Saint of the Day – 6 October – Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus TOSF (1715-1791) Virgin, a member of the Third Order of the Friars Minor, Mystic, Ecstatic, Stigmatist, blessed with the gift of prophesy and of miracles. Recluse. Born on 25 March 1715 as Anna Maria Rosa Gallo at Naples, Italy and died on 6 October 1791 at Naples, Italy of natural causes. Also known as St Anna Maria Gallo, Maria Francesca. Mary Frances is the first woman from Naples to have been declared a Saint. Patronages – Pope Pius IX, who Canonised her, declared her to be a patroness of expectant mothers and of women having difficulty conceiving.
Anna Maria Rosa, as Saint Mary Frances was Baptised, was born in Naples in 1715 of a family that belonged to the middle class of society. Her mother, a devout and gentle woman, who had much to contend with from her hot-tempered husband, was quite worried before the birth of this child. But St John Joseph of the Cross, who lived in Naples at that time, calmed her and recommended special care of the child, as it was destined to attain to great holiness.
Anna Maria Rosa was scarcely 4 years old when she began to spend hours in prayer and sometimes arose at night for this purpose. Such was her desire to know the truths of the Catholic Faith that an Angel appeared to her and instructed her regularly. She had not yet attained her 7th year when she desired to receive Holy Communion. Her local Parish Priest marvelled at her knowledge of the Faith, as well as her ardent desire for the Bread of Angels and felt that he could not deny her the privilege. In fact, it was not long before he permitted her to receive daily.
Meanwhile, although physically of a very delicate constitution, the little saint was making herself useful to her parents by assisting them in their work. Her father, a weaver of gold lace, was anxious to have his children help as early as possible. He found that Anna Maria Rosa was not only the most willing but also the most skilled in the work.
She was 16 years old when a rich young man asked her father for her hand. Rejoicing at the favourable prospect, her father at once gave his consent. But when he told Anna Maria Rosa he was amazed to hear her, who had never contradicted him, declare her firm intention of espousing only her heavenly Bridegroom and asking his permission to become a Tertiary. He became so enraged that he seized a rope and whipped the delicate girl unmercifully, until her mother intervened. He then locked her in a room, where she received only bread and water and no-one was permitted to speak to her.
She considered herself fortunate to be able to offer her Divine Bridegroom this early proof of her fidelity – she regarded the trial as a pre-nuptial celebration. The earnest representations of a Priest made her father, who after all was a believing Christian, realise that he had done wrong and he finally consented that his daughter take the Tertiary Habit and serve God as a Consecrated Virgin at home, as was customary in those days. Filled with holy joy, Anna Maria now received the Habit and, with it, the name Maria Francesca and the Surname “of the Five Wounds of Jesus.” This name was prophetic of her subsequent life.
At home Mary Frances had much to endure. Her father never got over the loss of a wealthy son-in-law. When God favoured her with unusual graces — she was sometimes granted ecstasies at prayer and suffered our Lord’s agony with Him — her own brothers and sisters insulted her as an imposter. Even her Confessor felt obliged to deal harshly with her. For a long time she could find consolation nowhere but in the Wounds of Christ. At last her Confessor perceived that it was God Who was doing these things in Mary Frances. Since her mother had died meanwhile, he saw to it that she found a home with a fellow Tertiary. There one day, as she herself lay ill, she learned that her father was near death and she asked Almighty God to let her suffer her father’s death agony and his purgatory. Both requests were granted her.
Although she suffered continuously, Our Lord also gave Mary Frances great graces and consolations. She received the marks of the wounds of Christ and was granted the gift of prophesy and of miracles. She would wear gloves to cover the marks of the nails on her hands, while she did her work. When Pope Pius VI was crowned pope in 1775, she beheld him in a vision wearing a crown of thorns. Pope Pius closed his life 24 years later as a prisoner of the French Revolution at Valence.
Mary Frances also prophesied the tragic events of the French Revolution and God heard her prayer, asking that she be taken from this world before they would happen. She died on 6 October 1791, kissing the feet of her Crucifix. God glorified her by many miracles.
Saint Mary Frances was buried in the Church of the Alcantarines, Saint Lucia del Monte, Naples, which she attended during her life, very near the tomb of Saint John Joseph of the Cross. On 6 October 2001, her remains were transferred from the Church of Santa Lucia to the house where she had spent the last half of her life. It is now the Shrine of St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds. It is still a common practice for expectant mothers to go there to be blessed with her relic. Many votive offerings from mothers who credit her with their successful deliveries are displayed in the Sanctuary.
Devotion to our Saint has long continued in the neighbourhood where she lived in Naples and of which she is the Patron. The residents credit her intercession, with the little damage the sector endured during World War II, when over 100 bombs were dropped on it!
On 12 November 1843, Mary Frances was Beatified by Pope Gregory XVI and on 29 June 1867, she was Canonised by Pope Pius IX.