Zita was born at the village of Monte Sagrati in 1218, her parents were poor, devout Christians; Her older sister became a Cistercian nun and her uncle Graziano was a hermit whom the local people regarded as a saint. Zita herself always tried to do God’s will obediently whenever it was pointed out to her by her mother.
When she was twelve years old, Zita went to Lucca, eight miles from her home, to be a servant girl of the Fatinelli family which carried on a prosperous wool and silk weaving business; and as things turned out, she stayed with that family for the last forty-eight years of her life. She found time every day to attend Mass and to recite many prayers, as well as to carry out her household duties so perfectly that the other servants were jealous of her. Indeed, her work was part of her religion! Her daily work became a part of her religious life. She was famous to say:
“A servant girl is not pious, if she is not industrious; work shy piety is sham piety.”
At the same time she led a very prayerful and penitential life. She rose nightly for prayer; and daily she attended the first Mass in the adjacent church of San Frediano. The good food she received for herself, she gave to the poor, and lived on waste scraps or fasted. She wore only the poorest clothes and never put on shoes, even in winter.
For some years she had much to bear from her fellow servants, who despised her way of life and insulted her repeatedly. Though she performed her work faithfully, her employers too were prejudiced against her for a time and treated her as a common drudge. But in the spirit of the suffering Christ, she bore these trials without complaint and never lost her temper or peace of mind.
During the time there was a local famine St Zita gave away beans to the poor and hungry from her master’s supply of provisions. Not knowning what she was about, the master decided one day that the time had come to sell the beans for a great profit. Fearful of her master’s anger, St Zita prayed to God for help. Then the master checked, finding that the supply of beans had not diminished. It could only have been a miracle of multiplication.
By her patience she gradually overcame all opposition, and became the friend and advisor of the whole household, including the servants. Her master and mistress, realizing at last what a treasure they possessed in Zita, made her chief house-keeper and the children’s nurse. She fulfilled her duties so well that everyone fared so much better as a result.
Word spread rapidly in Lucca of her good deeds and the heavenly visions that appeared to her. She was sought out by the important people . Absorbed in prayer, her eyes turned heavenward, and her hands crossed on her breast, the Saint died peacefully in the Fatinelli house on April 27, 1278, at the age of sixty. At the time, a brilliant star shone above the attic where she slept at the moment of her death. She was 60 years old.
By her death, she was practically venerated by the family. After one hundred and fifty miracles wrought in the behalf of such as had recourse to her intercession were juridically proven, she had been honored as a saint for four centuries, Pope Innocent XII formally approved this cult in 1696. She is the patroness of domestic workers.
Her body was exhumed in 1580, and found to be miraculously incorrupt, but has since become mummified. St. Zita’s body is currently on display for public veneration in the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca.