9 March: Feast of Saint Frances of Rome. Frances (Francesca) was born in 1384 in Rome. Her parents were wealthy nobility. As a child, Frances was very devout. She decided at age eleven to become a nun. Frances’ father said no; he had already promised her in marriage to someone. Frances was very upset; she begged God to stop the marriage from happening. She complained to her confessor, who responded, “Are you crying because you want to do God’s will, or because you want God to do your will?” Frances reluctantly agreed to the marriage. She married Lorenzo Ponziani, a good man who treated her well. He was nobility and his family was prominent in society. Frances was very shy, so the parties that now filled her life were torturous. Frances became so overwrought with social anxiety that she collapsed bedridden for months, unable to eat or move. Near the point of death, Frances had a vision in which Saint Alexis said God was giving a choice: she could choose to recover, or not. Though she would have preferred to die, Frances said, “God’s will in mine.” St. Alexis then told her that she would live, and that by doing so she would glorify God. Frances recovered. As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances discovered that her sister-in-law also wished to live a life of service and prayer. They became close friends. With their husbands’ blessings, Frances and Vannozza constantly helped the poor. Frances then had three children and devoted herself as a good wife and mother. When disease and famine came to Rome, Frances took care of the sick and poor. Her father-in-law was furious at Frances for giving away the family’s stores of food, but when the food was miraculously replenished, he relented. Frances used all her money to help the poor. When all their resources were gone, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging. As war raged, Frances suffered the loss of her son who was taken as a hostage. But he was returned to her after she entrusted his life to the Blessed Virgin. Frances later lost her younger two children to the plague. Her house was demolished. Despite these sufferings, she turned her home into a hospital. When war was over, her husband returned injured and Frances took care of him. Frances then received permission to start a society of women bound by no vows. This order, the Oblates of Mary, lived in the world but offered themselves wholly to God and the service of the poor. Frances chose not to live with the Oblates but rather at home with her husband. She did this for seven years, taking care of her husband until he passed away. Frances then joined the Oblates in 1436 as their superior. During her later years she received frequent visions and ecstasies. It is said that for twenty-three years her guardian angel was visible to her, aiding her work. She died in 1440 and was canonized by Pope Paul V in 1608. In 1925, Pope Pius XI made Saint Frances the patron saint of car drivers, because of a legend that an angel used to light the road in front of her when she travelled. She is also the patron saint of widows.
“It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.” – St. Frances of Rome
Ideas for celebrating in your home:
- You could enjoy an Italian meal for today’s Feast. However, Saint Frances lived mainly on dry bread and preferred fasting over feasting. She sets the perfect Lenten example for us: what can we fast from today in our effort to grow in holiness?
- Saint Frances served the poor: how can you do this? Perhaps fill a box of surplus coats, blankets, food to donate to those in need?
- Saint Frances cared for the sick: could you bless someone in their time of suffering or illness? Perhaps send a note, prepare a meal, or drop off groceries?
- Invoke St. Frances’ protection as you are getting in your car to drive somewhere today.