Today is the feast of Saint Zita. She lived in Italy in the 13th century. She served as a maid in the household of the same family for forty-eight years, from the age of twelve until her death.
The traditional celebration for Saint Zita’s Day is to bake a loaf of bread. This would be a great day to bake a loaf of bread (or even to buy a very good loaf of bread) and share it with someone who would be blessed by your gift and who is not easily able to return kindnesses to you.
The Saint Zita stories have had centuries to stretch and spin, as such stories will. I’m drawn to Fr. Richard McBrien’s simpler description: “Her fellow servants and the Fatinelli family resented her devotional life, but she eventually won them over by her goodness and constancy. She was generous to the poor and kind to the sick and to prisoners.”
She eventually won them over by her goodness and constancy. Eventually. Nearer the fortieth year than the first, to be sure. Eventually. Hearts began to turn. Hearts began turning toward Zita, but kept on turning until they were turned toward God.
I’ve written “constancy” on a little card today to remind myself that some holy work takes all the time we have. To remind myself to keep at it! To remember a saint who didn’t decide, “I’ve scrubbed and cooked and I’ve been a good lady and I’ve been generous even as a maid and kind to ones who could not return kindness and I’ve done it all for a whole year [two years…five years…ten years…] and it hasn’t made one bit of difference! I’m giving up! I’ve had it with those Fatinellis! I’m not getting any younger!”
Saint Zita is known as the patron saint of servants. Beloved, we are all servants. We follow Jesus as servants. We do the work of Jesus as servants.
The One Who Sends Us absolutely uses our goodness, our generosity, our kindness to win and to welcome precious ones yearning for a holy welcome.
While working on this writing, a fragment of prayer buzzed around in my head: “servant church of the servant Christ.” I remembered praying those words many times in worship. The image stuck, even though I couldn’t remember the rest of the prayer. I found it again. In our UCC Book of Worship, one of the prayers offered for thanksgiving following Holy Communion ends with these words:
By the power of your Holy Spirit, keep us faithful to your will. Go with us to the streets, to our homes, and to our places of labor and leisure that whether we are gathered or scattered, we may be the servant church of the servant Christ, in whose name we rejoice to pray. Amen.
Amen! May it be so for us.
Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister for Eastern Iowa