Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Frances of Rome, Widow

illustration of Saint Frances of Rome, Widow, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberSaint Frances was born at Rome, A.D. 1384, a time when the See of Peter was rent by a great schism that lasted for thirty years. Both her parents – Paul de Buxa and Jacobella de Brossedeschi – were of noble family. From her infancy Frances shunned the amusements of children, sought solitude, and was ever stretching forth her hands to Heaven in prayer, calling on Jesus and Mary by name. She had not yet completed her fifteenth year when she was looking out for a convent in which to dedicate herself to God. However, it was otherwise ordained. Frances must be a pattern to Roman matrons: her example was needed to correct the corrupt morals of the time.

Wedded by the command of her parents to Laurence de Pontiniani, she, though at first grieved at having to abandon the religious life, proved a loving and most obedient wife. She always obeyed her husband’s slightest call – no matter what her occupation was, religious or otherwise – and the merit of this obedience was shown to her. For once, when summoned away three times from reciting one verse in a Psalm of our Lady’s Office, on her return she found the verse written in letters of gold. After she had carefully discharged her domestic duties, her aim was to find time for pious exercises. To gossip, sightseeing, entertainments, and fashionable dress she was utterly averse. During her husband’s lifetime she founded for women a House of Oblates under the Rule of our Holy Father, Saint Benedict.

We are not surprised, then, to learn that after her husband’s death she, in the guise of a humble suppliant, sued for admission to the holy Sisterhood. In the cloister she found the field for her labours that she had long desired. She gladly performed the lowliest offices; she ministered tenderly to the wants of the poor; she mortified her body with the greatest severity; she wore a garment of hair next her skin, and bound an iron girdle so closely round her waist, that, when she was bidden by her spiritual adviser to remove it, it had eaten into the flesh. Coarse herbs and vegetables were her only food; water quenched her thirst; her bed was made of rushes. She triumphed over all the temptations of the Evil One by the help of her Guardian Angel, on whose radiant countenance she was often permitted to gaze. While engaged in singing Office or in assisting at the Holy Sacrifice, she was frequently seized with ecstasy. Her love for the Virgin Mother of God was most ardent, and she was so highly favoured by the Queen of Heaven that on one occasion, as she was praying in her cell, Our Lady appeared to her bearing Her Blessed Son in her arms.

Favoured too in the manner of her death was Saint Frances. She received a Divine intimation of the time at which it was to occur, and she passed peacefully away, like one in sleep, on the 9th of March, A.D. 1440.

– text and illustration taken from Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict by Father Aegedius Ranbeck, O.S.B.