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  • Writer's pictureOmar Gutierrez

The Vocation of Family Life: St. Frances of Rome

Many Catholics tend to think of priests and sisters when they hear the word "vocation." And for many Catholics priests and religious are the "holy ones" while the rest of us slobs try to make it through a single day without committing some terrible sin.


The recent history of the Catholic Church has hopefully put a lie to that way of thinking. But it is still hard for many parents, who are confessing the same sins over and over again about losing their temper with their kids or not praying enough, to see how our lives can be holy. So, let me tell you a bit about today's saint, St. Frances of Rome.


Frances Roffredeschi was born just outside of Rome in the year 1384. A beloved child of a well-to-do family, she wanted for nothing growing up except for the quiet and solitude of a monastery. Her parents flatly refused her request to enter religious life and rather paired her with Lorenzo Ponziano, a nice, wealthy young man of the region. She assented and married him. In the year 1400, Frances gave birth to the first of three children, and in the following year the matron of the family, Donna Cecilia, passed away making Frances the new head of the family estate which included servants of various kinds.


Frances ran her home with kindness and gentility because she understood that her sanctity would come through her vocation was wife and mother. She said once that a wife and mother must sometimes “leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.” Let that sink in. Sometimes, we have to leave God in the Church and find Him in our work for the family.


Once, so the story goes, she sat down to recite her prayers from “Our Lady’s Office” – a traditional prayer book which included the recitation of antiphons and psalms. As she picked up the book and said the first antiphon, she was interrupted by a servant who informed her that her husband needed her. Frances put down her prayer book and went to Lorenzo. After having helped him, she returned to her book, picked it up, read the first antiphon again and was interrupted again by some other matter in the kitchen. This happened two more times: the gardener needed something; one of the children was crying; each time all she managed was to read the first antiphon.


Finally, on the fifth attempt to sit down and pray, the words of the antiphon were no longer written in black ink on white paper. Rather, the words on the page had turned to gold. The Lord shared with her this gift, He told her, because of her fidelity to her vocation. She was not a nun, not a monastic, she was a mom and a wife. That was the vocation the Lord chose for her, and her fidelity to that was what pleased the Lord.


The Lord was also pleased by Frances' and her sister-in-law Vannozza's continual dedication to the poor. When a famine broke out, the two women went door to door in the wealthy neighborhoods begging for food for the poor. When the supplies at the family home ran out, Frances sold all her jewels and cared for those in need.


And don't think that because Lorenzo and she were wealth that she had it easy. The Church at the time of St. Frances of Rome was not exactly healthy. This was when the Western Schism took place. There were three popes at the same time. Frances’ family defended the actual pope and were persecuted because of it. Her husband was arrested, beaten, and eventually fled with their eldest son. The other children stayed with her, and due to famine and pestilence, her middle child, Evangelist, died and eventually her youngest, Agnes, died as well.


Much more can be said about St. Frances’ life. For instance, she would deal with a rude and conniving daughter-in-law whom she would eventually win over with love. After Frances' husband died, she would go on to found a religious order for women called the Oblates of Tor de’Specchi, the town in which they were founded. She was for a time granted the gift of healing. She could see and interact with her Guardian Angel, which is why she is often depicted with an angel. And she would receive visions of saints until her death on March 9, 1440.


However, aside from the many remarkable graces in her life, we should also appreciate her today for her simple dedication as a humble spouse, parent, and head of household . May we all live out our sanctity in those little works done with much love and devotion to our Lord.

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