It’s no surprise that most saints whose feast days fall during Lent every year are often overlooked. After all, Lent is arguably the most important liturgical season of the year. Still, some of us are so caught up in our penances and what we gave up that we often overlooked these amazing saints. St. Frances of Rome is one of them.
And, okay, full disclosure, I’m a Benedictine Oblate so her feast day is a pretty big deal to us Oblates and those in the Benedictine family. However, that’s not why I think you should learn more about her. Her story is an amazing one and some of the obstacles she faced are still relevant to us today.
Intrigued? Here are 5 things you may not (but need to) know about the “bright jewel of the Order of St. Benedict” (as the prayer in the Raccolta calls her).
Hesitant to accept her vocation, at first
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like God was calling you to do something you didn’t want to do. Keep it up if you initially fought against it. Same boat, friend. The very strong-willed St. Frances of Rome dreamed of devoting herself to the Lord as a nun from the time she was 11 years old. Her father, however, had promised her hand in marriage to the son of another wealthy family. There was nothing she could do about it.
She begged God to prevent the marriage from happening. When she complained to her spiritual director that she did not want to get married, he famously replied, “Are you crying because you want to do God’s will or because you want God to do your will?” Ouch. From that point on, St. Frances (reluctantly) accepted her vocation and lived it out as perfectly as she could until her husband’s death.
She had a vision in which another saint healed her
Married life was not easy for her, especially at the tender age of 13. As the wife of a wealthy nobleman, she was expected to party, entertain, and live a worldly life that didn’t appeal to her. The whole thing overwhelmed her to the point of her health collapsing. She couldn’t eat, speak, or even move. Death seemed imminent. Then a miracle happened.
She had a vision that St. Alexis. He, too, came from a wealthy family and wanted to give his life to God instead of getting married. The only difference was that St. Alexis was able to run away and became a beggar, becoming unrecognizable to his family upon his return who treated him like another beggar. St. Alexis told St. Frances her choice: to do God’s will and recover or to die. She replied with a simple, “God’s will is mine.” Her recovery was immediate soon after.
She could see and hear her guardian angel
St. Frances had three children: two sons and a daughter. A year after the death of her younger son, Evangelista (who died due to a plague that hit Rome), she had a vision in which he told her that her only daughter would soon die as well. Her consolation would be that God would grant her the grace of having an archangel as her guardian angel for the remainder of her life. As if that weren’t enough, she was able to see and receive spiritual advice from him.
She’s co-patroness of Benedictine Oblates
That’s right! She is co-patroness of all Benedictine Oblates along with St. Henry. After her surviving son was grown and married—and with the full support of her husband—St. Frances began a lay order of women who attached to the Benedictine. They called themselves the Oblates of Mary. Cue the “Ohh!” chorus. They devoted themselves to God and served the poor. After some time, they also bought a house where widowed members could live in a community together. She also lived in this house following the death of her husband.
She’s the patroness of drivers
We all know that St. Christopher is often invoked by drivers, but did you know that we motorists also have St. Frances as a patroness? It seems a little odd that she should be considered the patroness of taxi drivers, especially since she herself lived centuries before the car was invented. However, in 1925, Pope Pius XI assigned her the patronage because it was said that an angel used to light the road before her with a lantern when she traveled so she would avoid harm. I don’t know about you but that seems like a pretty legit reason to invoke her intercession when driving under dangerous conditions.
There is so much more I wish I could share about St. Frances of Rome but it would make this article a lot longer than it is. If you want to learn more about her, just look her up on your favorite Catholic websites that feature saint biographies, such as New Advent.
St. Frances of Rome, pray for us!
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