Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ST FRANCES OF ROME wife-mother 1384-1440

Frances was born in Rome in 1384 to a noble and wealthy couple, Paolo Bussa and Jacobella dei Roffredeschi.  When she was 11 years old she asked her parents to allow her to become a nun, only to be met by a point-blank refusal.  When she was barely thirteen she was married to Lorenzo Ponziano from a very wealthy family.   At first she found her new life very trying and one day Vannozza, her sister-in -law found her crying bitterly.  Frances told her of her frustrated hopes, and learnt to her surprise that her sister-in-law would also have preferred a life of retirement and prayer.
This was the beginning of a close friendship which lasted till death, and the two young wives strove together to live a perfect life under a common rule.

When Frances was very ill and close to death - soon after her marriage she had a vision of St Alexis, who told her God was giving her an important choice; "Did she want to recover or not"? She whispered "God's will is mine".  The saint then informed her that it was God's will that she should recover and work for His greater glory, and, after throwing his cloak over her he disappeared.  Her illness had disappeared also.
In 1400 Frances gave birth to her first son John Battista and Frances took on the full care of her little son herself.
In 1408 the troops of Ladislaus of Naples, the ally of the anti-pope had entered Rome, and a soldier of fortune, Count Troja, had been appointed governor. The Ponziano family had always supported the legitimate pope, and in one of the frequent conflicts Lorenzo was stabbed and carried home to Frances, to whose devoted nursing he owed his restoration to health.
A great plague swept across Italy it struck Rome and left Frances's second son dead.  In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might need. When all was gone Frances and Vannozza went door-to-door begging.  Later Frances's daughter Agnes died and the saint opened a section of her home as a hospital.
Frances became more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, that she requested and was giving permission to found a society of women bound by no vows, they simply offered themselves to God and the service of the poor.  Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband.  She did this for seven years until he died.  So at the age of 52 she lived the life as a nun she had always wished.  Four years later she died.  Her last words were "The angel has finished his task - he beckons me to follow him"

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