SAINT FRANCES of ROME (1384-1440), religious and foundress
Patron saint of widows and dying children
Today, the Church honors Saint Frances of Rome, renowned as one of the great mystics of the 15th century, who embodied the highest virtues of charity, patience and the acceptance of God’s will in her life.
Frances was born into a noble Roman family in Rome, Italy, in the year 1384. From an early age, she felt drawn to the religious life; but, at the age of thirteen, her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband.
As Frances became acquainted with her in-laws, she found that the wife of her brother-in-law also wished to live a life of humble service and prayer. Together, Frances and her sister-in-law, Vannozza, began to work to help the poor. After Frances bore three children – two sons and a daughter – she turned her attention more to the needs of her own household.
Within a few years, a great plague swept through Rome and Frances’ younger son died as a result of the disease. In an effort to help alleviate some of her emotional suffering due to her grief, Frances, with her husband’s blessing, used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever was needed in order that she could tend to the needs of the sick, all the while ignoring the risks of personal contagion.
When all her resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging. After the plague claimed Frances’ older son, she opened a section of her house as a hospital for the sick and the poor.
Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long afterwards that she requested, and was given permission, to found a society of women called the Benedictine Oblate Congregation of Tor di Specchi. They offered themselves to God in active charity and service to the poor.
Once the society was established and received papal approval in 1433, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband. Upon the death of her husband in 1436, Frances came to live the remainder of her life with the society, and was made its superior – continuing to serve the poorest of the poor.
Four years later, Sister Frances died in Rome on March 9, 1440, and was canonized a saint on May 29, 1608 by Pope Paul V.
The charisms with which Saint Frances of Rome was blessed were the gifts of miracles and ecstasy, as well as the vision of her guardian angel. She also received revelations concerning purgatory and hell, and foretold the ending of the Western Schism. It was known that she could also read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin.
Saint Frances lived a life of remarkable humility and detachment from everything earthly, and exemplified the highest virtues of charity, obedience, patience and the acceptance of God’s will in all things.
We commemorate her feastday on March 9.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Frances of Rome)
“Merciful Father, in Frances of Rome, You have given us a unique example of love in marriage as well as in religious life. Keep us faithful in Your service, and help us to see and follow You in all the aspects of life.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”