Saint Zita of
Feastday: April 27
Saint Zita (c. 1212 – 27 April 1272;
also known as Sitha or Citha) is an Italian saint, the patron saint of maids and
domestic servants. She is often appealed to in order to help find lost keys.
Saint Zita was born in Tuscany in the
village of Monsagrati, not far from Lucca where, at the age of 12, she became a
servant in the Fatinelli household. For a long time, she was unjustly despised,
overburdened, reviled, and often beaten by her employers and fellow servants for
her hard work and obvious goodness. The incessant ill-usage, however, was
powerless to deprive her of her inward peace, her love of those who wronged her,
and her respect for her employers. By this meek and humble self-restraint, Zita
at last succeeded in overcoming the malice of her fellow-servants and her
employers, so much so that she was placed in charge of all the affairs of the
house. Her faith had enabled her to persevere against their abuse, and her
constant piety gradually moved the family to a religious awakening.
Zita often said to others that devotion is
false if slothful. She considered her work as an employment assigned to her by
God, and as part of her penance, and obeyed her master and mistress in all
things as being placed over her by God. She always rose several hours before the
rest of the family and employed in prayer a considerable part of the time which
others gave to sleep. She took care to hear mass every morning with great
devotion before she was called upon by the duties of her station, in which she
employed the whole day, with such diligence and fidelity that she seemed to be
carried to them on wings, and studied when possible to anticipate them.
One anecdote relates a story of Zita
giving her own food or that of her master to the poor. On one morning, Zita left
her chore of baking bread to tend to someone in need. Some of the other servants
ensured the Fatinelli family was aware of what happened; when they went to
investigate, they claimed to have found angels in the Fatinelli kitchen, baking
the bread for her.
Death and canonization
Saint Betina Zita died peacefully in the
Fatinelli house on April 27, 1272. It is said that a star appeared above the
attic where she slept at the moment of her death. She was 60 years old, and had
served and edified the family for 48 years. By her death, she was practically
venerated by the family. After one hundred and fifty miracles wrought in the
behalf of such as had recourse to her intercession were juridically proven, she
was canonized in 1696.
Her body was exhumed in 1580, discovered
to be incorrupt, but has since become mummified. St. Zita's body is currently on
display for public veneration in the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca.
Her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church
is April 27. To this day, families bake a loaf of bread in celebration of St.
Zita's feast day.
Soon after Zita's death a popular cult
grew up around her, centring on the church of St Frigidian in Lucca. This was
also joined by prominent members of the city. Pope Leo X sanctioned a liturgical
cult within the church in the early 16th century, and was confirmed upon her
canonization. In 1748, Pope Benedict XIV added her name to the Roman Martyrology.
During the late medieval era, her popular
cult had grown throughout Europe. In England she was known under the name Sitha,
and was popularly invoked by maidservants and housewives, particularly in event
of having lost one's keys, or when crossing rivers or bridges. Images of St.
Zita may be seen in churches across the south of England. The church of St Benet
Sherehog in London had a chapel dedicated to her, and was locally known as St.
Sithes. However, despite her popularity at this time, the cult was not an
The body of Saint Zita, found to be
incorrupt by the Catholic Church
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