Amongst all the religious imagery Lady Henry Somerset had in The Cottage, her home in the Duxhurst village, was a small figure of St Rita – very appropriately the Patron Saint of Impossible Causes.
Did Lady Henry feel a strong affinity with St Rita because her work with inebriate women was often criticised for trying to do the impossible? Many people said that habitual drunkards could not be cured. Lady Henry’s own cousin, Rev E F Russell, initially shared her views but after seeing for himself the work done at Duxhurst, he changed his mind.
So who was St Rita? She was born in 1381 in Umbria, Italy. She was devout from an early age and expressed a wish to become a nun but her parents married her, age 12, to a rich local man, Paulo Mancini. Sadly this man abused and insulted her but she stuck with him, showing humility and kindness, and apparently he became a reformed man, but this did not stop his enemies stabbling him to death.
The couple had 2 sons who, as they grew up, vowed to avenge their father’s death. Rita prayed, concerned such action would damn their souls. The sons did not exact “an eye for an eye” but tragically both died soon after from natural causes.
Following their deaths, Rita entered a nunnery. She prayed to share God’s suffering and was said to have had a thorn from the crucifix embedded in her forehead, causing her great pain. She was canonized in 1900 by Pope Leo XIII.
As well as being saint for lost or impossible causes, people pray to St Rita regarding marital problems, motherhood and abuse.
You can understand why St Rita meant so much to Lady Henry Somerset. They shared many values and many struggles.