of the modern society. The communion of Saints is the spiritual union of all Christians living and the dead, those on earth, in heaven and in Catholic belief, in purgatory. They share a single mystical body, with Christ as the head, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all. The patron Saints help to believe in the possibility of miracles and miraculous healings. Ultimately, the exemplary lives of the Saints show us how salvation can be the positive effect of suffering.[10]

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
   References Top

1.
Trüeb RM. Minoxidil for endocrine therapy-induced alopecia in women with breast cancer-saint Agatha's blessing? JAMA Dermatol 2018;154:656-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Trüeb RM. St. Agnes of Rome: Patron saint for women with hair loss? Dermatology 2009;219:97-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Kunz M, Seifert B, Trüeb RM. Seasonality of hair shedding in healthy women complaining of hair loss. Dermatology 2009;219:105-10.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Trüeb RM, Navarini AA. Beneath the nimbus – The hair of the saints. Arch Dermatol 2010;146:764.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Kossard S. Postmenopausal frontal fibrosing alopecia. Scarring alopecia in a pattern distribution. Arch Dermatol 1994;130:770-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Donovan JC, Samrao A, Ruben BS, Price VH. Eyebrow regrowth in patients with frontal fibrosing alopecia treated with intralesional triamcinolone acetonide. Br J Dermatol 2010;163:1142-4.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Trüeb RM, Rezende HD, Diaz MF. Dynamic trichoscopy. JAMA Dermatol 2018;154:877-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Gkini MA, Riaz R, Jolliffe V. A retrospective analysis of efficacy and safety of intralesional triamcinolone injections in the treatment of frontal fibrosing alopecia either as monotherapy or as a concomitant therapy. Int J Trichology 2018;10:162-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Martin J. My Life with the Saints. Chicago: Loyola Press; 2006.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Aberer E, Riedl A. Stigmatization. Theologic-dermatologic reflections. Hautarzt 2004;55:1168-71.  Back to cited text no. 10
    


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