27 Apr Saint Zita, Virgin
Today is the feast day of Saint Zita. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Zita was born to a poor working family in a village in Tuscany, Monsagrati. She was raised by her pious and hard-working parents, and taught to realize that there were more important things than gold or money—Christian virtues of love, kindness, and compassion towards others. Despite hard work, the family often went hungry, too poor to buy enough food, and suffering terribly during the cold of winter.
Her mother raised her in the love and fear of the Lord. Her older sister became a Cistercian nun and her uncle Graziano was a hermit whom the local people regarded as a saint. At an early age, Zita went to work as a domestic servant for a rich family called Fatinelli in Lucca. Each morning she would awaken early and pray before attending Mass.
Because she worked so hard, Zita’s fellow servants thought she was trying to shame them. They became very jealous of her and were mean to her at every opportunity. But they soon found that Zita was not mean-spirited as they were, but a genuine saint. The Fatinelli family put her in charge of the household and made her the governess of their children.
Once Zita, absorbed in prayer, remained in church past the usual hour of her bread-making. She hastened home, reproaching herself with neglect of duty, but found the bread made and ready for the oven. She did not doubt that her mistress or one of her servants had kneaded it, and going to them, thanked them. They were astonished, for no human being had made the bread; Angels had made it during her prayer.
Another story tells of Signor Fatinelli finding Zita heading off to Mass on a cold Christmas morning without a coat. He gave her his own fur mantle and wrapped it around her as she went out, but said, “Remember, I want that back.” At Mass Zita met a poor beggar and giving him the mantle said, “This will keep you warm for now.” After Mass she went to get the mantle, but the beggar had gone. One can imagine Signor Fatinelli’s rage when Zita returned home from Mass to explain why she had no mantle. But the day after Christmas, a stranger came to the Fatinelli’s door with the fine fur mantle, good as new. Neighbours recognised that this was no ordinary beggar, but an angel come to test the compassion of the local Christians. The door where Zita gave the mantle to the beggar is still to this day called the Angel Door.
Zita died on the 27th April in the year 1272, aged sixty. At the moment of her death, a bright star appeared in the sky above the home, where it remained. Her funeral drew all the townspeople, who proclaimed that a saint had lived among them, and strained to kiss her hand or touch her garment sleeves.
She had served the Fatinelli family for forty-eight years. A judicial process has approved one hundred and fifty miracles that were wrought in behalf of those who had recourse to her intercession.
In 1580 Zita’s body was found, whole and entire, and it is kept with great respect richly enshrined in St. Frediano’s Church in Lucca, Italy, next to the Fatinelli house where she worked. Her face and hands, uncovered, can be viewed through the crystal glass. Pope Leo X granted an office in her honour, and the city of Lucca pays special veneration to her memory.
Saint Zita is the patron of Servants and Those Who Lose Their Keys.
Image: Miracle of St Zita, artist: Bernardo Strozzi, circa: 17th century (7)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff