Sunday, April 26, 2009

Feast of St. Zita: April 27th


In an age and culture that tries to minimize work, shirks duty, and shuns hardship, St. Zita is a beacon of light. Born into a very poor family in a small town in Italy in the year 1218, Zita was raised by her widowed mother to love God with all her heart. At the age of 12, selfless, modest Zita was sold as a serving girl into a wealthy family in Lucca. There, she embraced her work with a passion, uniting any hardship or suffering to the great Suffering of Christ, her Savior, and offering small, daily sacrifices in reparation for sin and as living prayers to God.

In addition to completing all her work diligently, Zita rose very early each morning to spend time in prayer and to attend daily Mass. Her piety was ridiculed; her master and mistress in particular disdained her for it. Her modesty was mocked by her fellow servants who were already jealous of her work ethic and thought her to be secretly proud of her goodness. Zita endured all this--plus extra work and frequent beatings from her masters--without complaint and with a cheerful heart, as she continued to live and work as if for God alone and not for the cruel masters she served. With perseverance and a spirit that was ever patient, sweet, and unassuming, Zita won over all those who knew her. Her fellow servants came to love her dearly, and her master and mistress valued her above all their other household staff, eventually making her their housekeeper. Incidentally, it was this favor that Zita came to fear more than the adversity she had previously faced, for she feared it would corrupt her spirit. But, God preserved her pure humility, and Zita found that she thrived in the newly loving atmosphere of her home.

St. Zita was also unfailingly generous. Even as housekeeper, she considered her fellow servants her superiors and adopted all the most undesirable tasks for herself. She fasted the whole year round, often on bread and water, and gave every material possession she earned or was gifted to the poor. As she was such an exemplary housekeeper, her master eventually gave her permission to give liberally from his own stores to the poor, and was rewarded by seeing his household thrive and his goods seem to multiply, even as they were distributed. Her master knew that God was blessing his household through this humble saint.

St. Zita had a rich prayer life. Often when in prayer or at Mass, she would dissolve in sweet tears of ecstasy as she basked in the love of her Lord. At the age of 60, she became quite ill; she predicted that her death was imminent, received her last sacraments, and died at peace. In 1580, more than 300 years after her death, St. Zita's body was found to be incorruptible, meaning that even without preservation, it had not decayed. It is enshrined even today in the church of St. Frigidian in Lucca, the very church where St. Zita attended Mass nearly every day of her righteous life. More than 150 miracles have been documented to have been wrought through her intercession. She was officially cannonized in 1696 by Pope Leo X and Pope Innocent XII.

St. Zita is the patron of domestic servants, homemakers, people ridiculed for their piety, rape victims, and single laywomen. She is a reminder to us all that a life lived simply in humility and devotion to God can be counted as a life greatly lived. St. Zita's example exhorts us all to embrace our circumstances, offer our sufferings to God without complaint, and find meaning and purpose even in the face of adversity. We see, through St. Zita, that a life lived in the Spirit can turn even the hardest of hearts and glorify God in the humblest of places.

A photograph of St. Zita's body today.

2 comments:

  1. What an amazing and inspiring story. Thank you for sharing that. I was struck by the way you said, "she embraced her work with a passion, uniting any hardship or suffering to the great Suffering of Christ." I don't think many Protestants would word it in quite that way. We may say, "suffer for the sake of Christ" or "endure suffering for God's glory." But, I really like that image of uniting one's sufferings with Christ's. Thanks for giving me lots to think about!

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  2. What a sweet story. Wish I had known about it a long time ago. Thanks for sharing.

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