LENTEN REFLECTION – Thursday of the First Week of Lent – 9 MARCH
Fertile excuses and evasions
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
Next I observe that a civilized age is more exposed to subtle sins than a rude age. Why? For this simple reason- because it is more fertile in excuses and evasions. It can defend error and hence can blind the eyes of those who have not very careful consciences. It can make error plausible, it can make vice look like virtue. It dignifies sin by fine names; it calls avarice proper care of one’s family, or industry, it calls pride independence, it calls ambition greatness of mind; resentment it calls proper spirit and sense of honour and so on.
…What all of us want more than anything else, what this age wants, is that its intellect and its will should be under a law. At present it is lawless, its will is its own law, its own reason is the standard of all truth. It does not bow to authority, it does not submit to the law of faith. It is wise in its own eyes and it relies on its own resources. And you, as living in the world, are in danger of being seduced by it and being a partner in its sin and so coming in at the end for its punishment.
What an amazing lady! St Frances of Rome was an ordinary wife and mother whose love for God and His children knew no bounds and who trusted in God to give her guidance. There was nothing she felt she could not do with God and she let nothing stop her. Looking at her exemplary life of fidelity to God and devotion to her fellow human beings which Frances of Rome was blessed to lead, one cannot help but be reminded of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who loved Jesus Christ in prayer and also in the poor. The life of Frances of Rome calls each of us not only to look deeply for God in prayer but also to carry our devotion to Jesus living in the suffering of our world. Frances shows us that this life need not be restricted to those bound by vows. We need something of her love and her trust and energy and then we too, can accomplish great things!
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God………Psalm 143:10
REFLECTION – “Let us serve God but let us do so according to His will. He will then take the place of everything in our lives. He will be our strength and the reward of our labours.”………St Vincent de Paul
PRAYER – Infinite Lord, help me to serve You always in accord with Your holy will. Show me how to make You my Lord and my All. St Frances of Rome, you showed us all the way of holiness within the confines of our lives, always seeking to do the will of God and serve all His children, most especially those in need but remaining always true to the vows of your marriage. Please pray for us all, amen.
I’m not always eager to do Your will.
I’d often much rather do my own will.
Please be with me on this Lenten journey
and help me to remember
that Your own spirit can guide me
in the right direction.
I want to “fix” my weaknesses
but the task seems overwhelming.
But I know that with Your help,
anything can be done.
With a grateful heart,
I acknowledge Your love
and know that without You,
I can do nothing. Amen
Saint of the Day – 9 March – St Frances of Rome Obl.S.B. (1384-1440) Wife, Mother, Mystic, Organiser of charitable services and a Benedictine Obtale who founded a religious community of Oblates, who share a common life without religious vows – Patronages – against plague, of automobile drivers (given in 1951), aviators, cab drivers, death of children, lay people, motorcyclists, motorists, people ridiculed for their piety, Roman housewives, taxi drivers, widows, women, Rome, Italy.
Frances was born in 1384 in Rome to a wealthy and aristocratic couple, Paolo Bussa and Iacobella dei Roffredeschi, in the up-and-coming district of Parione and christened in the nearby Church of St Agnes on the famed Piazza Navona. When she was eleven years old, she wanted to be a nun but, at about the age of twelve, her parents forced her to marry Lorenzo Ponziani, commander of the papal troops of Rome and member of an extremely wealthy family. Although the marriage had been arranged, it was a happy one, lasting for forty years, partly because Lorenzo admired his wife and partly because he was frequently away at war.
With her sister-in-law Vannozza, Frances visited the poor and took care of the sick, inspiring other wealthy women of the city to do the same. Soon after her marriage, Frances fell seriously ill. Her husband called a man in who dabbled in magic but Frances drove him away and later recounted to Vannozza that St Alexis had appeared to her and cured her.
When her mother-in-law died, Frances became mistress of the household. During a time of flood and famine, she turned part of the family’s country estate into a hospital and distributed food and clothing to the poor. According to one account, her father-in-law was so angry that he took away from her the keys to the supply rooms but gave them back when he saw that the corn bin and wine barrel were replenished after Frances finished praying.
During the wars between the pope in Rome and various anti-popes in the Western Schism of the Church, Lorenzo served the former. According to one story, their son, Battista, was to be delivered as a hostage to the commander of the Neapolitan troops. Obeying this order on the command of her spiritual director, Frances brought the boy to the Campidoglio. On the way, she stopped in the Church of the Aracoeli located there and entrusted the life of her son to the Blessed Mother. When they arrived at the appointed site, the soldiers went to put her son on a horse to transport him off to captivity. The horse, however, refused to move, despite heavy whipping. The superstitious soldiers saw the hand of God in this and returned the boy to his mother.
During a period of forced exile, much of Lorenzo’s property and possessions were destroyed. In the course of one occupation of Rome by Neapolitan forces in the early part of the century, he was wounded so severely that he never fully recovered. Frances nursed him throughout the rest of his life.
Frances experienced other sorrows in the course of her marriage with Lorenzo Ponziani. They lost two children to the plague. Chaos ruled the city in that period of neglect by the pope and the ongoing warfare between him and the various forces competing for power on the Italian peninsula devastated the city. The city of Rome was largely in ruins—wolves were known to enter the streets. Frances again opened her home as a hospital and drove her wagon through the countryside to collect wood for fire and herbs for medicine. It is said she had the gift of healing, and more than sixty cases were attested to during the Canonisation proceedings.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “With her husband’s consent St Frances practised continence and advanced in a life of contemplation.
Her visions often assumed the form of drama enacted for her by heavenly personages. She had the gift of miracles and ecstasy, as well as the bodily vision of her guardian angel, had revelations concerning Purgatory and Hell and foretold the ending of the Western Schism. She could read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience”.
On August 15, 1425, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, she founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary, a confraternity of pious women, under the authority of the Olivetan monks of the Abbey of Santa Maria Nova in Rome but neither cloistered nor bound by formal vows, so they could follow her pattern of combining a life of prayer with answering the needs of their society.
In March 1433, she founded a monastery at Tor de’ Specchi, near the Campidoglio, in order to allow for a common life by those members of the confraternity who felt so called. This monastery remains the only house of the Institute. On 4 July of that same year, they received the approval of Pope Eugene IV as a religious congregation of oblates with private religious vows. The community later became known simply as the Oblates of St. Frances of Rome.
Frances herself remained in her own home, nursing her husband for the last seven years of his life from wounds he had received in battle. When he died in 1436, she moved into the monastery and became the superior. She died in 1440 and was buried in Santa Maria Nova.
On 9 May 1608, she was Canonised by Pope Paul V and in the following decades a diligent search was made for her remains, which had been hidden due to the troubled times in which she lived. Her body was found incorrupt some months after her death. Her grave was identified on 2 April 1638, (but this time only the bones remained) and her remains were reburied in the Church of Santa Maria Nova on 9 March 1649, which since then has been her feast day. Again, in 1869, her body was exhumed and has since then been displayed in a glass coffin for the veneration of the faithful. The Church of Santa Maria Nova is now usually referred to as the Church of St Frances.
In 1925, Pope Pius XI declared her the patron saint of automobile drivers because of a legend that an angel used to light the road before her with a lantern when she travelled, keeping her safe from hazards. Within the Benedictine Order, she is also honoured as a patron saint of all oblates.
St Frances of Rome (Optional Memorial
St Antony of Froidemont
St Bosa of York
St Bruno of Querfurt
St Candidus St Catherine of Bologna
St Constantine of Cornwall
St Cyrion St Dominic Savio St Gregory of Nyssa
St Mary of Seyne
St Pacian of Barcelona
St Vitalis of Calabria
Martyrs of Korea: – Ioannes Baptista Chon Chang-un, Petrus Ch’oe Hyong