St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440) was a member of the Roman aristocracy; she wished to enter a convent, but in obedience to her parents was instead married at age thirteen to a young nobleman named Lorenzo de’ Ponziani. Frances was a good wife and household manager and the mother of two sons and a daughter. She and her sister-in-law both desired to spend time in prayer and service to the poor; with their husbands’ blessings, the two women performed various acts of faith and charity.
In addition to her family responsibilities, Frances cared for victims of epidemics and wars (both of which were frequent events in fifteenth-century Italy). In 1409 Lorenzo was forced into exile because of a civil war; he returned five years later as a broken man, and Frances also cared for him, in addition to her other activities. A severe plague struck Rome, claiming two of the couple’s three children; Frances sold all her possessions to raise funds so as to care for the sick, and then she and her sister-in-law went door to door begging for additional money.
Frances organized a society of Roman women who shared her desire for self-denial and charitable works. When her husband Lorenzo died in 1436, following forty years of married life (during which the two of them reportedly never had a quarrel), Frances spent the remainder of her life with her community.
1. One of the reasons obedience is valuable is that our noble aspirations aren’t necessarily God’s will for us. By agreeing to marriage, young St. Frances gained a husband who supported her ministry, and also received more opportunities to be of service to others than she would ever have expected.
2. Most people are called to experience holiness not in a monastery or convent, but in the responsibilities and activities of daily life. St. Frances once said, “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”
From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day
“She did not cease to be mindful of the things of God during her marriage, so that she pleased God in her husband and her husband in God.”
—From the prayer book of the community of women founded by St. Frances of Rome
St. Frances of Rome did not want to marry but desired to enter religious life instead. She recognized, however, that marriage was God’s will for her. She did marry, and, following the death of her husband, she founded a religious community. How is God speaking to me through the witness of the life of St. Frances of Rome?
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Dominic Savio (1857), Patron of choirboys and the falsely accused