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. We all need bread and roses. My vote goes to Zita.
    For the first time I had trouble voting. If I have inadvertently cast three votes - the first two didn't appear to register as I wasn't asked to prove I'm not a robot - I appeal to the mercy of the SEC.

  2. I had a hard time voting for either of these women, who were wretched and abused. Their stories remind me too much of the highly popular medieval story "patient Griselda," immortalized in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The misogynist binary non-choice of "virgin" or "beaten, long-suffering household wife-servant" should be tossed onto the middens heap of history. Yet these saints' stories keep that depiction of women alive and validate it. That is something that troubles me about preserving outdated hagiography. The only way I can reconcile myself to some of these stories is to remind myself that they point to some sort of hope, that even in the deepest and most abject immiseration, one can find a shred of human dignity in dedicating one's suffering to service and care for others.

  3. Another difficult choice! I voted for Rita, because abused women need a special heroine. (I am sorry she did the self-mortification, though. Maybe a therapist could have helped.)

    Zita challenged me, though, regarding how I steward my money.

  4. Zita was known as Sytha in late medieval York. I found her while studying the 1500-1550 churchwarden's accounts of the parish church of St. Michael's, Spurriergate, as an MA student at the Centre for Medieval Studies. Sytha's altar in the church was the one most donated to over that period. York was the second city in the realm at the time and St. Michael's was in a prosperous part of town; I thought perhaps all those housekeepers with keys had reason to pray to Sytha. I'm glad she's getting greater recognition!

  5. I had to vote today for Zita. What a wonderful example of giving and grace. These lessons open us to the lives of people who changed their lives and ours. Also, each was not perfect, like each of us.
    As a Jeopardy-geek (have been watching since Art Fleming was the moderator) I was excited to see David Sibley win last night!!! His knowledge and sense of humor really shined through!! Keep winning and know that we are praying for you!!!

  6. I really liked Zita but felt that poor Rita had such a lousy life that she deserved this honor. Somehow I feel that being the patron saint of abused women is a bit more important than looking after lost keys.

  7. The truth is that both of these saints are so needed by the many women who are abused around the world. I will be sending this Lent Madness article to women who I know need to hear of these saints. They are not alone in heaven or Earth.

  8. Congrats to David Sibley as well. He did a terrific job, and I hope he goes all the way in the tournament. Not only is he an Episcopal priest who blogs on Lent Madness, but his parish is in Walla Walla, Washington, where I went to college!

  9. I see I'm in the minority, but I voted for the patron of lost causes. And in honor of all self-flagelating women. Not to emulate that practice, but to understand and forgive it-- choosing to receive hurt rather than to give it is still surely a good choice. My friends will be surprised that I am not voting for the one who can help find those lost keys, but I'm waiting to meet the saint who can find lost reading glasses. And I was delighted to see our brother and inspirer David Sibley win on Jeopardy last night! Go for it, David+!

  10. Being a HUGE Harry Potter fan, when I glanced @ the names of today’s saintly smackdown, I automatically thought of “Rita Skeeter.” Despite my displeasure of the character Ms Skeeter, I got past my initial reaction & whole heartedly voted for Zita.
    P.S. congratulations to my fellow colleague, Fr David Sibley, for his outstanding performance & knowledge of trivia in Jeopardy!

  11. I have been getting the Lent Madness emails without fail for years. Today, nothing. (I checked spam. Nothing.) Should I try to sign up again or will it look like I am trying to double vote? Thanks, Supreme Leaders.

    1. Getting the emails doesn’t equal voting. The only way to vote is to do so on the website. I have never signed up for the emails (I have enough unread emails to last me well into eternity) but just go to LentMadness.org (which I have bookmarked) to vote.

      You should be fine to re-subscribe to the emails.

  12. A tough choice, but I eventually went with Zita as I have a great-grandparent born in Lucca and I am constantly losing my keys.

  13. Voting for Zita in part for her generosity, but also because I fell in love with her town of Lucca when my late wife and I visited it during our honeymoon in Tuscany in 2006.

    I remember going into a church that was nothing special artistically compared to what we'd seen in Florence and elsewhere. But it was clearly the home of a living congregation, not a museum. On one of the side altars was displayed a collection of flowers made of colored construction paper with children’s handwriting on them. We recognized it instantly as a Sunday School craft project -- something the parish’s kids had done to make more real to them some aspect of Christian faith.

    And it was not hard to discern what that was. The flowers themselves were a bit of a give away – blossoms of the new life that come during the spring which happens to be when the Church celebrates Jesus’ Resurrection. The confirmation came in one of the lines we read on the display which even our limited Italian could roughly translate: "Dopo la morta la vita torna a fiorire." "After the season of death, life returns to come into flower." What we had stumbled upon was part of how the children of this congregation had celebrated Easter.

    Today, I'd like to think that the witness of Zita played some role can play a role in making resurrection real in our world.

  14. Although Rita is exemplary and worthy of honor, I can better relate and hope to imitate generous serving Zita.

  15. St. Rita has a terribly tragic story, but as the Patroness of Impossible Causes, she's quite dear to me. I'm part of an online support group for those struggling with, and surviving pancreatic cancer. (I'm a 5-year survivor myself) An Irish friend on that site frequently visits churches in various places and always writes a prayer for healing to St. Rita and then posts a photo to encourage all of us. St. Rita for the Golden Halo!

  16. Rita was a widow who had borne two children. But when she tried to join a convent they were "worried" that she wasn't a virgin? It would have been more amazing if she was a virgin, right?

  17. It is horrid that Rita was married off at the age of 12! And to such a man. I was thinking of voting for Rita in honor of all those still working to end young girls becoming child brides, but then I read, “She lived her last years with great austerity and engaged in self-mortification.” Had she not suffered enough at the hands of others that she felt she needed to suffer more? Lord, have mercy.

    Zita on the other lived a life full of generosity and grace despite hardships.

    Zita got my vote (despite the celebrity blogger thinking that AirTags [announced & released in 2021] existed a decade or more earlier than they did).

    Thanks be to God that the voting is now working correctly and without issue on my iPhone. (But one can still click the link on my name to go give money to the League of Women Voters of Texas to help them register & educate voters as they also work to make sure our civil elections go smoothly and fairly.)

  18. This was a really tough one for me--forgiveness vs generosity. I ultimately chose Zita as several of my paternal aunts worked "in service" as maids, cooks, etc.