I enjoy meeting people! I enjoy learning about them…their past, their present and what they hope for their future. But I really enjoy reading about the lives of the Saints! They inspire me, guide me, and in many ways encourage me to do ‘better’ in my own manner of living.
Have you ever met someone like that? Who inspires, guides and shows you; through the example of how they live/have lived their own life, the way to live your own?
I call these people, in particular these Saints, my IRONMEN as taken from Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Recently the Church celebrated one such Ironman (or woMAN’s) Feast Day, St. Frances of Rome. I was exposed to the life of St. Frances of Rome 3 years ago, while helping to prayerfully discern a Patron Saint for our local 1:38 Women Organization.
As a girl, St. Frances thought she was called to be a nun. Instead, however, she lived forty happy years as a married woman. An exceptionally competent person, Frances conducted herself according to clear priorities. She expressed her commitment to Christ first in her affectionate care for her husband and children, then for her extended household, and finally for Rome’s sick poor. “Sometimes,” she said, “a wife must leave God at the altar to find him in her household management.”
At twelve, Frances married Lorenzo Ponziano, a nobleman who loved her tenderly. She drew close to Vannozza, her sister-in-law, who lived in the same house and shared her zeal. Together they tended the sick, seeking out Rome’s worst cases. In 1400, Frances gave birth to a son, the first of four children, all of whom she tended personally.
Frances made everyone feel like a best friend, and thus attracted many people, especially younger women who idealized her. In 1424, with Lorenzo’s full support, she organized a group of women as the Oblates of Mary. They lived at home under the Rule of St. Benedict without vows and shared Frances’s mission to the sick. But seven years later, Frances acquired an old building and called the women to live in community. A biographer reported her invitation, as follows:
“I am ready to do what the Lord wants. But without you, my sisters, what can I do? You are the foundations of the building, the first stones of the new spiritual house of Mary, his mother. You are the seed from which a plentiful harvest is to spring. Earthly cares, the temporal affairs of life, must no longer take up your time. He summons you to a retreat, where you will live in his presence, imitate his example and copy the virtues of Mary, where you will pray for Rome, and turn away his wrath from this degenerate and guilty city.”
Mary Magdalene Anguillaria, superior of the Oblates of the Tower of Specchi wrote of St. Frances: God not only tested the patience of Frances with respect to her material wealth, but, as I have said before he tested her in a variety of ways. And yet no one ever observed in her a tendency toward impatience. She never exhibited any displeasure when she complied with an order, no matter how foolish. Through the premature deaths of her sons whom she loved dearly, Frances proved her constancy. With peace of soul she always reconciled herself to the will of God and gave him thanks for all that happened. With the same constancy she endured the slander of those who abused and reviled her and her way of life. She did not show the least hint of aversion toward them, even though she knew that they judged her rashly and spoke falsely of her way of life. Rather, returning good for evil, she habitually prayed to God for them. God had not chosen her to be holy merely for her own advantage. Rather, the gifts he conferred upon her were to be for the spiritual and physical advantage of her neighbor. For this reason he made her so lovable that anyone with whom she spoke would immediately feel captivated by love for her and ready to help her. No one left her without being consoled, although she openly rebuked them for their sins and fearlessly reproved them for what was evil and displeasing to God.
After Lorenzo died in 1436, Frances joined the Oblates and became their superior. During the last half of her life she received frequent visions and ecstasies. It is said that for twenty-three years her guardian angel was visible to her, aiding her in her service. She died in Rome in 1440.
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.
I am grateful for meeting St. Frances. There are several important reasons why she has taken up residency in my heart, but I am most grateful for the lesson she has taught me regarding the constancy I need to strive for in my own life.
St. Frances of Rome, help us to see the difference between what we want to do and what God wants us to do. Help us to discern what comes from our will and what comes from God’s desire. Amen.
hugs n’ blessings for the constant quality of God’s love for us, which is often shown through the people that we meet!