As a small child, Ita showed an unusual inclination to prayer and holiness. She has a remarkable spiritual presence, and everyone around her takes note of her purity and grace. She was said to embody the six virtues of Irish womanhood -- wisdom, purity, beauty, musical ability, gentle speech and needle skills. She was also described as sweet and winning in her address, prudent in word and work, constant in mind, and firm of purpose.
Her femininity is not merely compliant or submissive. A strongly individualistic character is glimpsed in the legends of Ita. From girlhood, Ita believed she had a calling from God and wanted to become a nun. But Ita's father didn't share her faith, and was reluctant to allow her to dedicate her whole life to it. Her father arranged a marriage for Ita to a young nobleman. She i resists this and turns to God for deliverance, spending three days fasting and praying. On the third night, God gave a message to her father in his sleep, saying that Ita will serve God in another part of the country, and that many people will find salvation through her.
At the age of sixteen, Ita then moves west, accompanied by her sister Fiona, She and her sister were welcomed by the local chieftain of the Ui Conaill Gabhra tribe. He wanted to give them a large tract to establish her convent. Once again Ita contradicts the wishes of a powerful man, insisting that she will only accept four acres of land, enough for gardens to provision the community. The settlement later became known as Cill Ide (Killeedy) and prospered as a center of learning and spiritual formation.
The many miracles attributed to St Ita show her great kindness. It is claimed that Ita brought her brother-in-law back to life after he was killed in battle. It is also written that St Ita cured a blind man.
Her spiritual gifts are beyond question and many women come to join her, to dedicate their lives to God. In her instruction of the novices, Ita promotes the concept of 'soul-friends' or anam cara, an old concept which came to Ireland via Egypt and North Africa. A soul-friend is a confidante and confessor, and in the case of the saints, such friendship bridges this world with the next.
The community also became known as a training school for little boys, many of whom later became famous churchmen. One of these was St. Brendan the Navigator, whom Ita accepted in fosterage when he was a year old and kept until he was six. Brendan revisited her between his voyages and always deferred to her counsel. One day, Brendan asks her what are the three things which most please and displease God. Ita tells him: a pure heart with faith in God, a simple spiritual life, and generous acts of charity are most pleasing to God, and the three things most offensive to God are a mouth full of hate, a heart full of resentment, and worship of material things.
Second only to Saint Brigid among the most beloved of the Irish women saints, St. Ita is sometimes called the 'Brigid of Munster', but actually the differences were more striking than the resemblances between these two towering saints of the Celtic church. Brigid's effective life as a nun was spent in continual movement. When she successfully established of one settlement, she moved off to found another. Ita did just the opposite, She established a single foundation in a district where there was none, and there she remained all her life. There is an emphasis on austerity in Ita's life not found in Brigid's. Ita's dedication to the ascetic lifestyle was unswerving throughout her life, and at times, almost dangerous. An angel came to warn her about her excessive fasting, which sometimes continued into four days.
As with many of the great saints, Ita foresees and predicts her own death. As she felt her end approaching she sent for her community of nuns, and invoked the blessing of heaven on the clergy and laity of the district around Killeedy. Then messengers came from Clonmacnoise, wanting her to bless water for their abbot, Aengus, who was very ill. She duly obliges, but after the messengers have left, she tells her sisters that both she and Aengus will die before the emissaries return to Clonmacnoise. Ita proves to be correct on both counts.
Ita died on January 15, 570.