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SAINT FRANCES OF ROME,
THE period intervening between the Purification of our Blessed Lady and Ash-Wednesday (when it occurs at its latest date), gives us thirty-six days; and these offer us a Feast of every order of Saint. The Apostles have given us St. Matthias, and St. Peter's Chair at Antioch; the Martyrs have sent us, from their countless choir, Simeon, Blase, Valentine, Faustinus and Jovita, Perpetua and Felicitas, and the Forty Soldiers of Sebaste, whose Feast is kept to-morrow; the holy Pontiffs have been represented by Andrew Corsini, and Peter Damian, who, together with Thomas of Aquin, is one of the Doctors of the Church; the Confessors have produced Romuald of Camaldoli, John of Matha, John of God, and the angelic prince Casimir; the Virgins have gladdened us with the presence of Agatha, Dorothy, Apollonia, and Scholastica, three wreathed with the red roses of martyrdom, and the fourth with her fair lilies of the enclosed garden1 of her Spouse; and lastly, we have had a Penitent-Saint, Margarite of Cortona. The state of Christian marriage is the only one that has not yet deputed a Saint during this season which is the least rich in Feasts of the whole year. The
1 Cant. iv. 12.
deficiency is supplied to-day, by the admirable Frances of Rome.
Having, for forty years, led a most saintly life in the married state, upon which she entered when but twelve years of age, Frances retired from the world, where she had endured every sort of tribulation. But she had given her heart to her God long before she withdrew to the Cloister. Her whole life had been spent in the exercise of the highest Christian perfection, and she had ever received from our Lord the sublimest spiritual favours. Her amiable disposition had won for her the love and admiration of her husband and children : the rich venerated her as their model, the poor respected her as their devoted benefactress and mother.
God recompensed her angelic virtues, by these two special graces: the almost uninterrupted sight of her Guardian Angel, and the receiving most sublime revelations. But there is one trait of her life, which is particularly striking, and reminds us forcibly of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and of St. Jane Frances Chantal-her austere practices of penance. Such an innocent, and yet such a mortified life, is full of instruction for us. How can we think of murmuring against the obligation of mortification, when we find a saint like this practising it during her whole life? True, we are not bound to imitate her in the manner of her penance; but penance we must do, if we would confidently approach that God, who readily pardons the sinner when he repents, but whose justice requires atonement and satisfaction.
The Church thus describes the life, virtues, and miracles of St. Frances.
Francisca, nobilis matrona
romana, ab ineunte ætate,
Frances, a noble lady of Rome, led a most virtuous illustria dedit virtutum life, even in her exempla: etenim pueriles years. She despised all ludos, et illecebras mundi childish amusements, and
worldly pleasures, her only delight being solitude and prayer. When eleven years old, she resolved on consecrating her virginity to God, and seeking admission into a Monastery. But she humbly yielded to the wishes of her parents, and married a young and rich nobleman, by name Lorenzo Ponziani. As far as it was possible, she observed, in the married state, the austerities of the more perfect life to which she had aspired. She carefully shunned theatrical entertainments, banquets, and other such amusements. Her dress was of serge, and extremely plain. Whatever time remained after she had fulfilled her domestic duties, was spent in prayer and works of charity. But her zeal was mainly exercised in endeavouring to persuade the ladies of Rome to shun the world, and vanity in dress. It was with a view to this, that she founded, during her husband's life, the House of Oblates of the Congregation of Monte-Oliveto, under the Rule of St. Benedict. She bore her husband's banishment, the loss of all her goods, and the trouble which befel her whole family, not only with heroic patience, but was frequently heard to give thanks, saying with holy Job: "The Lord hath given, and "the Lord hath taken away: "blessed be the name of the "Lord!"
At the death of her husband, she fled to the aforesaid
respuens, solitudine, et oratione magnopere delectabatur. Undecim annos nata, virginitatem suam Deo consecrare, et monasterium ingredi proposuit. Parentum tamen voluntati humiliter obtemperans, Laurentio de Pontianis, juveni æque diviti ac nobili nupsit. In matrimonio arctioris vitæ propositum, quantum licuit, semper retinuit a spectaculis, conviviis, aliisque hujusmodi oblectamentis abhorrens, lanea ac vulgari veste utens, et quidquid a domesticis curis supererat temporis, orationi, aut proximorum utilitati tribuens, in id vero maxima solicitudine incumbens, ut matronas
romanas a pompis sæculi, et ornatus vanitate revocaret. Quapropter domum Oblatarum, sub Regula sancti Benedicti, Congregationis Montis Oliveti, adhuc viro alligata, in Urbe instituit. Viri exilium, bonorum jacturam, ac universæ domus mororem non modo constantissime toleravit, sed gratias agens cum beato Job, illud frequenter usurpabat: Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit: sit nomen Domini benedictum.
Viro defuncto, ad prædictam Oblatarum domum con
volans, nudis pedibus, fune ad collum alligato, humi prostrata, multis cum lacrymis earum numero adscribi suppliciter postulavit. Voti compos facta, licet esset omnium mater, non alio tamen quam ancillæ, vilissimæque feminæ, et immunditiæ vasculi titulo gloriabatur. Quam vilem sui existimationem, et verbo declaravit, et exemplo. Sæpe enim e suburbana vinea revertens, et lignorum fascem proprio capiti impositum deferens, vel eisdem onustum agens per Urbem asellum, pauperibus subveniebat, in quos etiam largas eleemosynas erogabat, ægrotantesque in xenodochiis visitans, non corporali tantum cibo, sed salutaribus monitis recreabat. Corpus suum vigiliis, jejuniis, cilicio, ferreo cingulo, crebrisque flagellis, in servitutem redigere jugiter satagebat. Cibum illi semel in die, herbæ et legumina: aqua potum præbuit. Hos tamen corporis cruciatus aliquando confessarii mandato, a cujus ore nutuque pendebat, modice temperavit.
Divina mysteria, præsertim vero Christi Domini Passionem, tanto mentis ardore, tantaque lacrymarum vi contemplabatur, ut præ
House of Oblates, and there, barefooted, with a rope tied round her neck, and prostrate on the ground, she humbly, and with many tears, begged admission. Her petition being granted, she, though mother of the whole community, gloried in calling herself everyone's servant, and a worthless woman, and a vessel of dishonour. She evinced the contempt she had for herself by her conduct, as well as by her expressions. Thus, when returning from a vineyard in the suburbs, she would go through the city, sometimes carrying faggots on her head, sometimes driving an ass laden with them. She looked after, and bestowed abundant alms upon the poor. She visited the sick in the hospitals, and consoled them, not only with corporal food, but with spiritual advice. She was untiring in her endeavours to bring her body into subjection, by watchings, fasting, wearing a hair-shirt and an iron girdle, and by frequent disciplines. Her food, which she took but once in the day, consisted of herbs and pulse, and her only drink was water. But she would somewhat relent in these corporal austerities, as often as she was requested to do so by her confessor, whom she obeyed with the utmost exactitude.
Her contemplation of the divine mysteries, and especially of the Passion, was made with such intense fervour and abundance of tears, that she
seemed as though she would die with grief. Frequently, too, when she was praying, and above all after Holy Communion, she would remain motionless, with her soul fixed on God, and rapt in heavenly contemplation. The enemy of mankind seeing this, endeavoured to frighten her out of so holy a life, by insults and blows; but she feared him not, invariably baffled his attempts, and, by the assistance of her Angel Guardian, whose visible presence was granted to her, she gained a glorious victory. God favoured her with the gift of healing the sick, as also with that of prophecy, whereby she foretold future events, and could read the secrets of hearts. More than once, when she was intent on prayer, either in the bed of a torrent, or during a storm of rain, she was not touched by the water. On one occasion, when all the bread they had was scarcely enough to provide a meal for three of the sisters, she besought our Lord, and he multiplied the bread; so that after fifteen persons had eaten as much as they needed, there was sufficient left to fill a basket. At another time, when the sisters were gathering wood outside the City walls, in the month of January, she amply quenched their thirst by offering them bunches of fresh grapes, which she plucked from a vine, and which she had miraculously obtained. Her virtues and miracles procured for
doloris magnitudine pene confici videretur. Sæpe etiam cum oraret, maxime sumpto sanctissimæ Eucharistiæ sacramento, spiritu in Deum elevata, ac cœlestium contemplatione rapta, immobilis permanebat. Quapropter humani generis hostis variis eam contumeliis ac verberibus a proposito dimovere conabatur: quem tamen illa imperterrita semper elusit, Angeli præsertim præsidio, cujus familiari consuetudine gloriosum de eo triumphum reportavit. Gratia curationum, et prophetiæ dono enituit, quo et futura prædixit, et cordium secreta penetravit. Non semel aquæ, vel per rivum decurrentes, vel e cœlo labentes, intactam prorsus, cum Deo vacaret, reliquerunt. dica panis fragmenta, quæ vix tribus sororibus reficiendis fuissent satis, sic ejus precibus Dominus multiplicavit, ut quindecim inde exsaturatis, tantum superfuerit, ut canistrum impleverit et aliquando, earumdem Sororum extra Urbem mense Januario ligna parantium, sitim recentis uvæ racemis ex vite in arbore pendentibus mirabiliter obtentis, abunde expleverit. Denique meritis, et miraculis clara, migravit ad Dominum, anno ætatis suæ quinquagesimo sexto, quam Paulus Quintus, Pontifex Maximus, in Sanctarum numerum retulit.