St Zita

Virgin (entered heaven on this day, 1272)

Dear Zoë,

Congratulations on finishing a fine sophomore year.  From my perspective it seems you took full advantage of your opportunities.  I think you should be satisfied.  You have gone up a notch in your emotional maturity, your intellectual perspicacity, and your spiritual strength.  If you apply the same balanced diligence to your summer duties, the next four months will help you go up another notch, preparing you even more for whatever mission God has in store for you.  Since summer jobs can get tedious, though, I thought I would write to you today, because today’s saint has the remedy for tediousness.

Zita grew up near Lucca, a beautiful medieval town in north-central Italy.  Her mother taught her the one lesson necessary for setting out on the road to sanctity: one ought to always do whatever will please God in the way that will please him most, and avoid whatever will displease him.  As a girl Zita was employed as a live-in servant to one of the important Luccan families, in a house located right next to the church.  She would spend the rest of her life serving that same family, living in that same house.  She moved up from maid-servant to housekeeper, and then from housekeeper to governess.  But the climb wasn’t easy.

In the first place, her fellow-servants mocked her.  They laughed at her piety and her dedication to duty, accusing her of affectation and pride.  They wrongly inferred that because she was modest she was stupid.  In the second place, a strange stroke of Providence made both the master and the mistress of the house ill-disposed towards her.  The former would fly into violent rages merely upon seeing her; the latter would run her ragged without showing any touch of kindness.  But Zita took advantage of these adversities.  She would rise early to seek God in prayer and go to Mass, begging him to give her strength to be like Him.  And she responded to the abuse by continuing to work hard, responsibly, and humbly, glad to be treated as Christ had been treated.

This quiet display of virtue soon won over the hearts of her persecutors, as did her tireless generosity towards the poor – about which many miracles were reported. (During a famine, for example, she gave away the family’s bean supply, but when the master went to take stock, it had been miraculously replenished – she was quite relieved.)  Even as her fame for holiness spread beyond the confines of the household, she kept up her rigorous prayer life and good habits of hard work and self-sacrifice, and so she was able to avoid the pitfalls of vanity and self-satisfaction.

After she died, 150 miracles were juridically recognized as having occurred through her intercession.  Three hundred years later her body was exhumed and moved to a chapel in the little church where she used to go to Mass – the body was completely incorrupt.  You can still visit it today in the chapel dedicated to her in Lucca.

By now you have probably guessed St Zita’s remedy for tediousness: see God’s will in all the duties you have to perform – when you’re doing it for him, even tediousness becomes an embrace of love.  Write back soon.

Your faithful uncle,


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