Saint Frances of Rome
Antony of Froidemont, OSB (AC)
10th century. A monk of Luxeuil, Saint Antony became a recluse at Froidemont in Franche-Comté (Benedictines).
Bosa of York, OSB B (AC)
Died 686. Saint Bosa was a Benedictine monk at Whitby, England, under Saint Hilda. In 678, he was consecrated bishop of Deira (the southern half of Northumbria, now Yorkshire) by Saint Theodore, with his see at York, when Saint Wilfrid was driven out by King Egfrid for refusing to accept the division of his see. Wilfrid returned in 686, but Bosa took over the diocese in 691 when Wilfrid was again exiled following a quarrel with King Aldfrid; Bosa ruled it with great holiness and ability until his death. Saint Bede praises Bosa as "a man beloved by God . . . of most unusual merit and sanctity." One of his disciples was Saint Acca, who later followed and succeeded Wilfrid at Hexham (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer).
Catherine of Bologna, Poor Clare V (RM)
(also known as Catherine de'Vigri)
Born in Bologna, Italy, September 8, 1413; died there on March 9, 1463; name added to the Roman Martyrology by Clement VIII in 1592; canonized 1712 by Clement XI; bull of canonization published by Benedict XIII in 1724.
At age 11, the patrician Catherine de'Vigri became lady-in-waiting to Margherita d'Este at the ducal court of Nicholas III d'Este at Ferrara, where she was given a good education. After Margherita's wedding, Catherine (age 13) joined a sisterhood of virgins in Ferrara, who lived according to the rule of the Franciscan tertiaries. Largely as a result of her efforts, this company formed itself into a convent of Poor Clares.
In 1432 Catherine took solemn vows and soon became mistress of novices. In 1456, she traveled to Bologna to oversee the building of the Poor Clares' Corpus Christi Convent and became abbess of the new foundation. She was an effective novice mistress and superioress. Catherine's incredible zeal and solitude for the souls of sinners made her pour forth unceasing prayers and tears for their salvation.
From an early age Catherine was subject to visions, some of which from their nature and effects she judged to be diabolical temptations, while others were consolatory and for her good. One Christmas she had a vision of the Blessed Virgin with the infant Jesus in her arms, which is reproduced often in art since.
The learned saint recorded her soul's struggles and mystical experiences in a Latin work entitled Manifestations. She also wrote Latin hymns, and composed and painted--including a self- portrait that is really quite good. The transfiguration of her prematurely aged, plain features often observed in her life was even more remarkable after her death. She also had a talent for calligraphy and miniature painting; a breviary written out and ornamented by her still exists at the Bologna convent.
Her life and the occurrences after her death were described by an eyewitness, Blessed Illuminata Bembi:
"Thereupon the grave was prepared and when they lowered the corpse which was not enshrined in a coffin, it exhaled a scent of surpassing sweetness, filling the air all around. The two sisters, who had descended into the grave, out of compassion for her lovely and radiant face covered it with cloth and placed a rough board some inches above the corpse, so that the clods of earth should not touch it. However they fixed it so awkwardly that when the grave was filled up with earth it covered the face and body nevertheless.
"The sisters came to visit the churchyard often, wept, prayed, and read by the grave and always noticed the sweet odor in the air around it. As there were no flowers or herbs near the grave-- nothing but arid earth--they came to believe that it arose from the grave itself.
"Soon miracles occurred, for some who visited the grave in ill health were cured. Therefore the sisters repented that they had interred her without a coffin, and complained to their father confessor. He a man of sound judgment asked what they wanted to do about it.
"We replied: 'To take her out again, place her in a wooden coffin and rebury her.' He was taken aback by this request it was 18 days after her death and he thought that by now the corpse must be decomposed. We, however, pointed out the sweet odor, and finally he granted permission to disinter her, provided no smell of putrefaction would make itself felt during the digging.
"When we found the body and laid the face free, we found it crushed and disfigured by the weight of the board placed above it. Also, in digging, three of the sisters had damaged it with the spade. So we placed her in a coffin, and made ready for re- interment, but by some strange impulse were driven to place her for some time under the portal.
"Here the crushed nose and the whole face gradually regained their natural form. The deceased became white of color, lovely, intact, as if still alive, the nails were not blackened, and she exhaled a delicious odor. All the sisters were deeply stirred; the scent spread throughout the church and convent, attaching itself to the hands that had touched her, and there seemed to be no explanation for it.
"Now after having been quite pale, she began to change color and to flush, while a most deliciously scented sweat began to pour from her body. Changing from paleness to the color of glowing ember, she shed an aromatic liquid which appeared sometime like clear water and then like a mixture of water and blood.
"Full of wonder and perplexity we called our confessor; the rumor had already spread to the town and he hurried to us accompanied by a learned physician, Maestro Giovanni Marcanova, and they closely observed and touched the body. Others joined them: priests, physicians, laymen." The whole of Italy converged to see her, and her body was placed on a chair in a special chapel behind bars and glass, and to this day is kept there in a mummified condition (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth, Schamoni).
In art, Saint Catherine is a Poor Clare carrying the Christ Child. Sometimes she is shown enthroned with a cross, book, a cross on her breast and bare feet (Roeder). Catherine is the patron of artists (Attwater).
Cyrion and Candidus MM (RM)
Died 320. The two most conspicuous of the Forty Armenian Martyrs venerated on March 10 (Benedictines).
Dominic Savio (RM)
Born in Riva, Piedmont, Italy, in 1842; died at Mondonio, Italy, on March 9, 1857; beatified in 1950; canonized in 1954.
Dominic was one of ten children of a peasant blacksmith and a seamstress. He grew up with a desire to be a priest. When Saint John Bosco began to train youths as clergy to help him care for neglected boys at Turin, Dominic's parish priest recommended today's saint. Bosco, who would write Dominic's biography, was impressed upon meeting him.
In October 1854, at the age of twelve, Dominic became a student at the Oratory of Saint Francis de Sales in Turin. He is best known for the group he organized there, called the Company of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to its devotional measures, it handled various jobs, from sweeping the floors to taking special care of boys who were misfits.
Early in his stay at the oratory, Dominic halted a fight with stones between two boys. Holding a crucifix between them he said, "Before you fight, look at this, both of you, and say 'Jesus Christ was sinless, and He died forgiving His executioners; I am going to outrage Him by being deliberately revengeful.' Then you can start- -and throw your first stone at me."
He scrupulously followed the discipline of the house, incurring resentment from some other boys from whom he expected the same behavior. Nevertheless, he never repaid ill-treatment in kind. Bosco's guidance probably curbed Dominic from becoming a young fanatic. He forbade Dominic to perform bodily mortification without his permission, believing that with ". . . heat, cold, sickness (and) the tiresome ways of other people--there is quite enough mortification for boys in school life itself."
He found Dominic shivering in bed one cold night with only a thin sheet. "Don't be crazy. You'll get pneumonia," he said. "Why should I?" replied Dominic. "Our Lord didn't get pneumonia in the stable at Bethlehem."
On one occasion when Dominic was missing from morning until after dinner, Bosco found him in the choir of the church, standing in a cramped position by the lectern, deep in prayer. He had been there for six hours, yet he thought that early Mass was not yet over. Dominic referred to these times of intense prayer as "my distractions."
Bosco reports that in one strong 'distraction,' Dominic saw a wide, mist-shrouded plain, with a multitude of people groping about in it. To them came a pontifically vested figure carrying a torch that lighted up the whole scene, and a voice seemed to say, "This torch is the Catholic faith which shall bring light to the English people."
Bosco reported this to Pope Pius IX at Dominic's request, and the pope said that it confirmed his intention to give attention to England. (You may recall that England became a primary preoccupation of Don Bosco's later life.) Some say this was the impetus for Pope Pius IX to restore a hierarchy to England in 1850.
Dominic became known for his cheerfulness, friendliness, careful observation, and good advice. Though only a boy, he was blessed with spiritual gifts far beyond his age--knowledge of people in need, knowledge of the spiritual needs of those around him, and the ability to prophesy. Dominic's fragile health worsened, and in 1857, he was sent home to Mondonio for a change of air. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and was bled, which probably hastened his death.
He received the last sacraments and asked his father to read the prayers for
Dominic Savio is the patron saint of Pueri Cantors, choirs, choirboys, boys, and juvenile delinquents (White).
Frances of Rome, Widow (RM)
Born in Rome, Italy, 1384; died there, March 9, 1440; canonized 1608 by Pope Paul V; named patroness of motorists by Pope Pius XI.
How can any woman not love Frances of Rome, who taught, "A married woman, even when praising God at the altar, must when needed by her husband or the smallest member of her family, quit God at the altar and find him again in her household affairs."
Saint Frances of Rome has to be my all-time favorite. I love her implicit trust in God: giving away the last food in the family's storeroom to the poor of Rome, trusting God with the life of her son whom He immediately returned to her, never wavering from her faith though society mocked her. She was a loving wife and mother who best exemplifies for me the balance of an active life, prayer, and works of mercy (spiritual and corporal), including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She also shows us how to live out the message of Ash Wednesday.
That you can be a saint,
In quite a rich home,
Is shown by the case
Of Saint Frances of Rome.
She had plenty of children,
A husband, a cook,
A household to manage,
A housekeeping book--
And they kept her so busy
Both up and downstairs
She couldn't think when
To get on with her prayers.
She no sooner was kneeling
Than someone would call--
She thought she would never
Get finished at all.
First her husband must see her,
Then up came the cook,
Then a little boy shouting
To please come and look--
Then a friend with a very
Long story to tell,
And a dozen poor people
With troubles as well.
And she never lost patience,
Or said, "Not at home,"
And that's why we call her
Saint Frances of Rome.
Poem by Marigold Hunt quoted in More Saints for Six O'Clock by Joan Windham (London: Sheed and Ward).
Francesca di Bussi di Broffedeschi lived in the then-aristocratic Trastevere section of Rome in the great Ponziani family palazzo on the via dei Vascellari, now known as the Pia Casa di Ponterotto (Pious House of the Broken Bridge). Today it is a retreat house called the Casa dei SS Spirituali Esercizi (House of Spiritual Exercises) run by 12 fathers for up to 60 male retreatants weekly.
Her father Paolo di Bussi married Giacobella di Broffedeschi. Both were connected to several other great families of wealth, stability, and strong Christian principles. Frances, their first and for a long time only child, was born in their middle years. (She had a younger sister Perna, who lived with her after the death of their parents.) Frances, a beautiful girl, was baptized the day she was born and confirmed at age six in the Church of Saint Agnes in the Piazza Navona. She had a life-long devotion to Saint Agnes. She was close to her doting mother, who breastfed and taught Frances herself contrary to custom.
Frances was a gentle and thoughtful child, naturally devout, happy in a quiet way, but grave rather than gay, undemonstrative, silent under circumstances when most little girls are prone to chatter, and given to self-denial from a very early age. Her mother was pious and purposeful; her father stern. There was little socializing, partly because the prevalent corruption of society was repugnant to their tastes and principles.
The Church of Saint Agnes was their parish, but they more frequently attended the Benedictine Santa Maria Nuovo. Dom Antonio di Monte Savello was both Frances's and Giacobella's confessor and an intimate friend. He restrained Frances's impulse to severe acts of penance in emulation of the martyrdom of Saint Agnes.
From her earliest years, she ate only bread and vegetables and drank only water. Like many pious little girls, she begged to be a nun, but Dom Antonio reminded her that she would need her father's permission. Her father said she was too young to consider a vocation, and bluntly said that he had already promised her hand to Lorenzo di Ponziano, the son of his old friend Andreazzo Ponziano and Cecilia Mellini. She had to accept her father's decision as God's will. She notes that, "Married life is indeed a sacrifice for one who aspires to solitude, contemplation and frequent acts of piety, just as religious life is a sacrifice for those whose natural disposition inclines them to marriage."
In 1396 at age 12, the beautiful Frances married him in the spirit of sacrifice, unprepared for the rounds of festivities surrounding their marriage. She got through the festivities, but collapsed completely almost immediately afterward and nearly died. She was paralyzed and unable to speak.
Frances was ill in bed for a full year--she could not walk or speak and was in constant pain. The Ponzani family thought she was under a diabolical influence and admitted a witch to her room. She recognized the depraved character of her guest and regained her power of speech to oust the witch. Thereupon, she fell into a stupor. In the middle of the night, a bright light shone around her bed and Saint Alexis--a noble Roman whose feast day it was--appeared to Frances in a vision. He asked whether she wanted to live or to die. She eventually responded, "God's will is mine." Saint Alexis then replied, "Then you will live to glorify His Name" and she recovered immediately and completely.
Thereafter, she was reconciled to married life, for she had learned that "marriage need not diminish one's interior grace and that Almighty God is not to be categorically limited in the distribution of His favors to any class or station in life." She also wanted children to give saints to Heaven.
Lorenzo was personable, pleasant, and of unreproachable character. It is said that Frances and Lorenzo lived together for forty years with never a quarrel. Frances was warmly welcomed and lapped in luxury by the Ponziano family, especially by Lorenzo's older brother Paolo (a.k.a. Paluzzo), who was married to Giovanna (a.k.a. Vannozza) di Santa Croce. Frances, however, was baffled by their candid delights in worldly pleasures. Nevertheless, Lorenzo really loved her and would not consciously, much less willfully, have failed to treat her with tenderness.
During her illness, Vannozza nursed her devotedly and they became fast friends. Frances had mistaken Vannozza's natural joyousness for frivolity; now she recognized it not as an impediment to spirituality, but as a quality that gave luster to good deeds and great faith. When Frances learned that Vannozza also had cherished hopes to live as a religious, the two sisters-in-law planned a program of devout practices. Duty to family was their first obligation, including dressing appropriately for their rank, receiving visitors graciously, and assisting in running the household with happy hearts and smiling faces. In free moments they would attend Mass together, pray together in a secluded garden oratory, visit prisons, and serve in the hospitals.
Soon these beautiful, gentle, kind ladies were regarded by the common people as saints. "In their own social circle they quickly acquired imitators."
Almost daily they nursed the sick in the Hospital of Santo Spirito, an 8th century hospice built by Anglo-Saxon kings for Saxon pilgrims. About 1200, Pope Innocent III (who became pope at age 36) converted it into a foundling hospital when some fishermen presented him with dead babies who had been caught in their nets. A turntable installed in the hospital walls provided an alternative to the Tiber River for abandoning unwanted babies. The babies were treated with musical therapy as the foster mothers breastfed them. The hospital, run by Guido of Montepellier's Hospital Brethren, was enlarged to also care for all who needed it.
Frances continued to go to Dom Antonio every Wednesday for confession and communion at the Church of Santa Maria Nuova. On Saturdays she went to the Church of San Clemente for a conference with Fra Michele, a Dominican monk who was an intimate friend of her father-in-law.
Because she loved to entertain, Cecilia Ponziano resented her daughter-in-law for spending so much time in prayer and refusing to dance or play cards. Many of Cecilia's friends began to laugh at Frances, and to turn her piety into ridicule. Lorenzo found his wife too perfect to interfere with her activities as he was advised to do. Both he and her brother-in-law were supportive, though neither appears to have participated with their respective spouses.
Both Frances and Vannozza wore haircloth under their beautiful brocades and velvets, and starved and scourged themselves. Whenever possible Frances slipped into nearby Saint Cecilia's Church for prayer and meditation. Silence, habitual to her since her childhood, became a more and more distinctive trait; she was courteous in conversation, gracious in manner to all she met, but, in so far as she properly could, she avoided chatter with associates which seemed to her purposeless.
Frances was able to see, hear, and feel her guardian angel after her marriage. "At the least imperfection in her conduct . . . she felt the blow of a mysterious hand . . . and every day her virtues and piety increased" (Fullerton). At an early age Frances was aware of the nearness of demonic temptation and danger. The devil was very real to her: he had attacked her physically and spiritually. Her viewpoint concerning a personal devil was one shared with many other great saints, Teresa of Avila among them.
In 1400, Giovanni Battista was born and baptized on his birthday in Saint Cecilia's. Frances insisted on nursing her son herself. Shortly thereafter Paolo di Bussi died and was buried in the Church of Saint Agnes (later his body moved to the Tor di Specchi). Her mother-in-law followed soon after and Frances was asked to assume the duties of lady-of-the-house.
She was a good administrator and a fair employer. She carefully arranged her servants schedules to allow them time to attend Mass, family prayers, and parochial instruction on Sundays and holidays. Mourning was followed by famine and pestilence, so there was no need for entertaining. Frances opened the doors to the poor and needy; no one asking for alms was to be turned away. She also went out among the nearby poor to offer corn, wine, oil, and clothing. Andreazzo, her father-in-law, then took from her the keys to the granary and wine cellar. Fearing that he would give in to her entreaties for additional food for the poor, he sold all the wine and corn the family would not need.
So, she and Vannozza begged door to door for supplies without much luck. She, Vannozza, and a faithful old servant Clara went to the granary to search for stray kernels, and collected a measure after several hours. They were carrying off their cache when Lorenzo entered the granary and found the straw had turned into 40 measures of corn.
Daily she drew wine from the one large cask left in the family cellar until it ran dry. Andreazzo hurled angry, bitter reproaches at her, joined by Lorenzo and Paluzzo. She prayed and said, "Do not be angry; let us go to the cellar; may be through God's mercy, that the cask may be full by this time." And so it was. Thereafter Lorenzo venerated her and encouraged her to follow in every respect the divine inspirations she received.
Earlier miracles included quince falling at her feet out of season; and a particular fish desired by the ill Vannozza miraculously appearing on the bedcover that immediately restored Vannozza to health.
After consulting her spiritual director and receiving permission from her father-in-law, Frances sold all her jewels and clothing, and distributed the money to the poor. From then on she dressed in coarse green cloth and increased her good works and prayer. She was joined by Vannozza, Rita Celli--a devout young friend, and their servant Clara. Even with severe fasts and a stringent schedule, she retained her health. They were later joined by Lucia degli Aspalli, a young matron and kinswoman.
When Giovanni Battista was four years old (Frances, 20), Giovanni Evangelista, "a child of grace and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven," was born. Evangelista was old in sense, small in body, great in soul, resplendent in beauty, angel-like in all his ways. At age three he was endowed with the gift of prophecy, and the faculty of reading the unuttered thoughts of men's hearts. Frances's third child was named Agnes after her favorite saint.
Politically this was a turbulent period of two popes (Rome and Avignon) and the virtual rule of Rome by Ladislas of Naples. The Ponziani and Orsini families were engaged in a battle to end the schism without result. Lorenzo and the rest of the family supported Alexander V, a second anti-Pope, and Louis of France's quest to conquer Naples. Lorenzo was gravely wounded in a street fight and restored to health by the ministrations of his wife.
Soon thereafter, Paluzzo was arrested, then the family was informed that they must surrender nine-year-old Battista to Ladislas' governor or Paluzzo would be killed. She fled into the streets with Battista and ran into Dom Antonio, who told her to go to the Church of Santa Maria d'Aracoeli, which she did. The Count of Traja was awaiting them and she convinced the tearful Battista to go to him. Turning away, she entered the church to weep bitterly before the altar of the Merciful Mother. As soon as she had left, the count had ordered Battista taken away on a horse, but all five that were tried refused to move. So, they took him back to his mother who was still praying.
Political troubles continued when Balthazar Cossa (John XXIII) was elected anti-Pope and Louis d'Anjou succeeded in getting a foothold in Rome. Ladislas attacked and pillaged Rome. The Ponziani palace was marked for demolition. They were about to escape to one of their country estates when their terrified vintners, shepherds, and cattlemen poured into the palace with tales of death and destruction in the countryside. Lorenzo, in convalescent condition, was finally persuaded to flee to a distant province. Soon after his departure their home was invaded, servants tortured and killed, the palace and all its contents demolished, and 13- year-old Battista carried off to Naples. The wreckage was cleared and the family continued to live there.
Famine and pestilence followed. The beautiful child Evangelista died happily convinced that angels had come to accompany him to heaven. Thereafter Frances increased her good works. She and Vannozza turned the destroyed inner banqueting hall into a hospital for the homeless. They were joined by Rita and Lucia, plus two others: Margherita di Montellucci and Giacobella di Biunemonti.
Occasionally Frances went to the family vineyard near the Church of Saint Paul's-Outside-the-Walls to gather grapes and dry vines to supplement the meager supply of firewood and distribute among the poor who were without fuel.
Her nursing skills were supplemented by the gift of healing and skill in making ointments. She brought a dead, unbaptized baby back to life. Many miracles are attributed to her, including a vision of the dead Evangelista, who said:
My abode is with God; my companions are the angels; our sole occupation the contemplation of the Divine perfections,-- the endless source of all happiness. Eternally united with God, we have no will except His; and our peace is as complete as His Being is infinite. He is Himself our joy, and that joy knows no limits. There are nine choirs of angels in heaven, and the higher orders of angelic spirits instruct in the Divine mysteries the less exalted intelligences. If you wish to know my place amongst them, my mother, learn that God, in His great goodness, has appointed it in the second choir of angels, and the first hierarchy of archangels.
While he was speaking, Frances saw that he was not alone; a second celestial figure stood beside him, very like him in build and height, but even more beautiful. Evangelista turned in his direction and said,
This my companion is higher than I am in rank, as he is more bright and fair in aspect. The Divine Majesty has assigned him to you as a guardian during the remainder of your earthly pilgrimage. Night and day by your side, he will assist you in every way. Never amidst the joys of Paradise have I for an instant forgotten you, or any of my loved ones on earth. I knew you were resigned; but I also knew that your heart would rejoice at beholding me once more, and God has permitted that I should thus gladden your eyes.
I have a message for you, Mother--a message from God. He is asking for Agnes. So, before long, she will leave you, too. But the archangel will remain. To the moment of your death he will be ever present in your sight.
The light surrounding her guardian archangel was so bright that she could read and write at night by it. She described him as full of sweetness and majesty, long curly golden hair that fell over his shoulders, eyes turned heavenward, wearing a luminous long robe covered with a tunic of white, red, or sky blue.
Frances collapsed after burying her daughter and was gravely ill for months and had frequent visions of hell. She was only 29.
With Ladislas poisoned by his mistress, and his sister and heir Joanna too preoccupied with a succession of scandalous affairs, Battista was returned to his mother. He had acquired the social and cultural graces of court without losing his piety. Lorenzo, too, returned but was a broken man. He tacitly blamed her for the death of Evangelista and Agnes. When he had left she was strikingly beautiful; now wan and wasted. Through tenderness and patience Frances succeeded in restoring him to normalcy from deep melancholia.
On November 11, 1417, the Western schism ended with the deposition of the two schismatic popes, abdication of Gregory XII, and election of Ottone Colonna as Pope Martin V. Now unmolested the vineyards and stock farms of the Ponziani prospered and their houses restored. Frances began to spend more time with those of her own social class, tending to their problems--perhaps because of her visions of hell.
A former detractor, frivolous Gentilezza, was restored to health by Frances after promising to reform her life. Doctors had given up on her. She persuaded Giovanni Antonio Lorenzi to abandon murderous designs on an erstwhile friend and helped Angelo Savelli to forgive the one who mortally wounded him in a duel. She helped the Benedictine Dom Ippolito to rightly consider his vocation and position, which led him to conversion, confession, and humble service, and eventually to being named prior.
Frances believed her obligations to her family came first and must never be slighted in order to spend more time in prayer or acts of charity. Once while attempting to recite Morning Prayer, she was interrupted four times to handle domestic chores and each time responded cheerfully. When she returned the fourth time, the antiphon was inscribed in gold and remained that way until her death.
Now the miracles associated with her began to have a more mystical character--she received the stigmata in her side, which was known only to Vannozza who dressed it and Dom Antonio, her confessor. The wound was healed after a vision in which she was transported to Bethlehem and cleansed by the BVM.
Battista married 12-year-old Mabilia Papazunni, also of noble family. Frances had hoped that Mabilia would take on the responsibilities of the household, but she preferred entertaining. Mabilia criticized and ridiculed Frances in public. She dressed immodestly and opulently, and found Frances's green dress obnoxious. Discord entered the family with Mabilia. Frances continued tranquilly to hope for a change in Mabilia's attitude. Mabilia collapsed while railing against her mother-in-law's habits, dress, and standards. When she recovered she acknowledged her sinful pride and was reconciled with Frances. Eventfully, she bore children: Girolamo and Vannozza.
Sensing the deep holiness of his wife, Lorenzo promised Frances complete liberty if she would only agree to always inhabit his house, and, naturally, she agreed. Mabilia took on more responsibilities and freed Frances further to participate in the activities of the Jubilee of 1423 and listen to the great Franciscan preacher Bernardine of Siena.
Frances and her friends approached Dom Antonio regarding establishing an Oblate of Saint Benedict, since its rule did not permit third orders. He went to Dom Ippolito, who was helped by Frances and who obtained approval for the establishment of the Oblates of Mary. The friends prepared for their consecration on the Feast of the Assumption, 1425, with prayer, fasting, and penance. They included Frances, Vannozza, Rita Celli, Agnes Selli, and probably Anastasia di Clarelli, Perna Colluzzi, Caterina Manetti, Frances di Veroli, Giacobella di Brumemonti, Agostina di Viterbo, and Lella Maioli. This was not a solemn vow but an affiliation.
Frances left Rome only once to receive the "Great Pardon" at the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi. She walked there and back accompanied by Vannozza and Rita. Lorenzo and the released Paluzzo objected to this. They miraculously encountered Saint Francis along the way (long dead).
While they were gone Dom Antonio Savelli died. She chose the 33- year-old Dom Giovanni Matteotti as her new confessor. He ordered her to relate her visions to him in minute detail and kept a daily record of all she told him. He became her biographer.
Some of the Benedictines questioned the legitimacy of attaching a secular order to the monastery. So, Frances sought formal recognition from the pope, but there were new political troubles.
Lorenzo was growing feeble. Battista, as a brigadier general, was in constant danger. Vannozza, mortally ill, was tended by Frances and their friends until a soft white mist enveloped her as she breathed her last and a shaft of light slanted toward heaven. She wasn't buried in the Ponziani chapel, but in the Santa Croce family chapel in the Church of Aracoeli.
Frances's ecstasies and prophetic visions came more and more frequently. She was extremely affected by meditating on our Savior's passion, which she had always present to her mind. At Mass she was so absorbed in God as to seem immoveable, especially after holy communion: she often fell into ecstasies of love and devotion. She had a particular devotion to John the Evangelist, and above all to our Lady.
Seven years after their consecration, Frances invited her friends to dine in her home during Lorenzo's absence and said that they needed to be united in outward as well as interior life. Christ had commanded her to build a spiritual edifice. They selected a house under the spiritual guidance of Dom Ippolito, Dom Giovanni, and Fra Bartolommeo Biondii, a Franciscan monk who was brother-in- law to Agnes Selli and a theologian and orator of exceptional talent. She refused to use the monies of her family but later accepted the deeds to the vineyard near Saint Paul's-Outside-the- Wall and another known as Porta Portere.
Only the unwed or widowed were to live together, but it still alarmed their parents. The married would visit. The choice fell to the site of the Tor di Specchi (Tower of Mirrors). When the papal bull was finally issued, the congregation was described as that of the Oblates of Tor di Spechhi. The rules were revealed to Frances in a series of visions. These divided the day into periods of work, rest, and prayer, prescribed the manner of dress that was symbolic, etc. Ten oblates moved into the Tor di Specchi on the Feast of the Annunciation and Agnes Selli was chosen as their first superior.
When Lorenzo died peacefully, Frances arranged for Masses to be said for him and settled his estate. She tried to train Battista to take over the management of the agricultural estates. She then applied for admission to the community at Tor di Specchi. Agnes wanted to resign as superior, Frances objected but was overruled by the oblates and Dom Giovanni who commanded her to take charge. On March 25, 1436, she was duly elected Superior.
That night her guardian angel left her and presented the one to take his place, who was even higher in the angelic hierarchy. The newcomer also wore a dalmatic but of more precious tissue; the light surrounding him was more dazzling, and his very glance was sufficient to put demons to flight (while the other had to shake his locks). He carried three golden boughs from which came golden threads that he wound around his neck or into balls to provide for a mysterious tissue that would be used later on.
When in March 1440 Battista succumbed to a fever, Frances instantly responded. During the day it became apparent that she, too, was ill, nevertheless she insisted on returning on foot and stopping to ask her spiritual director's blessing. He commanded her to return to the palace. In a vision Jesus, surrounded by angels and saints, announced that she would die in seven days. For the next days she resumed her normal prayers. Her deathbed was marred only by an incident wherein she accused her son of wrong dealings and he admitted his guilt.
She died as she finished her vespers. Her last words were: "The Angel has finished his task; he calls me to follow him." The cause for her canonization was introduced almost immediately, but it was not much advanced until the accession of Clement VIII, who had a great devotion to the saint, but he and his successor died before this was accomplished. Paul V (Borghese) decreed her canonisation.
Her husband and children are entombed beneath the pavement of the Ponziani family chapel (now the sacristy) of the Church of Saint Cecilia. The walls have scenes from her life. Her skeletal remains, clad in the habit of the Oblates of the Congregation of Mount Olivet, which she founded, lie exposed in a glass casket in the church with her name, coupled with its original designation of Santa Maria Nuovo. Once every hundred years it is opened to reclothe her body in a fresh habit. This is her father Paolo di Bussi's church.
On her feast day, the priest blesses cars parked outside because she is La Padrona degli Automobilisti, which is odd because she may have left Rome only once to go to Assisi and generally travelled by foot.
She did not live in the Tor di Specchi on the via Teatro di Marcello near the Orsini Palace until after the death of her husband. The chapel of the Tor di Specchi has 20 frescoes, plus the altarpiece, all in perfect condition, depicting the miracles of Saint Frances (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Berthem-Bontoux, Cecchetti, Delaney, Delany, Encyclopedia, Farrow, Fullerton, Gill, Grandi, Husenbeth, Keyes, Martindale, Morton, White, Windham).
In art, Saint Frances is portrayed as a nun with her guardian angel dressed as a deacon by her side. At times the icon may include (1) a monstrance and arrow; (2) a book; or (3) an angel with a branch of oranges near her; or she may be shown (4) receiving the veil from the Christ Child in the arms of the Blessed Virgin (Roeder). She is the patroness of Roman housewives (Roeder) and motorists and automobiles (Farmer).
Gregory of Nyssa B (RM)
Born at Caesarea, Cappadocia, c. 330-335; died c. 395-400.
This mystic among the three great Cappadocians was probably considerably younger than his brother Basil the Great. Like his brother, Gregory was well educated at Athens in both secular studies and theology, and married Theosebeia. (Gregory Nazianzen had a high opinion about both husband and wife. In his short eulogium of her, Nazianzen says that she rivaled her brothers-in-law who were in the priesthood, and calls her sacred, or one consecrated in God; she may have been a deaconess.) He became a rhetorician and a professor of rhetoric. Later, depressed with his students and at the persuasion of his friends, especially Gregory Nazianzen who exhorted him to turn to the sacred ministry, he was ordained and withdrew to seclusion. He joined his mother, Emmelia and sister, Macrina in Neocaesarea, and entered upon a strict monastic life the first five years after his ordination.
When Basil had become metropolitan of Caesarea and was trying to strengthen the anti-Arian front through the appointment of orthodox bishops, he made Gregory bishop of the neighboring Cappodocian town of Nyssa, Lower Armenia, in 372. When Basil was criticized for nepotism, he declared that it was better that his brother should do honor to the place than that the place should honor his brother.
His see was infested with Arianism. Gregory, a theologian and mystic, a man of learning, was not equal to the practical demands of the bishopric. He was easy-going, tactless, inefficient in monetary matters, and allowed himself to be cheated and deceived to the point that Demosthenes, the governor of Pontus, accused him of stealing Church property and had him imprisoned. He escaped but was deposed by a synod of Galatian and Pontiac bishops in 376.
For several years until the death of Emperor Valens, he had to lead an uncertain, wandering life, "buffeted about like a piece of wood upon the water" (Gregory of Nazianzen). Gregory remained in exile until 378, when Emperor Gratian restored him to the see. In 379, he attended the Council of Antioch, which denounced the Meletian heresy, and was sent by that council to Palestine and Arabia to combat heresy there.
In the year 381, he participated in the second ecumenical Council at Constantinople, where he stood out as an authoritative theologian. The attacked Arianism and eloquently reaffirmed the decrees of the Council of Nicaea. The council called him, "Father of the Fathers" because he was widely venerated as the great pillar of orthodoxy and the great opponent of Arianism.
Influenced by the writings of Origen and Plato, Gregory wrote numerous theological treatises, which were considered the true exposition of the Catholic faith. Among them were his Catechetical Discourse, treatises against Eunomius and Apollinaris, a book On Virginity, and commentaries on the Scriptures.
A good many of his writings survive:
Answer to Eunomius' Second Book
On the Holy Spirit (Against the Followers of Macedonius)
On the Holy Trinity, and of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit
On "Not Three Gods" (To Ablabius)
On the Faith (To Simplicius)
Funeral Oration on Meletius
On the Baptism of Christ (Sermon for the Day of Lights)
Canonical Epistle to St. Letoius
He surpasses the other Cappadocian fathers in the depth and richness of his philosophy and theology and the appeal of his ascetical works. On the Soul and the Resurrection is in the form of a dialogue with his sister Macrina, and another dialogue, Against Fate, shows what a hold astrology had on people's minds. His ascetical works, such as the Life of Moses, and his sermons on the Song of Songs are well reputed.
One of his letters has a special interest in that it shows that the custom of religious pilgrimage was already being seriously abused at the end of the fourth century. A selection of translated texts from Gregory's mystical writings, under the title From Glory to Glory, was published in 1963. Overall, Gregory's writings are remarkable for depth of thought and lucidity of expression. Of the three 'great Cappadocians'--Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa--he is the least prolific but the most profound.
Gregory was in Constantinople on several further occasions. At the imperial court his eloquence was so highly esteemed that he was asked to deliver the eulogy for the wife of Theodosius the Great and for his daughter Pulcheria. The last account we have of him relates to his appearance at a synod in Constantinople in 394. Presumably he died soon after this, probably on January 10, the date on which the Greeks have always kept his feast.
Apparently there is some debate about Gregory's relationship with his wife following his episcopal consecration. Some imagine that he continued to cohabit with her. But Saint Jerome testifies that the custom of the eastern churches did not suffer such a thing. She seems to have lived to see him ordained a bishop, and to have died about the year 384; but she professed a state of continency (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth, Schamoni). Click here to see an anonymous Russian icon of Saint Gregory.
Pacian(us) of Barcelona B (RM)
Died in Barcelona, Spain, c. 390. Before being raised to the position of bishop of Barcelona in 365 (or 373), the well-born Saint Pacian was a married man. His son Dexter was high chamberlain to Emperor Theodosius, and praefectus-praetorio under Honorius. Pacian wrote much about ecclesiastical discipline. Although most of it is lost, Saint Jerome, who dedicated his catalogue of illustrious men to Pacian, extols his eloquence and learning, and more particularly the chastity and sanctity of his life. Pacian's Exhortation on penance is considered a classic. In the first of his three letters written to Sympronianus against Novatianism occurs the famous saying: "My name is Christian, my surname is Catholic." A sermon on Baptism also survives (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.