St. Zita, the patron saint of domestic workers, reminds me of so many of our hermanas in the Renovación who work quietly at humble service jobs, are devoted to the Church and to prayer, and are always generous to others even when they are barely making ends meet themselves. And by the way, Padre Hoyos, St. Zita is also the patron of lost keys -- something to remember next time that tabernacle key goes missing!
St. Zita was born into a poor Catholic family in the village of Monte Sagrati in the Tuscany region of Italy in 1218. Her older sister was a Cistercian nun and one of her uncles was a holy hermit whom locals regarded as a saint. As a child, St. Zita received basic religious instruction from her mother who simply classified her actions as pleasing or displeasing to God. The child quickly picked up the path of Divine will and followed it until her death.
At age 12, St. Zita went to work as a servant in the home of the Fatinelli family who were wealthy wool dealers in nearby Lucca. She was a hard worker because she believed that work was given to her by God to make her holy. The other servants were jealous of St. Zita and frequently spoke abusively to her. The saint, however, never returned their ill treatment and would even plead for mercy for her co-workers when they would make mistakes.
St. Zita was very devout, rising early to have time for prayer and daily Mass before needing to attend to her chores. She engaged in ecstatic prayer and eventually achieved that state sought after by mystics of "being in almost continual mental prayer...her soul constantly attentive to the Divine presence."
As St. Zita got more established in the Fatinelli household, her employers allowed her to set her own schedule and she used her free time to visit the sick and those in prison. One story about St. Zita tells of the saint leaving her baking chores to tend to someone in need. Some of her fellow servants told on her and when her employers went to the kitchen to investigate, they found an angel baking bread in St. Zita's stead.
St. Zita's generosity was also legendary. Having almost nothing herself, she gave away her food and clothing (and occasionally those of her employers) to help the needy. She remained in the Fatinelli household until her death on April 27th, 1272, becoming a trusted counselor to the family and eventually was put in charge of her fellow servants.
A star is said to have appeared above the attic where St. Zita slept at the moment of her death and the people proclaimed her a saint almost immediately. One hundred and fifty miracles and many, many years later she was officially canonized by Pope Innocent XII in 1696.
St. Zita's uncorrupted body was found in 1580 and she is enshrined in the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca where her face and hands are exposed to view through a crystal glass. Many families still honor St. Zita by baking a loaf of bread on her feast day.
ST. ZITA'S BREAD
- 1-1/2 cups boiling water
- 6 Tablespoons soft shortening
- 1-1/2 cup honey
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water (105-115°)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup wheat germ
- 5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Combine boiling water, shortening, honey, and salt; stir until shortening melts. Cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add yeast, eggs, wheat germ, and half the flour to lukewarm mixture. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed with electric mixer or 300 vigorous strokes with a spoon. Blend in remaining flour with a spoon. Dough will be sticky. Spread dough evenly in 2 well-greased loaf pans, 9 x 5 x 3 inches. Smooth tops by flouring hand and patting into shape. Let rise in warm place until 1 inch from top of pans. Bake at 375° for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Crust will be dark brown. Remove from pans at once; brush tops with melted butter or margarine; cool on racks before cutting. Makes 2 loaves.
Recipe Source: The Cook's Blessings, by Demetria Taylor, Random House, New York, 1965