Frances’s life combines aspects of secular and religious life. A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome’s poor.
Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth. But her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband.
Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met. The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter. With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household. The family flourished under Frances’s care, but within a few years a great plague began to sweep across Italy. It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances’s second son dead. In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need. When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging. Later, Frances’s daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.
Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows. They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor. Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband. She did this for seven years, until her husband passed away, and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society—serving the poorest of the poor.
Also known as: Franziske
An aristocrat by birth, her parents were Paul Bussa and Jacobella de' Roffredeschi. Married at age 12 to Lorenzo de' Ponziani, her marriage lasted 40 years. Mother of three in 1400, 1404, and 1407. Widow.
On her feast day priests bless cars due to her patronage of cars and drivers. Frances certainly never drove, but legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her lighting the road with a headlight-like lantern, keeping her safe in her travels.
1384 in Rome, Italy
1440 in Rome, Italy; relics at Saint Frances of Rome Church, Rome, Italy; entombed beneath the pavement of the Ponziani sacristy of the Church of Saint Cecilia, Rome, Italy
29 May 1608 by Pope Paul V
automobile drivers, automobilists, cab drivers, death of children, lay people, motorists, people ridiculed for their piety, Roman housewives, taxi drivers, widows
woman habited in black with a white veil, accompanied by her guardian angel, and sometimes carrying a basket of food; nun with her guardian angel dressed as a deacon; nun with a monstrance and arrow; nun with a book; nun with an angel with a branch of oranges near her; receiving the veil from the Christ Child in the arms of the Blessed Virgin
God not only tested the patience of Frances with respect to her material wealth, but he also tested her especially through long and serious illnesses which she had to undergo. And yet no one ever observed in her a tendency toward impatience. She never exhibited any displeasure when she complied with an order, no matter how foolish.
With peace of soul, she always reconciled herself to the will of God, and gave him thanks for all that happened.
God had not chosen her to be holy merely for her own advantage. Rather the gifts he conferred upon her were to be for the spiritual and physical advantage of her neighbor. For this reason he made her so lovable that anyone with whom she spoke would immediately feel captivated by love for her and ready to help her in everything she wanted. She seemed able to subdue the passions of every type of person with a single word and lead them to do whatever she asked.
For this reason people flocked to Frances from all directions, as to a safe refuge. No one left her without being consoled, although she openly rebuked them for their sins and fearlessly reproved them for what was evil and displeasing to God.
Many different diseases were rampant in Rome. Fatal diseases and plagues were everywhere, but the saint ignored the risk of contagion and displayed the deepest kindness toward the poor and the needy. Her empathy would first bring them to atone for their sins. Then she would help them by her eager care, and urge them lovingly to accept their trials, however, difficult, from the hand of God. She would encourage them to endure their sufferings for love of Christ, since he had previously endured so much for them.
For thirty years Frances continued this service to the sick and the stranger. During epidemics like this it was not only difficult to find doctors to care for the body but even priests to provide remedies for the soul. She herself would seek them out and bring them to those who were disposed to receive the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist.
from the Life of Saint Frances of Rome by a contemporary