St. Zita of Lucca, patron saint of housekeepers
April 27 is the feast of St. Zita of Lucca (1212-72), the patron saint of housekeepers, domestic servants, and waitresses. She is also invoked to help find lost keys.
She was born in Tuscany, Italy in the village of Monsagrati. Zita came from a poor, but deeply pious family. To help support the family, she became a maid of a wealthy family, Fatinelli, in the nearby Tuscan city of Lucca, serving them loyally for 48 years.
A member of the Third Order of St. Francis, Zita considered her work as an employment assigned to her by God 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 spent time in prayer while they slept. She started each day with Holy Mass before she began performing her duties.
She visited the sick and those in prison, giving them hope and spreading the gospel message. She was well – known for all her works of charity and her sweet, joyful disposition.
Zita had a great love for the poor and donated her own food or that of her master to the poor. At first, her employers were upset by her generous gifts of food to the poor, but in time, they were completely won over by her patience and goodness.
On one morning, Zita left her chore of baking bread to tend to someone in need. Some of the other servants made sure 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.
On another occasion, Zita had given away the family’s supply of beans to the townsfolk during a severe famine. Upon suspecting this, the Fatinelli family went to the cupboard to find it full – the beans hand been miraculously replaced.
Another recorded event was just as dramatic, if not more so. On Christmas Eve, Zita had given away a prized and treasured family cloak to a shivering man at the doorway of St. Fredaino, the local church. While the elder Fatinelli was in the midst of a fit of fury, an elderly man came to the door and returned the heirloom. When townsfolk heard of the event, they decided that the man must have been an angel. From that point on, the doorway of the St. Fredaino church in Lucca has been called the “Angel Portal”.
With the passage of the years Zita’s fellow servants and the Fatinellis came to realize that she was a genuine saint. The family made her mistress of the household and eventually governess of the Fatinelli children.
St. Zita died peacefully in the Fatinelli house on April 27, 1272 at the age of 60. It is said that a star appeared above the attic where she slept at the moment of her death. Zita was canonized in 1696.
In 1580, Zita’s body was found incorrupt. It is kept enshrined in St. Frediano’s Church in Lucca, Italy, near the Fatinelli house where she worked. Pope Leo X granted an office in her honor, and the city of Lucca pays special tribute and veneration to her memory on her feast day.