St Ita of Kileedy

St. Ita (also spelled Ite, Ida, Eeda, and other ways) is often considered to be the second holiest person to ever live in Ireland - second only to St. Brigid. She also was foster parent to a number of boys who became saints, including St. Brendan the Navigator, and she was visited by St. Columba for guidance.

Lifetime: 480 to 570
Region: County Limerick, Ireland
Patronages: Limerick, Ireland
Iconograpy: Holding an Irish church; Rosary; Brown cloak
Feast Day: January 15

Ita was originally called Dierdre, but her name was eventually changed, as Ita means "thirst for holiness". Dierdre was born to noble parents who wished her to marry, a common background among saints. However, Rather than defying her Christian parents, Dierdre eventually persuaded them by fasting and praying for three days, at the end of which her father received a vision from God instructing him to allow his daughter to establish a monastery. And so, at the age of 16, Dierdre became a nun and changed her name to Ita.

Ita was led by three heavenly lights to an unused space with a well on it where she wished her monastery to be. She had to ask the local chieftain for permission to use the land, and as a Christian himself, he was so excited to have a monastery in his land, he offered her a huge parcel of land for her convent. However, Ita had decided that all she would need was four acres, and declined any more land than that.

On this modest parcel, Ita formed her convent, a farm to feed the nuns, and also a training school for boys. One of the boys who learned under Ita would go on to become a well-known saint in his own right, Brendan the Navigator. Brendan would return to Ita between his voyages for guidance and spiritual direction. One time, he asked Ita what the three things God loved best. Ita replied:

"True faith in God and a pure heart, a simple life with a religious spirit and open-handedness inspired by charity."
Ita's entire life was spent at the monastery she founded in Kileedy (which itself means "Ita's cell/church"). She lived a humble and austere life, and was known for praying constantly and living simply. She was visited often for spiritual guidance, and was also gifted with prophecy. The monastery had a small dairy farm, which was used to feed monks living there as well as the poor of the surrounding areas.

Many miracles are attributed to Ita. According to legends, she healed a blind man, lived off food from heaven, and even healed someone who had been decapitated. She lived to the age of 90. Some stories say Ita was slowly eaten by a beetle that grew to the size of a pig, though many believe that is an imaginative way to describe cancer.

St. Ita's Lullabye

“I will take nothing from my Lord,” said she,

“unless He gives me His Son from Heaven

In the form of a Baby that I may nurse Him”.

So that Christ came down to her

in the form of a Baby and then she said:

“Infant Jesus, at my breast,

Nothing in this world is true

Save, O tiny nursling, You.

Infant Jesus at my breast,

By my heart every night,

You I nurse are not a churl

But were begot on Mary the Jewess

By Heaven’s light.

Infant Jesus at my breast,

What King is there but You who could

Give everlasting good?

Wherefore I give my food.

Sing to Him, maidens, sing your best!

There is none that has such right

To your song as Heaven’s King

Who every night

Is Infant Jesus at my breast.” 


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