Rita vs. Zita

Sometimes saints get paired against one another simply because their names rhyme and we like the sound of them together. Like Rita and Zita. These two saints also have this in common: they were both faithful Italian women who lived out their lives in the Middle Ages. Also, their names both rhyme with pita.

Yesterday, Ambrose of Milan flew past William Byrd 65% to 35% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen.

And, by the way, if you watched Jeopardy! last night, you may have noticed that one of the contestants was Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger David Sibley. Congrats to David on a big win in the Tournament of Champions! We're all very proud of you. And hope you get some saint questions in the next round.

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St. Rita was born Margherita Lotti in Cascia, Italy in 1381. She was born to pious parents and at a young age wanted to join a convent and become a nun. When she was 12 years old, her parents forced her to marry.

Her husband was abusive and violent. She bore two boys and, in spite of awful conditions at home, she was an exemplary wife and mother.

Her husband was not only violent at home but also with others. He was involved in a long running feud with another family. Ultimately he was stabbed and killed by a rival. At his funeral, Rita publicly pardoned his murderers.

After his death, her sons wanted revenge and were encouraged by her husband’s brother to continue to feud. In addition to praying for peace, Rita also worked hard to teach her boys the way of forgiveness and peace. They continued the feud for about a year when they both died of dysentery. Some saw their death as an answer to her prayers.

After the death of her husband and boys, Rita wanted to finally join the convent. Her request was refused, as they were worried that she was not a virgin. They were also troubled by the long-standing feud her husband had engaged in and his subsequent violent death.

Ultimately bubonic plague struck the family enemy and caused him to relinquish the feud he had with her family. The conflict was resolved and at age 36 Rita was given permission to join the monastery.

She lived her last years with great austerity and engaged in self-mortification. When Rita was about 60, she was meditating on the crucifixion and developed a bleeding wound on her forehead. She is often depicted in art with a thorn and this partial stigmata.

Rita died of tuberculosis in 1457. Pope Leo XIII canonized her as the Patroness of Impossible Causes. She is more popularly known as the patron saint of abused wives and heartbroken women. Her feast day is May 22.

Collect for Rita

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Rita, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

David Creech


Today I whispered a prayer to St. Zita as I struggled to find my keys. Had Steve Jobs been a Catholic, he might have named the AirTag the Zita, as she is the patron saint of lost keys.

Born around 1212 in Tuscany, Italy, Zita not only keeps watch over missing keys, but she also serves as the patron saint of household chores, housekeepers, waitresses, domestic servants, and maids, and also the town of Lucca, Italy. Placed into servitude at a young age, Zita was a kind, compassionate, and dedicated individual despite a miserable life of beatings and abuse. She is known as the “incorruptible” as no matter how hard her fellow servants tried to discredit her, she would turn the other cheek and seek kindness first. She is also known as “incorruptible” as her body was found to be fully intact following exhumation.

Zita practiced the sacrament of giving. She is known for giving a third of her wages to her family, saving a third  for herself, and giving the remaining third  to the poor. These stories of giving surround Zita. Including one story where it is said she took bread from the castle to give to the poor. She was betrayed by jealous servants, and upon inspection, she was found to be carrying flowers. Another story reports her giving away the castle’s pantry stores to beggars, and yet on inspection, the pantry was full. An additional tale describes her baking bread and then freely giving the bread to the hungry. Zita’s story is one of giving. Giving food, giving alms, giving time, and giving grace. Something we can all serve to emulate.

Zita died April 27, 1272. Upon her death, it is said that the bells in Lucca rang spontaneously as Zita passed to heaven.  Over 150 miracles are attributed to the work of Zita. In 1580, Zita was exhumed, and her body was found to be incorrupt. She was later canonized in 1696 and her body is on display at  in Lucca, Italy.

The Episcopal Church recognized Zita as a saint in 2020 with a feast day of April 27. In Lucca, the town amasses flowers and bread to recognize her life. We can best celebrate her life by living our own in service to others.

Collect for Zita

Merciful God, who has given to us all things necessary for life and godliness; Grant that we, like your servant Zita, may be faithful in the exercise of our duties and that, whatever you give us to do, we may do it heartily to you for the honor and glory of your Name; through him who has called us to virtue, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen. (LFF 2022)

Anna Courie

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86 comments on “Rita vs. Zita”

  1. There's no saint as patient as Rita
    Who faithfully suffered incognita
    Though an unwilling bride
    God answered her cries
    You can't tell me that she's better than Zita

  2. In the footsteps of John, the poet-leader:

    Incorrupt in body and spirit,
    She turned the other cheek and did not fear it.
    Zita will find your keys-
    Just pray and say please,
    And since exhumed, she will likely hear it.

  3. I went with Rita. My Mom was named Rita, she was her parents' only child. Her Dad did a novena at St Rita of Cascia shrine in South Philly and prayed for a baby. When the baby came along, they named her Rita.

  4. When my chores list is lengthy, St. Zita
    Works by me as I make the house nita
    And she pours out my wine
    When I go out to dine:
    I’d be sad to see anyone bita.

  5. Hard choice to make.Finally went with Rita as the account of her life sounded more realistic- no legendary miracles. And her family feuding situation brought to mind Romeo and Juliet and how their families' feuds brought suffering and tragedy.

  6. This was the hardest yet for me to choose, as both women are laudable. I chose Rita for abused women, who desperately need a patron saint.

    1. Congratulations to David Sibley! Just as the camera panned to him, the TV screen displayed a weather alert. Thanks to Kate, I now know he won!

  7. As a formerly abused wife named Rita, this was an easy choice. I hope St Rita becomes better known as patron for abused women. I’m sorry I can’t vote for both candidates though because Zika was certainly a giver and server!

  8. I like both Rita and Zita. Part of me is in Rita’s arena and another part of me is in Zita’s arena. Physical abuse is difficult to understand. I truly believe that behavior is shaped between ages one to five. It is difficult to know exactly what happened to an adult between ages one to five. Mental illness is deep within and is very challenging to dig deep and find the source of one’s pain I am thrilled and grateful that our savior found paths for Rita in order for her to be protected.

    Zita, she sounds like an angel. Her kindness and gentleness resonated with me. I feel as though she was following The Way. For that reason I must vote for her and keep Rita close to my heart….

    Physical and emotional abuse creates scars that never leave. That may be the good news in order to break that cycle.

  9. Both are worthy women. It's a shame that after years of abuse by her husband, Rita felt driven to continue the abuse with self-mortification. I cast my vote for Zita, who took that abuse and transformed it into loving and giving for others who suffered.

  10. While the cause of abused women is dear to me, self-mortification is a no-go. Zita is wonderful role model for all of us. Zita for the win!

  11. I am from the Eastern tradition and not aware of any saint in Orthodoxy that had stigmata. Anyone know more about Saints with stigmata in the East??
    Anyone know if Though the saints are self sacrificing, I appreciated Zita as a more modern model of putting herself in the equation and saving 1/3 for her needs.

  12. Incorrupt in body and spirit
    She turned the other cheek and did not fear it
    Zita will find your keys
    Just ask and say please
    And since exhumed, she will likely hear it

  13. Both women of service! Yes, women who are victims of domestic violence and abuse need St.Rita!
    And!! We all need a St. Zita!

  14. So much ick factor today -- abuse and self-mortification and incorrupt corpses being dug up, oh my! I went with Zita for her generous spirit and practices, but I wish I could have submitted a write-in vote for our own Episcopal patron saint of game shows, David Sibley! Was glad to catch his Final Jeaopardy win online after a busy day.

  15. I'm now imagining St. Anthony jotting a prayer on a yellow sticky and handing it off to St. Zita. "This one's for you--she's looking for her car keys."

  16. I have a problem with self-mortification practiced by Rita (and others); I can't agree that God finds that acceptable. Zita it is. So far, most people agree with my choice.

  17. My my the power of the prayers of the brokenhearted! Those who would not relent in Rita's case ended up with dysentery and the plague. Don't let post-death-pretty and the smell of homemade bread for the poor overlook the faithfulness of Rita despite all-around betrayals. My broken heart goes for Rita....now where are my keys...?

  18. Hard to chose between these two women who despite having no power to change their lives, persevered in doing the Lords work

  19. In the past year I lost my keys twice. I prayed to St. Anthony and eventually found them. Now I know I have another Saint to pray to if I lose them again. However, after the second time, I did buy an Air Tag. I hope Zita beata Rita.

  20. Ziti, Zita - sounds like pita
    You gave bread
    The poor you fed
    Working hard and honest
    She gave 1/3 her wages to the poor
    People were angry and asked what for
    For God, the one she Loved.

  21. As someone who frequently loses keys and whose husband’s family is from Lucca, I have to go with Zita.