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Commemoration of St Frances of Rome
St Frances is,
One of the greatest mystics of the fifteenth century; born in Rome, of a noble family, in 1384; died there, 9 March, 1440.
Her youthful desire was to enter religion, but at her father’s wish she married, at the age of twelve, Lorenzo de’ Ponziano. Among her children we know of Battista, who carried on the family name, Evangelista, a child of great gifts (d. 1411), and Agnes (d. 1413).
Frances expressed her commitment to Christ by caring first for her husband, children and extended family, then finally for Rome’s poor and sick.
Sometimes, she said, a wife must leave God at the altar to find him in her household management.
Just an aside… I’ve occasionally been guilty of reversing the correct vocational order of things. This is why I find her so inspirational.
She tended all four of her children personally as well as managing the Ponzaino family estate. Frances and her sister-in-law were very close and together they sought out Rome’s worst cases even during the turbulent years of civil war and plagues.
With her husband’s consent Frances practiced continency, and advanced in a life of contemplation. Her visions often assumed the form of drama enacted for her by heavenly personages. She had the gift of miracles and ecstasy, as well as the bodily vision of her guardian angel, had revelations concerning purgatory and hell, and foretold the ending of the Western Schism.
She could read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience, exemplified on the occasion of her husband’s banishment, the captivity of Battista, her sons’ death, and the loss of all her property.
Despite how ‘heavenly minded’ she was, Frances made everyone feel like her best friend, attracting many people, especially younger women who looked up to her.
With her husband’s full support, in 1424, she organized a group of women as, ‘ The Oblates of St. Mary.’ They lived at home following the Rule of St Benedict without vows and sharing France’s passion for the sick.
On the death of her husband (1436) she retired among her oblates at Tor di Specchi, seeking admission for charity’s sake, and was made superior. On the occasion of a visit to her son, she fell ill and died on the day she had foretold.
Her canonization was preceded by three processes (1440, 1443, 1451) and Paul V declared her a saint on 9 May, 1608, assigning 9 March as her feast day. Long before that, however, the faithful were wont to venerate her body in the church of Santa Maria Nuova in the Roman Forum, now known as the church of Santa Francesca Romana.
Frances of Rome should be named patron of wishes that don’t come true.
By submitting faithfully to God,
she received even more than she had wanted—-
the blessings of both married and religious life.
—Voices of the Saints,
My Benedictine name is Francis Gertrude- after St Frances of Rome and St Gertrude the Great.
Pray for me St Frances, that in imitation of you I may reflect Jesus to the world.