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.
At age 12, Zita was sent to live with a wealthy family in nearby Lucca, hired as a domestic servant. Her mother instructed her to serve the family well, for in serving her master, she was serving the Lord. Zita cheerfully undertook her work, striving to do her best at every task. Her zeal for her work, cheerful attitude, and industriousness immediately made her the envy of the other household servants. They treated her poorly, beating her, mocking her, and shirking their own responsibilities in the knowledge that she would do the work for them. Zita worked tirelessly, never complaining to her masters or the others.
Zita worked for the same family for the next 48 years, until her death. During that time, she rose long before the rest of the household each morning, walking a distance to the local church and attending morning Mass. She would then return to the household, bake bread for the family, and set about her daily chores until she went to bed late in the evening. Despite her busy schedule, Zita found time to serve the poor, never wasting leftover household food. While her master was initially irritated by her generosity to those in need, over time, her patience and holy disposition won him over. Under her generosity and careful oversight, the household supplies multiplied!
On another occasion, during the heat of summer, a poor traveler came to the door of the kitchen asking only for a drink of water. Zita knew that due to the heat, the water from the family well was unsafe to drink without treating it first. Yet, the traveler insisted that he only take water from the well, so as not to inconvenience her. Aloud, she spoke, “I wish this water were wine,” which the traveler echoed. Upon drawing the water from the well and drinking it, he found, indeed, that the Lord had transformed the well water into wine, per Zita’s prayer.
At the end of Mass, when she turned to invite the beggar home to warm himself by the kitchen hearth, she found him gone. Afraid, and certain of the beating she was to receive, Zita trudged through the cold winter morning, finding her master at the door. As expected, he was livid, and began violently reprimanding her, when the beggar man appeared at her side, his face shining with golden light. He returned the coat, both Zita and her master realizing him to be an angel of the Lord. From that moment on, Zita’s master treated her with respect and dignity, eventually entrusting her with the keys to the manor house, and placing her in charge of its operations. The home became a center of charity and Christian love—with each charitable act to those in need, whether they be poor, criminals, the ill, only increasing the fortune of the household!
Saint Zita’s life demonstrates that faith and hard work lead to holiness and sanctity. She was often heard remarking that ‘devotion that is slothful is false.’ Through her obedience and charity, patience and hard work, Zita brought honor and grace to the household in which she worked, surrounding all those she came into contact with a heavenly grace and light. We look to Saint Zita as a reminder—as an inspiration—to toil tirelessly in the vineyard of the Lord. For Zita, and indeed for our God, no work is too menial, too unimportant, or too trivial if undertaken with a heart of service, a love of neighbor, and a mind centered on God.