Saint Zita

Zita is sometimes also called Sitha or Citha is an Italian saint.  She is often confused with St. Osyth or Ositha an important EnglishSaint with a town named after her.

Zita became a maid when she was twelve.  She served the same family for nearly 50 years.  She became a trusted and valued servant. She spent her days doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Zita was known for her kindness and generosity to the poor.  She was born in Tuscany in 1212.  Her uncle, Graziano, was a hermit who dwelt on a neighboring mountain where he had built a church and a shelter for travelers. Her oldest sister became a Cistercian nun.

When she was twelve, she became a servant in the household of the Fatinellis, a well-to-do family of silk merchants. Signora Fatinelli allowed Zita to attend school for a year and then put her to be trained under an older maid. Seeing how fond everyone was of Zita, the older maid was jealous and told everyone she was negligent and lazy. Zita never attempted to defend herself. The other servants thought her piety was to get attention.  

She was meek and humble.  She practiced self-restraint.  It was noticed by her other servants.  They had no reason for their anger.  She gave one-third of her wages to her parents, kept a third, and gave the rest to the poor. The mistress of the house placed Zita in charge of the household charitable giving and allowed her to visit the sick poor in their own homes and tend to their needs. A small room away from the rest of the house was made available to Zita.  She would go out in the evenings and invite some poor homeless woman to supper. The room had a bed and was offered as a safe shelter for the night.

Zita always rose several hours before the rest of the family so she could hear Mass. every morning before she began work. She worked diligently, and with diligence and fidelity,  She learned what needed to be done and tried to make sure it was done before it was needed. . It was Signora Fatinelli’s dying wish that Zita is placed in charge of the household. Zita continued to serve the Fatinellis after the death of Guglielmo Fatinelli in 1260 when his son Pagano became the head of the family.

There is a story about Zita carrying bread in her cloak to bring to the poor. Jealous servants reported this to the master, who confronted Zita. When she opened the cloak it was full of flowers.  This same story is told of Elizabeth of Hungary.  Another story is of Zita giving away her own food during a famine, and then that of her master. When he grew angry with her for depleting the family’s own resources, they found the pantry fully stocked. Another morning, Zita left her chore of baking bread either to tend to someone in need or was deep in prayer in her room. She returned to find in the kneading the loaves all ready set and prepared, or already baked. Neither the servants nor the mistress knew who made the bread, it was commonly attributed to angels. Another time, Zita was returning from distributing alms when she encountered a beggar. Having nothing left to give him, she went with him to the village well to draw him a cool drink. She let a copper jug down into the well, and holding it out to him, made the sign of the cross over the water, praying that this drink might be blessed to the poor beggar. As he drank, he found that the water had turned into wine.

Zita died peacefully in the Fatinelli house on April 27, 1272. A star appeared above the attic where she slept at the moment of her death. She was 60 years old and had served the family for 48 years. By the time of her death, she had become practically venerated by the family. After 150 miracles had been attributed to Zita’s intercession and recognized by the church, she was canonized in 1696.

Her body was exhumed in 1580, and discovered to be incorrupt. Saint Zita’s body is currently on display for public veneration in the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca.

Zita is the patron saint of domestic workers, housekeepers, waitresses, and household chores. Her feast day is April 27. To this day, families bake a loaf of bread in celebration of Saint Zita’s feast day.