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Frances of Rome (1384–1440)

Frances of Rome (1384–1440)

Saint. Name variations: St. Frances the widow. Born in Rome in 1384; died in 1440; daughter of Paul Bussa and Jacobella de' Roffredeschi ; married Laurence Ponziani, a young noble; children: son (b. 1400), son (b. 1404), and daughter (b. 1407).

Born into an illustrious family, Frances of Rome gave signs of exceptional piety at an early age and rejected childhood amusements. At 11, she asked to enter a convent, but her parents coaxed her into a marriage with the young, equally pious, noble, Laurence Ponziani. The successful 40-year marriage was based on mutual respect. "A married woman must, when called upon," wrote Frances, "quit her devotion to God at the altar, to find him in her household affairs." Though she was known to be kind and indulgent to her household, treating her servants well, she imposed mortifications on herself, including making mouldy bread her staple diet. She wore a coarse serge dress, a hairshirt, and a horsehair girdle.

Her sister-in-law, Vanozza Ponziani , was of a similar persuasion. Together, they met to pray in a grotto in the garden, cared for the sick of the Sancto Spirito, and gave money to the poor. With her husband's approval, Frances founded a monastery for nuns, named the Oblates, in 1425, and gave them the rule of St. Benedict and the statutes of the Olivetan monks. When many flocked to join the mission at Tor di' Specchi, she had it enlarged in 1433. Following her husband's death, Frances entered the monastery but was soon ill. She died, age 56, while on a visit to the bedside of her son John Baptist who was also ill at the Palazzo Ponziani. Immediately following her death, Frances was canonized by Pope Paul V. St. Frances of Rome left behind 97 visions, dictated to her confessor. Her feast day is on March 9.

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