April 27: St Zita

Today (April 27) is the memorial of St Zita (sometimes Sitha; +AD 1272) a domestic worker in Lucca, Italy whose heroic piety and miraculous intercession after death made her a popular saint in the area until her cult spread. She is one of the “incorruptibles” a saint whose body has known little or no decay. You can learn more about this saint and her incorruptible body here:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/incorruptible-st-zita

She was a domestic servant for the Fatinelli family from the age of 12. Her devotion and faithfulness were the cause of much misunderstanding and criticism of the family, but eventually her genuine piety and gentleness in the face of rebuke won them over, and it was from the Fatinelli family that the earliest manuscript of a life of Zita was procured aiding toward her canonization.

Probably the most popular story of St Zita involves her becoming distracted by her duty to bake the household bread due to a state of ecstasy following communion or an unexpected call to meet the needs of the poor. In the ecstasy version, she is dutifully sorrowful and intends to make a full apology and amends, but on returning she finds bread already baking. Assuming one of the other servants or the mistress of the house having starting the baking she went to give thanks, only to find that no one knew how the bread came to be baking, but when it was withdrawn emitted a most heavenly odor that the household assumed angels had done the baking in her stead.

Kitchen angels by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

In the serving the poor version of the story, members of the household on hearing Zita had left her duties go to the kitchen to confirm her absence and dereliction of duty, only to find the angels doing the baking for her! According to the article above, to this day it is still traditional to bake bread in Lucca in honor of her feast day.

She died at age 60, and her death was marked by the miraculous appearance of a star above the attic where she slept. Veneration and miracles were associated with her soon after and her local cult grew rapidly, but her canonization by the Church did not occur until the 17th century. She is not celebrated on the universal calendar, but she is included in the Roman Martyrology (1961).

She is invoked as the patron of housewives, maids, and domestic servants. She is a rival of St Anthony’s for when keys are lost (see her image below), but also invoked when in danger from rivers or crossing bridges.

COLLECT (from the Common of Virgins, One Virgin I)

Hear us, God our Savior,
that, as we rejoice in commemorating the Virgin blessed Zita.,
we may be instructed by her loving devotion.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Published by Asheville CCM

A ministry of the Diocese of Charlotte, serving the Catholic communities at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College, Mars Hill University, Warren Wilson College, and UNC-Asheville.