Saint Frances of Rome was born in the year 1384. She was an only child. Her parent’s dressed her in pretty clothes and gave her a good education. At age 11 in the year 1395, she decided she wanted to be a nun, but her parents said no. They had already selected a husband for her.
At age 13 she married Lawrence Ponziano of a wealthy and influential Roman family. At first Frances found her new life trying. She had many household responsibilities and social obligations. But she found a close friend in her sister-in-law, Vanessa. They pledged themselves to daily acts of penance, prayer, works of piety and charity. They spent hours in prayer in an old summer cottage in the garden. They brought baskets of food to the city for the poor and visited the sick in the nearby hospital.
In the winter the two women made daily trips to the outskirts of the city, gathering branches and vines and loading them on a donkey. They distributed the firewood in the slums where tumbledown shacks were pitiful shelters against the cold.
God graced Frances with the gift of healing. She cured the sick and wounded with prayer and a gentle touch. Frances was married five years and had three children, a healthy boy John Baptist, another boy Evangelist, and a girl Agnes.
Rome was invaded in the year 1410 and during the civil war that followed. Her husband was wounded and her son was taken hostage and did not return until peace was restored. A plague followed in the wake of the war. Evangelist died from the plague, he was nine years old. A Year after his death, he appeared to his mother in a dream, he spoke to her describing to her the splendor of heaven and a choir of nine angels singing “HOLY HOLY LORD GOD OF HOSTS” he told her he was sent to warn her of Agnes impending death and to tell her that God would give her an Archangel to guide her for the remainder of her life.
Agnes died at age 16 from the plague. The promised Archangel became visible to Frances but to no one else. The Archangel’s light was so bright she could read by it. When she committed a fault the Archangel would hide himself and the light would not shine again until she made an act of contrition.
The Angel’s presence increased her desire to please God. The Ponziano palace is in a section of Rome around the corner from the little church of San Francesco; this church had been given to Saint Francis of Assisi in the year 1212 by a Roman lady. It was at this church that Saint Frances of Rome was received in the Third Order of Saint Francis. In the year 1425 Frances and six other Roman ladies were clothed as Oblates of St. Benedict, this did not cancel her membership in the Third Order.
For at time Frances and Vanessa made a journey to Assisi, walking 100 miles from Rome to Assisi, the city of Saint Francis. Near Assisi Saint Francis appeared to them and provided the hungry and thirsty pilgrims with fresh juicy pears. In the year 1433 after her husband’s death Frances founded a religious community of Oblates, they worked and prayed for the Holy Father and peace of Rome.
She died on March 9,1440. She was 56 years old. The angel has finished his task she said, he beckons me to follow him. Pope Paul the
Fifth canonized her in 1608. She is honored as the principal patron of all Benedictine Oblates. But she is also one greatest saints who wore the habit of the Third Order of Saint Francis.