After Saint Brigid, Ita is the best-known
female saint in Ireland. She is also known as Deirdre, Ida,
Ide, Meda, Mida, or Ytha. Early biographers often
called her the "Brigid of Munster," but her life was
quite different from Brigid's - less peripatetic and more
Ita was born to Christian parents in what is now the county of
Waterford, around 480. She is said to have been of royal
lineage. When her father sought to marry her to a nobleman, she
fasted for three days in protest, praying all the while for
divine help in avoiding the marriage. Help came in the form of an
angel who appeared to her father and persuaded him that Ita must be
allowed to live a religious life and remain a virgin.
Ita became a nun, and moved to a place that is now known as
Killeedy (Church of Ita) in County Limerick. She founded
a convent there, for which a local chieftain supposedly offered
her a large land grant. Ita, however, accepted only four acres.
Later she founded a nearby school for boys, where she educated many
who later became eminent men of the early Irish Church. For this
reason, she has been called "foster mother of the saints of
When asked what three things were most pleasing to god, she reportedly
replied, "True faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a religious spirit, and
open-handedness inspired by charity." According
to Ita, the things which God hates most are "A scowling face, obstinacy in wrongdoing, and too great a confidence in the power of money."
Many miracles were attributed to Ita. She is
reputed to have re-joined the head of a beheaded man with his body.
She is also said to have lived only on food from heaven. Regardless of whether or not these miracles happened, it is true that she spent a lot of time fasting and ministering to the sick in the area.
Ita lived a long life. She died around 570, perhaps from cancer.
Legend says that a beetle devoured her side, growing to the size
of a pig. The date of her death, January 15, is now kept as her feast.
She is still widely venerated in Ireland, especially in Waterford and