vendredi 9 mars 2012

Sainte FRANÇOISE ROMAINE (FRANCESCA ROMANA) , veuve, religieuse, fondatrice et mystique




Sainte Françoise Romaine

A treize ans, parce qu'elle était de bonne noblesse romaine, elle dut épouser Lorenzo de Ponziani. Ils formèrent un ménage parfait, amoureux et paisible. Pour le public, elle était une merveilleuse maîtresse de maison. Mais elle réservait à Dieu ses conversations les plus longues, dans le petit oratoire au fond de son jardin. Elle acceptait avec une joie paisible les charges d'épouse et de mère de famille. Devenue veuve, après plus de quarante années de mariage, elle se retira dans la petite congrégation des Oblates de saint Benoît qu'elle venait de fonder pour les dames romaines qui voulaient s'adonner à la prière et aux bonnes œuvres. Elle consacre toute sa fortune au service des malades et des pauvres puis fonde à Rome le premier refuge pour les enfants abandonnés (1384-1440). Elle mourut en 1440, en soignant un de ses fils malade.

SOURCE : http://www.paroisse-saint-aygulf.fr/index.php/prieres-et-liturgie/saints-par-mois/icalrepeat.detail/2015/03/09/13411/-/sainte-francoise-romaine



Sainte Françoise Romaine

Fille de Paolo de Bussi et de Giacobella de Roffredeschi, Françoise naquit à Rome au début de 1384. Dès son enfance, elle se familiarisa avec la pratique des pénitents, commença l’étude de la vie des saintes femmes et, chaque jour, visita les églises romaines où l’on pouvait gagner des indulgences. Sa mère la mit sous la direction spirituelle de dom Antonio di Monte Savello, bénédictin du Mont Olivet, qui résidait à Santa Maria Nuova (devenue Sainte-Françoise-Romaine), auquel elle obéit exactement. Françoise qui, depuis son enfance, voulait se retirer dans un cloître, dut, à douze ans, obéissant à son père, renoncer à ce projet pour épouser Lorenzo Ponziani. Soutenue par sa belle famille, singulièrement par la Vanozza qui avait épousé le frère aîné de Lorenzo, Françoise continua de mener une vie de piété et de pénitence, sous la direction spirituelle de dom Antonio di Monte Savello qui la confessait tous les mercredis, et instruite des vérités de la foi par un dominicain, prieur de Saint-Clément, qu’elle rencontrait chaque samedi.

Soudain, Françoise tomba malade et resta une année entière entre la vie et la mort. Elle gardait un calme parfait tandis que sa famille, particulièrement son père, croyaient qu’il y avait là un châtiment divin parce qu’il l’avait empêchée de se retirer dans un cloître. Saint Alexis lui apparut une fois, pour lui demander si elle voulait être guérie, et, une seconde fois, pour lui signifier que Dieu voulait qu’elle restât dans le monde pour glorifier son nom ; jetant sur elle son manteau, saint Alexis disparut la laissant parfaitement guérie. Elle rejoignit Vanozza pour lui raconter sa vision et lui dit : « Maintenant que le jour est venu, hâtons-nous de nous rendre toutes deux à Santa Maria Nuova et à l’église de Saint-Alexis, en action de grâce. »

Les deux femmes résolurent de renoncer aux divertissements inutiles, de progresser dans la prière et de se consacrer à des œuvres de charité. Le peuple de Rome les considérait comme des saintes et de nobles dames voulurent imiter leur exemple. Les attaques du démon furent si terribles que le Seigneur permit à l’ange gardien de Françoise de se faire visible et prompt à réprimer tout ce qui pouvait empêcher sa progression. Son premier enfant, Jean-Baptiste, naquit en 1400 ; elle le nourrit elle-même et l’instruisit des vérités de la religion, corrigeant ses défauts d’obstinationet de colère. L’année suivante, à la mort de sa belle-mère, elle fut appelée à gouverner la maison des Ponziani dont elle fit un exemple, tant dans l’organisation que dans la piété.

Lorsque la famine et la peste s’abattirent sur Rome, Françoise et Vanozza s’épuisèrent en charité et allèrent jusqu’à se faire mendiantes pour secourir les indigents. Le Seigneur les aida par quelques miracles. Lorenzo, témoin de tant de merveilles, laissa sa femme organiser sa vie à sa guise ; elle vendit ses robes et ses bijoux, distribua l’argent aux pauvres et de s’habilla plus que d’une robe verte de drap grossier. Elle avait vingt ans lorsque naqui son deuxième fils, Jean-Evangelista, qui montra dès l’enfance des dons certains de sainteté. Trois plus tard lui naissait une fille, Agnès, douce et aussi précoce que son frère dans la sainteté. En 1409, dans l’anarchie romaine, pour avoir défendu la cause de l’Eglise, Lorenzo fut frappé d’un coup de poignard dont il ne mourut pas ; quelques temps plus tard, il fut enfermé et l’on demanda que Françoise livrât son fils aîné en otage ; ne pouvant refuser, elle porte Jean-Baptiste au Capitole et se retire dans l’église de l’Ara Cœli ; prosternée devant l’image de la Vierge, elle entend : « Ne crains rien, je suis ici pour te protéger » ; sur la place, le ravisseur a chargé l’enfant sur son cheval mais, comme le cheval refusait obtinément d’avancer, on rapporta l’enfant à sa mère qui n’avait pas quitté l’église. L’année suivante, lors de l’invasion de Rome par Ladislas Durazzo, Françoise continua ses charités tandis que toute sa famille fuyait Rome. Un an après sa mort, Jean-Evangelista apparut à sa mère pour lui révéler la gloire dont il jouissait au ciel et lui annoncer qu’Agnès allait bientôt le rejoindre. Françoise tomba malade vers 1414 et, par crainte de la contagion, fut abandonnée de tous, sauf de Vanozza ; c’est à cette époque qu’elle ses terribles visions de l’enfer.

Ladislas Durazzo mourut et Rome retrouva la paix ; les Ponziani rentrèrent et retrouvèrent leurs biens ; Lorenzo renonça à la vie publique pour la piété. Le 15 août 1425, à Santa Maria Nuova, Françoise, pour neuf dames romaines, fonda l’association des oblates de Marie, rattachée aux bénédictins du Mont Olivet, dont Eugène IV confirmera la règle en 1444. Avant d’entrer dans la congrégation dont elle était la fondatrice, Françoise dut attendre la mort de Lorenzo. Elle mourut le 9 mars 1440 en disant : « Le ciel s’ouvre, les anges descendent, l’archange a fini sa tâche, il est debout devant moi et me fait suivre de le suivre. »

SAINTE FRANÇOISE ROMAINE

Veuve

(1384-1440)

Sainte Françoise Romaine naquit à Rome, d'une famille très ancienne et non moins illustre. Son enfance, passée dans le recueillement et dans l'union avec Dieu, l'avait disposée à se consacrer à Jésus-Christ; mais Dieu permit que ses parents l'engageassent, malgré ses goûts, dans le mariage, pour donner aux personnes mariées un admirable modèle à imiter.

Sa maison fut l'école de toutes les vertus chrétiennes. Aimable pour tous, on ne sait laquelle fut la plus parfaite, de l'épouse, de la mère, de la maîtresse; époux, enfants, domestiques la vénéraient et l'aimaient. Les obligations de son état n'étaient jamais sacrifiées au bonheur de prier Dieu, et elle en reçut la récompense; car, un jour qu'elle avait été obligée de s'interrompre quatre fois pendant la récitation du même verset de son office, elle retrouva le verset écrit en lettres d'or.

Elle obtint de son mari, au bout de quelques années de mariage, de vivre en sa maison comme une véritable religieuse. Plus tard, son mari étant mort, elle put rejoindre les Soeurs Oblates, qu'elle avait fondées, et avec qui elle avait vécu jusque là en communauté d'oeuvres et de prières.

Parmi toutes les choses étonnantes de sa vie, on peut signaler surtout la présence ordinaire et visible de son ange gardien, et les luttes terribles qu'elle eut à soutenir contre le démon. Outre son ange gardien, Dieu lui avait donné un ange chargé de la punir; cet ange était sévère; car, à la moindre faute, il la frappait, même en public. L'ange restait invisible, mais les coups étaient entendus de tous. Ainsi, quelques personnes tenant un jour devant elle une conversation frivole, Dieu inspira à la Sainte de les interrompre, et comme elle hésitait, elle reçut sur la joue un rude soufflet. Souvent, alors qu'elle était à genoux devant une statue de la Sainte Vierge, son ange s'approchait et continuait avec elle la prière.

On représente généralement sainte Françoise avec un ange à côté d'elle. Plus d'une fois l'ange dévoué eut à chasser les démons, qui ne cessaient de harceler la servante de Dieu. Une nuit, pendant qu'elle priait, le diable la prit par les cheveux, et, la portant sur la terrasse de la maison, la suspendit au-dessus de la rue; mais Dieu la remit en sûreté dans sa cellule.

D'autres fois, elle était traînée violemment; l'ennemi du salut prenait toutes les formes pour la tromper ou l'épouvanter; le calme de Françoise excitait son dépit et le mettait en fuite.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/sainte_francoise_romaine.html



Le XVe siècle à Rome se pare d'un printemps éclatant par la sainteté d'une femme qui fut épouse, mère, veuve et enfin religieuse. La vie de Françoise di Ponziani s'est déroulée entre la place Navone où elle fut baptisée en 1384, le Transtévère où elle vécut trente-sept avec son époux Laurent et Tor de Specchi, son étape finale. Elle a bien mérité le nom de Françoise Romaine. Mariée toute jeune, elle a plusieurs enfants qui tous meurent en bas âge. La plaie de cette douleur ne se fermera jamais dans son coeur. De plus, son mari, membre du parti Guelfe, devra partir en exil. Restée seule, Françoise consacre ses journées aux soins de sa vaste maison et donne le maximum de son temps à prier dans les églises et à secourir les pauvres. 

La terrible peste qui dévaste Rome en 1414 donne à Françoise le motif du don total selon l'Évangile du Christ. Avec d'autres dames romaines, elle organise une communauté religieuse non cloîtrée, selon l'esprit de saint Benoît : des oblates dans le monde. Pour le public, Françoise reste une grande dame, épouse fidèle et parfaite maîtresse de maison. Personne ne devine les faveurs spirituelles dont elle est gratifiée. Elle aimait son mari avec tendresse, à travers leurs épreuves. Elle avait un grand ami : son ange gardien, son confident qui la guidait et la réconfortait. A la mort de son époux, Françoise rejoint ses compagnes oblates de saint Benoît, au couvent édifié par elle à Tor di Specchi. Après avoir été un exemple des vertus familiales, elle sera un modèle de vie religieuse, dans une vie consacrée à la prière, à la vie fraternelle et au service des pauvres. Françoise de Rome acheva son parcours terrestre le 9 mars 1440.


 Françoise vient du nom latin du peuple des "Francs".


Rédacteur : Frère Bernard Pineau, OP

SOURCE : http://www.lejourduseigneur.com/Web-TV/Saints/Francoise-Romaine



Francesca Romana

1384-1440

Francesca naquit à Rome, d'une famille très ancienne et non moins illustre. Son père était Paolo de Bussi, et sa mère Giacobella de Roffredeschi. Mais on ne connaît Francesca que par son surnom de Romana, romaine.

Son enfance, passée dans le recueillement et dans l'union avec Dieu, l'avait disposée à se consacrer à Jésus-Christ ; elle aimait déjà se mortifier, affectionnant les légumes cuits à l’eau. Elle aimait parcourir les rues de Rome pour visiter les églises. 

Sa mère la confia à un bon prêtre, qui la dirigea pendant trente-cinq années. Francesca se confessait chaque mercredi, et obéissait pleinement et joyeusement aux conseils qu’elle recevait. A onze ans, sa décision était prise d’entrer au cloître, mais Dieu permit que ses parents l'engageassent, malgré ses goûts et son jeune âge, dans le mariage, pour donner aux personnes mariées un admirable modèle à imiter.

Son père lui avait destiné un certain Lorenzo Ponziani, de noble famille. Francesca fit tout son possible, mais en vain, pour faire revenir de sa décision son père : elle obéit.

Elle accepta le train de vie que lui imposait sa position d’épouse de noble famille, mais portait sous ses riches vêtements un cilice ; elle savait trouver le temps de se confesser chaque mercredi comme avant ; elle écoutait la prédication du samedi. Son mari l’adorait, tandis que les connaissances la critiquaient à l’envi et suggéraient à Lorenzo de lui faire cesser ces «extravagances».

Francesca tomba malade gravement ; on la crut à la mort. Saint Alexius lui apparut et la guérit en lui imposant son manteau (voir au 17 juillet ; il est biein probable que Francesca ne mettait pas en doute l’existence et l’histoire de saint Alexius). 

Sa maison fut l'école de toutes les vertus chrétiennes. Aimable pour tous, on ne sait laquelle fut la plus parfaite, de l'épouse, de la mère, de la maîtresse ; époux, enfants, domestiques la vénéraient et l'aimaient. Les obligations de son état n'étaient jamais sacrifiées au bonheur de prier Dieu, et elle en reçut la récompense ; car, un jour qu'elle avait été obligée de s'interrompre quatre fois pendant la récitation du même verset de son office, elle retrouva le verset écrit en lettres d'or.

Avec Vanozza, sa belle-sœur, elle conçut le désir de renoncer aux divertissements trop mondains, et de se consacrer davantage à la prière et à toutes sortes d’occupations au profit des bisogneux. Le confesseur de Francesca leur suggéra de ne rien modifier à leur habillement, mais leur permit de se mortifier par le jeûne, l’abstinence, la discipline (la flagellation). D’autres dames vinrent se joindre à elles.

Le diable l’éprouva visiblement : de passage le long du Tibre, elle fut précipitée par un bras invisible dans l’eau, avec sa belle-sœur, et elles n’en sortirent miraculeusement qu’en invoquant la puissance de Dieu.

Parmi toutes les choses étonnantes de sa vie, on peut signaler surtout la présence ordinaire et visible de son ange gardien, et les luttes terribles qu'elle eut à soutenir contre le démon. Outre son ange gardien, Dieu lui avait donné un ange chargé de la punir ; cet ange était sévère ; car, à la moindre faute, il la frappait, même en public. L'ange restait invisible, mais les coups étaient entendus de tous. Ainsi, quelques personnes tenant un jour devant elle une conversation frivole, Dieu inspira à la Sainte de les interrompre, et comme elle hésitait, elle reçut sur la joue un rude soufflet. Souvent, alors qu'elle était à genoux devant une statue de la Sainte Vierge, son ange s'approchait et continuait avec elle la prière.

On représente généralement sainte Francesca avec un ange à côté d'elle. Plus d'une fois l'ange dévoué eut à chasser les démons, qui ne cessaient de harceler la Servante de Dieu. Une nuit, pendant qu'elle priait, le diable la prit par les cheveux, et, la portant sur la terrasse de la maison, la suspendit au-dessus de la rue ; mais Dieu la remit en sûreté dans sa cellule. En reconnaissance, elle coupa ses beaux cheveux.

D'autres fois, elle était traînée violemment ; l'ennemi du salut prenait toutes les formes pour la tromper ou l'épouvanter ; le calme de Francesca excitait son dépit et le mettait en fuite.

Un jour, par fausse humilité, Francesca pensa cacher une partie de ces faveurs extraordinaires à son confesseur ; aussitôt, elle fut renversée à terre, et n’eut plus qu’à reconnaître devant le prêtre son erreur et à promettre, désormais, de lui exposer toutes les grâces mystiques qu’elles recevait de Dieu.

Les nombreux miracles et prodiges que Francesca accomplit sont diversement rapportés, suivant les sources ; il est vrai que sa sainte vie et ses prières obtenaient des prodiges : multiplication du grain dans le grenier, du vin dans le tonneau, guérisons, conversions…

Un jour qu’un prêtre jugeait qu’elle ne pouvait avoir les dispositions nécessaires pour communier aussi souvent (trois fois par semaine, chose rare à l’époque), lui remit une hostie non consacrée ; elle en fut intérieurement informée, le révéla à son confesseur qui, à son tour, alla prévenir le prêtre fautif : celui-ci demanda humblement pardon, et comprit la gravité du jugement téméraire.

Elle eut son premier enfant en 1400 (Giambattista) et son second en 1404 (Evangelista), puis une fille en 1407 (Agnès). Evangelista fut un enfant «spécial» : à trois ans, il prophétisait que son père serait sérieusement blessé (ce qui arriva en 1409) et mourut en 1410 ; un an après il apparaissait à sa mère pour lui montrer la gloire dont il jouissait au ciel, mais aussi pour lui annoncer la prochaine mort d’Agnès.

On vient de parler de la blessure du mari de Francesca. En effet, Lorenzo fut violemment poignardé par un ennemi de l’Eglise, qui s’en prenait à tous ceux qui protégeaient la papauté. Puis l’ennemi prit en otage Giambattista et menaça de l’emmener ou de mettre à mort son oncle. Mais quand il voulut partir, son cheval resta immobile : épouvanté, il dut céder et rendre l’enfant à sa mère.
En 1410, nouvelle invasion de Rome. Lorenzo dut fuir. Francesca dut aller ramasser des fagots pour en distribuer aux pauvres. Ce n’est que vers 1414 que la mort de l’envahisseur mit fin aux épreuves de Lorenzo et Francesca.

C’est aussi vers cette époque qu’elle écrivit ses terribles visions de l’Enfer. On les trouve dans diverses éditions : lecture salutaire !

Francesca obtint que Lorenzo se réconciliât avec son ennemi. Ils retrouvèrent alors leurs biens et vécurent dans une vie de profonde piété. Francesca obtint aussi la conversion de l’épouse de Giambattista.

Elle obtint de son mari, au bout de quelques années de mariage, de vivre en sa maison comme une véritable religieuse. Ce fut le début des Oblates de Saint-Benoît. Dans une vision elle s’entendit dire : Ton sentier est semé d’épines, plusieurs obstacles se rencontrent avant que ton petit troupeau puisse être réuni. Mais souviens-toi que la grêle ne suit pas toujours le tonnerre et que le plus brillant soleil resplendit souvent à travers les plus sombres nuages.

La nouvelle famille s’installa à Tor di Specchi, dans Rome. Francesca en rédigea toutes les constitutions dans les moindres détails, illuminée en cela par des visions de la Sainte Vierge, de saint Jean-Baptiste, de saint Paul apôtre. Les Oblates s’installèrent le 25 mars 1433.

Francesca n’habitait pas avec elles, obligée d’assister son cher mari malade. Quand il mourut, elle se présenta à Tor di Specchi comme une humble novice, mais la supérieure lui remit sa charge, qu’elle dut accepter sur l’ordre de leur directeur spirituel.

Au début de 1440, elle vint assister son fils Giambattista qui était très malade. Très faible elle-même, elle ne put revenir à Tor di Specchi. Elle eut encore une vision qui lui annonça sa prochaine mort. 

Le matin de sa mort, elle fut à son tour visitée par son fils. Elle lui lança un regard scrutateur et lui reprocha ses erreurs : il venait de se quereller avec de pauvres bergers et de surcroît, avait osé consulter une sorcière sur la possible guérison de sa mère. Le garçon avoua ses deux péchés.

Elle remuait encore les lèvres, pour réciter «les vêpres de la Sainte Vierge». Puis elle dit à son confesseur ce qu’elle voyait : Le ciel s’ouvre, les anges descendent, l’archange a fini sa tâche, il est debout devant moi et me fait signe de le suivre.

Francesca Romana mourut le 9 mars 1440. Elle a été canonisée en 1608 ; les miracles ne manquaient pas pour cette célébration. 

SOURCE : http://www.samuelephrem.eu/article-03-09-115924058.html

Sainte Françoise Romaine, veuve

Morte le 9 mars 1440. Canonisée en 1608 par Paul V qui inscrivit aussitôt sa fête au calendrier. En 1632, elle fut élevée au rang de semi double ad libitum, puis en 1649, double obligatoire.

Leçons des Matines avant 1960

Quatrième leçon. Françoise, noble dame romaine, donna dès l’enfance de remarquables exemples de vertus : méprisant les jeux puérils et les attraits du monde, elle trouvait ses délices dans la solitude et l’oraison. A l’âge de onze ans, elle forma le dessein de consacrer à Dieu sa virginité et d’entrer dans un monastère. Néanmoins, par une humble soumission à la volonté de ses parents, elle épousa Laurent de Ponziani, jeune homme dont la fortune égalait la noblesse. Dans l’état du mariage, elle conserva toujours, autant qu’elle le put, le genre de vie austère qu’elle s’était proposé, ayant en horreur les spectacles, les festins et autres divertissements semblables, portant des vêtements de laine et d’une grande simplicité, donnant à l’oraison ou au service du prochain ce qui lui restait de temps après l’accomplissement de ses devoirs domestiques. Elle s’appliquait avec le plus grand soin à retirer les dames romaines des pompes du siècle et à les détourner de la vanité des parures. C’est pour ces motifs qu’elle fonda à Rome, du vivant de son mari, la maison des Oblates de la Congrégation du Mont-Olivet sous la règle de saint Benoît. Elle supporta avec la plus courageuse constance l’exil de son mari, la perte de ses biens, les malheurs de sa maison, et, rendant grâces avec le bienheureux Job, elle lui empruntait fréquemment ces paroles : « Le Seigneur me l’a donné, le Seigneur me l’a ôté, que le nom du Seigneur soit béni ».

Cinquième leçon. Son mari étant mort, elle accourut à la maison des Oblates dont il a été parlé plus haut, et implora avec beaucoup de larmes, les pieds nus, la corde au cou, et prosternée contre terre, la grâce d’être reçue parmi elles. Ayant obtenu la réalisation de ses désirs, elle se glorifiait, bien qu’elle fût la mère de toutes, de ne porter d’autre titre que celui de servante, de femme très vile, et de vase impur. Ses paroles et ses actions manifestaient le mépris qu’elle faisait d’elle-même ; souvent on la vit revenir d’une vigne située dans le voisinage de la ville, et traverser Rome, portant sur la tête un faisceau de sarments, ou conduisant un âne chargé de bois. Elle secourait les pauvres et leur faisait d’abondantes aumônes, visitait les malades dans les hôpitaux, et les fortifiait en leur donnant, avec la nourriture du corps, de salutaires avis. Elle s’efforçait constamment de réduire son corps en servitude par des veilles, des jeûnes, le cilice, la ceinture de fer, et de fréquentes disciplines. Elle ne faisait qu’un repas par jour, et il se composait d’herbes et de légumes ; sa boisson était de l’eau. Quelquefois cependant, elle modéra un peu ses austérités corporelles sur l’ordre de son confesseur, à l’égard duquel sa dépendance était extrême.

Sixième leçon. Elle contemplait avec une si grande ferveur d’esprit et une telle abondance de larmes les divins mystères et surtout la passion du Seigneur Jésus, qu’elle semblait prête à expirer par la violence de la douleur. Souvent aussi, lorsqu’elle priait, principalement après avoir reçu le très saint sacrement de l’Eucharistie, elle demeurait immobile, l’esprit élevé en Dieu, et ravie par la contemplation des choses célestes. Aussi l’ennemi du genre humain employa-t-il tous ses efforts pour la détourner de son genre de vie par divers outrages et par des coups ; mais elle ne le craignait pas et déjoua toujours ses artifices. Elle remporta sur lui un glorieux triomphe, grâce au secours de son Ange gardien avec lequel elle conversait familièrement. Elle brilla par le don de guérir les malades, et par celui de prophétie qui lui faisait annoncer les événements futurs et pénétrer les secrets des cœurs. Plus d’une fois, pendant qu’elle marchait toute occupée de Dieu, l’eau qui ruisselait, ou la pluie qui tombait, ne la mouillèrent point. Le Seigneur multiplia à sa prière quelques petits morceaux de pain, suffisant à peine pour nourrir trois sœurs, de telle sorte que non seulement quinze en furent rassasiées, mais qu’il en resta encore de quoi remplir une corbeille. Un jour, elle apaisa d’une façon complète la soif de ces mêmes sœurs qui, au mois de janvier, arrangeaient du bois hors de Rome, ayant obtenu de Dieu, par un miracle, que des grappes de raisin toutes fraîches parussent sur une vigne suspendue à un arbre. Enfin, éclatante de vertus et célèbre par ses miracles, elle s’en alla au Seigneur dans la cinquante-sixième armée de son âge : le souverain Pontife Paul V l’a mise au nombre des Saintes.


Giovanni Battista Gaulli (1639–1709). Sainte Françoise romaine pratiquant l’aumône,
 1675, Getty museum, Los Angeles

Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

La période de trente-six jours que nous avons ouverte au lendemain de la Purification de Notre-Dame, et qui comprend toutes les fêtes des Saints dont la solennité peut se rencontrer du trois février au dernier terme où descend quelquefois le Mercredi de la Quinquagésime, nous a offert une suite de noms glorieux dont l’ensemble représente tous les degrés de la cour céleste. Les Apôtres nous ont donné Mathias, avec la Chaire de Pierre à Antioche ; les Martyrs, plus forts en nombre, ont fourni Siméon, Blaise, Valentin, Faustin et Jovite, Perpétue et Félicité, et les quarante héros de Sébaste que nous honorerons demain ; les Pontifes ont été représentés par André Corsini et par les grands noms de Cyrille d’Alexandrie et de Pierre Damien qui figurent en même temps dans l’auguste sénat des Docteurs, au milieu desquels nous avons salué Thomas d’Aquin ; les simples Confesseurs nous ont produit du sein des cloîtres Romuald, Jean de Matha, Jean de Dieu, et du milieu même des pompes mondaines l’angélique Casimir ; le chœur des Vierges a envoyé vers nous Agathe, Dorothée, Apolline, couronnées des roses vermeilles du martyre, et Scholastique, dont la candeur efface celle du lis ; enfin, les saintes Pénitentes ont offert à notre admiration l’austère Marguerite de Cortone [1]. Aujourd’hui, cette imposante série déjà si nombreuse, malgré la rareté des fêtes sur le Cycle dans cette saison, se complète par l’admirable figure de l’épouse chrétienne, dans la personne de Françoise, la pieuse dame romaine.

Après avoir donné durant quarante ans l’exemple de toutes les vertus dans l’union conjugale qu’elle avait contractée dès l’âge de douze ans, Françoise alla chercher dans la retraite le repos de son cœur éprouvé par de longues tribulations ; mais elle n’avait pas attendu ce moment pour vivre au Seigneur. Durant toute sa vie, des œuvres de la plus haute perfection l’avaient rendue l’objet des complaisances du ciel, en même temps que les douces qualités de son cœur lui assuraient la tendresse et l’admiration de son époux et de ses enfants, des grands dont elle fut le modèle, et des pauvres qu’elle servait avec amour. Pour récompenser cette vie tout angélique, Dieu permit que l’Ange gardien de Françoise se rendît presque constamment visible à elle, en même temps qu’il daigna l’éclairer lui-même par les plus sublimes révélations. Mais ce qui doit particulièrement nous frapper dans cette vie admirable, qui rappelle à tant d’égards les traits de celle des deux grandes saintes Élisabeth de Hongrie et Jeanne-Françoise de Chantal, c’est l’austère pénitence que pratiqua constamment l’illustre servante de Dieu. L’innocence de sa vie ne la dispensa pas de ces saintes rigueurs ; et le Seigneur voulut qu’un tel exemple fût donné aux fidèles, afin qu’ils apprissent à ne pas murmurer contre l’obligation de la pénitence qui peut n’être pas aussi sévère en nous qu’elle le fut en sainte Françoise, mais néanmoins doit être réelle, si nous voulons aborder avec confiance le Dieu de justice, qui pardonne facilement à l’âme repentante, mais qui exige la satisfaction.

O Françoise, sublime modèle de toutes les vertus, vous avez été la gloire de Rome chrétienne et l’ornement de votre sexe. Que vous avez laissé loin derrière vous les antiques matrones de votre ville natale ! Que votre mémoire bénie l’emporte sur la leur ! Fidèle à tous vos devoirs, vous n’avez puisé qu’au ciel le motif de vos vertus, et vous avez semblé un ange aux yeux des hommes étonnés. L’énergie de votre âme trempée dans l’humilité et la pénitence vous a rendue supérieure à toutes les situations. Pleine d’une tendresse ineffable envers ceux que Dieu même vous avait unis, de calme et de joie intérieure au milieu des épreuves, d’expansion et d’amour envers toute créature, vous montriez Dieu habitant déjà votre âme prédestinée. Non content de vous assurer la vue et la conversation de votre Ange, le Seigneur soulevait souvent en votre faveur le rideau qui nous cache encore les secrets de la vie éternelle. La nature suspendait ses propres lois, en présence de vos nécessités ; elle vous traitait comme si déjà vous eussiez été affranchie des conditions de la vie présente. Nous vous glorifions pour ces dons de Dieu, ô Françoise ! mais ayez pitié de nous qui sommes si loin encore du droit sentier par lequel vous avez marché. Aidez-nous à devenir chrétiens ; réprimez en nous l’amour du monde et de ses vanités, courbez-nous sous le joug de la pénitence, rappelez-nous à l’humilité, fortifiez-nous dans les tentations. Votre crédit sur le cœur de Dieu vous rendit assez puissante pour produire des raisins sur un cep flétri par les frimas de l’hiver ; obtenez que Jésus, la vraie Vigne, comme il s’appelle lui-même, daigne nous rafraîchir bientôt du vin de son amour exprimé sous le pressoir de la Croix. Offrez-lui pour nous vos mérites, vous qui, comme lui, avez souffert volontairement pour les pécheurs. Priez aussi pour Rome chrétienne qui vous a produite ; faites-y fleurir rattachement à la foi, la sainteté des mœurs et la fidélité à l’Église. Veillez sur la grande famille des fidèles ; que vos prières en obtiennent l’accroissement, et renouvellent en elle la ferveur des anciens jours.

[1] Non inscrite au calendrier Romain, sa fête est dans les messes ‘Pour certains lieux’ du Missel Romain



Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

Aujourd’hui c’est une sainte romaine, une fille spirituelle de saint Benoît, une oblate de l’abbaye de Sainte-Marie-la-Neuve qui, au cours du XVIIe siècle, par ordre d’Innocent X, entra dans le calendrier de l’Église universelle en qualité de modèle et de céleste patronne de la viduité, comme sainte Monique et sainte Jeanne de Chantal.

La messe est celle du Commun, Cognóvi, mais la collecte est propre, et fait allusion à la faveur accordée à la Sainte qui, pendant de longues années, put contempler visiblement à ses côtés son ange gardien (+ 1440).

Célébrée dans les grandes basiliques romaines, cette fête acquiert une grâce et un charme tout spécial. Là en effet, le souvenir de Françoise est toujours si vivant, qu’il nous semble la voir agenouillée près des tombes des martyrs, ravie en extase ou absorbée dans l’oraison. L’esprit se la représente en vêtements négligés, — elle, la noble épouse de Ponziani — avec une charge de bois sur les épaules, tandis que de la porte Portese ou de la voie d’Ostie elle rentre à la maison des Oblates instituées par elle au pied du Capitole ; ou bien, plus admirable encore, confondue dans la foule des pauvres, et demandant l’aumône sous le portique de la basilique de Saint-Paul, à l’occasion de la messe stationnale le dimanche de la Sexagésime.

Mais parmi tous les sanctuaires romains qui rappellent davantage sainte Françoise, deux surtout conservent encore comme le parfum, pour ainsi dire, de sa présence : ce sont la basilique de Sainte-Marie-la-Neuve, où elle s’offrit comme oblate de l’Ordre de Saint-Benoît et où repose son corps ; et l’antique demeure Turris Speculorum au pied du Capitole, où elle vécut avec les nobles oblates qu’elle réunit autour d’elle. Un troisième sanctuaire rappelle aussi ses vertus, c’est le palais transtévérin des Ponziani, converti maintenant en maison d’exercices spirituels pour préparer les enfants à la Première Communion. Là, sainte Françoise Romaine vécut de longues années et sanctifia sa famille. C’est là aussi qu’étant venue, de Tor de’ Specchi, pour assister un de ses fils malades, elle fut frappée elle-même gravement par le mal ; y étant restée par ordre de son confesseur, elle y rendit son âme à Dieu.

L’antienne pour l’entrée du célébrant est tirée du psaume 118 : « Je sais, ô Seigneur, que vos jugements sont droits et que vous m’avez humilié dans votre vérité ; ma chair frémit à cause de Votre crainte ; ne m’éloignez pas de vos commandements. ». La distribution des dons de Dieu et la détermination des vocations aux divers états du corps mystique de l’Église, entrent dans le mystère qui enveloppe notre divine prédestination à la gloire. L’état conjugal et la viduité sont certainement moins glorieux que l’état virginal ; cependant eux aussi sont un reflet de la bonté et de la vérité dé Dieu qui les juge bons, et veut que, par eux, les âmes puissent atteindre le sommet de la perfection chrétienne, dans l’exercice de l’humilité et de la fidélité aux devoirs propres. C’est donc fort à propos que le Prophète a dit : « Ma chair frémit à cause de votre crainte », car la sainte crainte de Dieu doit contenir les sens de ceux à qui la Providence n’a pas donné la gloire de l’intégrité virginale. Les âmes qui, par vocation, doivent vivre au milieu du monde et au sein de leurs propres familles, parcourent une voie très ardue et très étroite, liées, comme elles le sont, par le mariage, puisque, au dire de l’Apôtre : Tribulationem tamen carnis habebunt huiusmodi. Il ajoute cependant immédiatement la règle selon laquelle elles peuvent vivre au milieu du monde, sinon avec des vœux, du moins avec la vertu des vœux de perfection évangélique : Qui utuntur hoc mundo, tamquam non utantur. Praeterit enim figura huius mundi (I Cor., VII, 28, 31).

La collecte, de caractère nettement historique, est la suivante : « Seigneur qui, entre autres faveurs, avez glorifié votre servante Françoise par de familières relations avec son Ange ; accordez-nous par ses prières de pouvoir nous aussi mériter la société angélique. Par notre Seigneur, etc. »

La première lecture est tirée du Livre des Proverbes (XXXI, 10-31) là où est l’éloge de la femme forte, c’est-à-dire de la mère de famille, qui remplit fidèlement ses devoirs domestiques, exerçant ainsi une mission non moins difficile et non moins importante que celle de l’apostolat chrétien. A ce propos, saint Philippe Neri et saint François de Sales font observer que notre amour-propre veut s’imposer jusque dans la pratique de la vertu, recherchant des poses dramatiques, des situations bruyantes, et méprisant au contraire les petites vertus quotidiennes et domestiques qui requièrent chaque jour beaucoup d’abnégation. Les grandes occasions de pratiquer des actes héroïques de sainteté se présentent rarement, tandis que les occasions communes de victoire sur nous-mêmes arrivent chaque jour. Quand l’Esprit Saint a voulu tracer le tableau de la femme forte, il ne lui a pas mis entre les mains l’arc ou l’épée — comme à Judith, figure d’exception — mais il l’a dépeinte avec le fuseau et la quenouille, c’est-à-dire dans l’exercice constant et habituel des devoirs normaux de son état.

Le verset chanté pendant la Communion du peuple est tiré du psaume 44 : « Tu as aimé la justice et haï l’iniquité » ; — ce furent justement les fortes paroles de l’âme de diamant du pape Hildebrand quand, exilé à Salerne pour la liberté de l’Église, il expira dans l’affliction — « c’est pourquoi le Seigneur ton Dieu a répandu sur toi les arômes de la sainteté plus largement que sur tes compagnes ». Voici une autre note de la véritable sainteté catholique. Elle peut consister à vaquer simplement aux actes communs selon l’état propre à chacun, sans rien d’extraordinaire ; puisque la note de l’héroïcité se trouve dans les dispositions intérieures selon lesquelles les saints agissent, et qui sont beaucoup plus élevées que celles de l’universelle médiocrité.

Sainte Françoise est la céleste patronne des Oblats bénédictins, et le modèle de l’état de viduité. En effet, selon le sentiment de l’Apôtre, cet état est appelé à une sainteté particulière, car, le charme de la première jeunesse s’étant flétri comme la fleur, l’âme, convaincue désormais de la caducité des choses humaines, ne trouve un appui solide que dans le Seigneur. Les vertus propres de cet état, où, à l’âge apostolique, se recrutaient de préférence les diaconesses, sont la confiance en Dieu, I » prière assidue, la mortification des sens et les œuvres de charité envers le prochain.


Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique

Honorons notre ange gardien.

Sainte Françoise : Jour de mort : 9 mars 1440. — Tombeau : à Rome, dans l’église de Santa Maria nuova, sur le forum. Image : On la représente en religieuse, son ange gardien à côté d’elle, ou bien portant un fagot sur le dos. Vie : Sainte Françoise Romaine est la fondatrice des Oblates de Tor de Specchi à Rome. C’était une riche patricienne. Après la mort de son mari, elle abandonna toute sa richesse et mena une vie d’extrême pauvreté. Elle eut le privilège d’entretenir des relations familières avec son ange gardien. Quand on lit la vie de sainte Françoise, on a l’impression qu’elle vécut bien plus dans le monde spirituel que sur la terre. Ce sont surtout ses relations avec le monde bienheureux des anges qui donnent à sa vie un caractère particulier. Dans les différentes étapes de sa vie, on remarque trois anges d’ordre différent à côté d’elle. Ces anges sont destinés et toujours prêts à la protéger contre les attaques de l’enfer et à conduire graduellement son âme à la perfection. Jour et nuit, la sainte voyait son ange occupé à un travail mystérieux. Avec trois bâtonnets d’or, il filait sans arrêt des fils d’or qu’il passait autour de son cou et enroulait rapidement en pelotes. Six mois avant la mort de Françoise, il changea de travail. Au lieu de continuer à filer des fils d’or, il tissa, avec ceux qu’il avait, trois tapis de différentes grandeurs. Ces tapis étaient sans doute le symbole des œuvres de la sainte, comme jeune fille, mère de famille et fondatrice d’Ordre. Peu de temps avant sa mort, Françoise remarqua que l’ange hâtait son travail et montrait un air joyeux et content. Au moment où le troisième tapis atteignit la mesure fixée, l’âme de la sainte s’en alla vers les joies éternelles.

Pratique : Notre ange à nous aussi travaille à un vêtement, notre vêtement de grâce et de gloire. N’empêchons pas son travail. — Nous prenons la messe du Carême et nous faisons mémoire de la sainte.

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/09-03-Ste-Francoise-Romaine-veuve#nh1


St. Frances of Rome

(Bussa di Leoni.)

One of the greatest mystics of the fifteenth century; born at Rome, of a noble family, in 1384; died there, 9 March, 1440.


Her youthful desire was to enter religion, but at her father's wish she married, at the age of twelve, Lorenzo de' Ponziani. Among her children we know of Battista, who carried on the family name, Evangelista, a child of great gifts (d. 1411), and Agnes (d. 1413). Frances was remarkable for her charity to the poor, and her zeal forsouls. She won away many Roman ladies from a life of frivolity, and united them in an association of oblatesattached to the White Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria Nuova; later they became the Benedictine OblateCongregation of Tor di Specchi (25 March, 1433) which was approved by Eugene IV (4 July, 1433). Its members led the life of religious, but without the strict cloister or formal vows, and gave themselves up to prayer andgood works. With her husband's consent Frances practiced continency, and advanced in a life of contemplation. Her visions often assumed the form of drama enacted for her by heavenly personages. She had the gift of miracles and ecstasy, we well as the bodily vision of her guardian angel, had revelations concerning purgatoryand hell, and foretold the ending of the Western Schism. She could read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience, exemplified on the occasion ofher husband's banishment, the captivity of Battista, her sons' death, and the loss of all her property.

On the death of her husband (1436) she retired among her oblates at Tor di Specchi, seeking admission forcharity's sake, and was made superior. On the occasion of a visit to her son, she fell ill and died on the day she had foretold. Her canonization was preceded by three processes (1440, 1443, 1451) and Paul V declared her a saint on 9 May, 1608, assigning 9 March as her feast day. Long before that, however, the faithful were wont to venerate her body in the church of Santa Maria Nuova in the Roman Forum, now known as the church of Santa Francesca Romana.


Paoli, Francesco. "St. Frances of Rome." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 22 Feb. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06205c.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Christine J. Murray.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06205c.htm



ST. FRANCES OF ROME.

FRANCES was born at Rome in 1384. Her parents were of high rank. They overruled her desire to become a nun, and at twelve years of age married her to Lorenzo Ponziano, a Roman noble. During the forty years of their married life they never had a disagreement. While spending her days in retirement and prayer, she attended promptly to every household duty, saying, "A married woman must leave God at the altar to find Him in her domestic cares;" and she once found the verse of a psalm in which she had been four times thus interrupted completed for her in letters of gold. Her ordinary food was dry bread. Secretly she would exchange with beggars good food for their hard crusts; her drink was water, and her cup a human skull. During the invasion of Rome, in 1418, Ponziano was banished, his estates confiscated, his house destroyed, and his eldest son taken as a hostage. Frances saw in these losses only the finger of God, and blessed His holy name. When peace was restored Ponziano recovered his estates, and Frances founded the Oblates. After her husband's death, barefoot and with a cord about her neck she begged admission to the community, and was soon elected Superioress. She lived always in the presence of God, and amongst many visions , was given constant sight of her angel guardian, who shed such a brightness around him that the Saint could read her midnight Office by this light alone. He shielded her in the hour of temptation, and directed her in every good act. But when she was betrayed into some defect, he faded from her sight; and when some light words were spoken before her, he covered his face in shame. She died on the day she had foretold, March 9, 1440.

Reflection.--God has appointed an angel to guard each one of us, to whose warnings we are bound to attend. Let us listen to his voice here, and we shall see him hereafter, when he leads us before the throne of God.

SOURCE : http://jesus-passion.com/FrancisRome.htm


Frances of Rome, Widow (RM)

Born in Rome, Italy, 1384; died there, March 9, 1440; canonized 1608 by Pope Paul V; named patroness of motorists by Pope Pius XI. How can any woman not love Frances of Rome, who taught, "A married woman, even when praising God at the altar, must when needed by her husband or the smallest member of her family, quit God at the altar and find him again in her household affairs."

Saint Frances of Rome has to be my all-time favorite. I love her implicit trust in God: giving away the last food in the family's storeroom to the poor of Rome, trusting God with the life of her son whom He immediately returned to her, never wavering from her faith though society mocked her. She was a loving wife and mother who best exemplifies for me the balance of an active life, prayer, and works of mercy (spiritual and corporal), including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She also shows us how to live out the message of Ash Wednesday.

That you can be a saint,

In quite a rich home,

Is shown by the case

Of Saint Frances of Rome.

She had plenty of children,

A husband, a cook,

A household to manage,

A housekeeping book--


And they kept her so busy

Both up and downstairs

She couldn't think when

To get on with her prayers.


She no sooner was kneeling

Than someone would call--

She thought she would never

Get finished at all.


First her husband must see her,

Then up came the cook,

Then a little boy shouting

To please come and look--


Then a friend with a very

Long story to tell,

And a dozen poor people

With troubles as well.


And she never lost patience,

Or said, "Not at home,"

And that's why we call her

Saint Frances of Rome.

Poem by Marigold Hunt quoted in More Saints for Six O'Clock by Joan Windham (London: Sheed and Ward).

Francesca di Bussi di Broffedeschi lived in the then-aristocratic Trastevere section of Rome in the great Ponziani family palazzo on the via dei Vascellari, now known as the Pia Casa di Ponterotto (Pious House of the Broken Bridge). Today it is a retreat house called the Casa dei SS Spirituali Esercizi (House of Spiritual Exercises) run by 12 fathers for up to 60 male retreatants weekly. Her father Paolo di Bussi married Giacobella di Broffedeschi. Both were connected to several other great families of wealth, stability, and strong Christian principles. Frances, their first and for a long time only child, was born in their middle years. (She had a younger sister Perna, who lived with her after the death of their parents.) Frances, a beautiful girl, was baptized the day she was born and confirmed at age six in the Church of Saint Agnes in the Piazza Navona. She had a life-long devotion to Saint Agnes. She was close to her doting mother, who breastfed and taught Frances herself contrary to custom.

Frances was a gentle and thoughtful child, naturally devout, happy in a quiet way, but grave rather than gay, undemonstrative, silent under circumstances when most little girls are prone to chatter, and given to self-denial from a very early age. Her mother was pious and purposeful; her father stern. There was little socializing, partly because the prevalent corruption of society was repugnant to their tastes and principles.

The Church of Saint Agnes was their parish, but they more frequently attended the Benedictine Santa Maria Nuovo. Dom Antonio di Monte Savello was both Frances's and Giacobella's confessor and an intimate friend. He restrained Frances's impulse to severe acts of penance in emulation of the martyrdom of Saint Agnes.

From her earliest years, she ate only bread and vegetables and drank only water. Like many pious little girls, she begged to be a nun, but Dom Antonio reminded her that she would need her father's permission. Her father said she was too young to consider a vocation, and bluntly said that he had already promised her hand to Lorenzo di Ponziano, the son of his old friend Andreazzo Ponziano and Cecilia Mellini. She had to accept her father's decision as God's will. She notes that, "Married life is indeed a sacrifice for one who aspires to solitude, contemplation and frequent acts of piety, just as religious life is a sacrifice for those whose natural disposition inclines them to marriage."

In 1396 at age 12, the beautiful Frances married him in the spirit of sacrifice, unprepared for the rounds of festivities surrounding their marriage. She got through the festivities, but collapsed completely almost immediately afterward and nearly died. She was paralyzed and unable to speak.

Frances was ill in bed for a full year--she could not walk or speak and was in constant pain. The Ponzani family thought she was under a diabolical influence and admitted a witch to her room. She recognized the depraved character of her guest and regained her power of speech to oust the witch. Thereupon, she fell into a stupor. In the middle of the night, a bright light shone around her bed and Saint Alexis--a noble Roman whose feast day it was--appeared to Frances in a vision. He asked whether she wanted to live or to die. She eventually responded, "God's will is mine." Saint Alexis then replied, "Then you will live to glorify His Name" and she recovered immediately and completely.

Thereafter, she was reconciled to married life, for she had learned that "marriage need not diminish one's interior grace and that Almighty God is not to be categorically limited in the distribution of His favors to any class or station in life." She also wanted children to give saints to Heaven.

Lorenzo was personable, pleasant, and of unreproachable character. It is said that Frances and Lorenzo lived together for forty years with never a quarrel. Frances was warmly welcomed and lapped in luxury by the Ponziano family, especially by Lorenzo's older brother Paolo (a.k.a. Paluzzo), who was married to Giovanna (a.k.a. Vannozza) di Santa Croce. Frances, however, was baffled by their candid delights in worldly pleasures. Nevertheless, Lorenzo really loved her and would not consciously, much less willfully, have failed to treat her with tenderness.

During her illness, Vannozza nursed her devotedly and they became fast friends. Frances had mistaken Vannozza's natural joyousness for frivolity; now she recognized it not as an impediment to spirituality, but as a quality that gave luster to good deeds and great faith. When Frances learned that Vannozza also had cherished hopes to live as a religious, the two sisters-in-law planned a program of devout practices. Duty to family was their first obligation, including dressing appropriately for their rank, receiving visitors graciously, and assisting in running the household with happy hearts and smiling faces. In free moments they would attend Mass together, pray together in a secluded garden oratory, visit prisons, and serve in the hospitals.

Soon these beautiful, gentle, kind ladies were regarded by the common people as saints. "In their own social circle they quickly acquired imitators."

Almost daily they nursed the sick in the Hospital of Santo Spirito, an 8th century hospice built by Anglo-Saxon kings for Saxon pilgrims. About 1200, Pope Innocent III (who became pope at age 36) converted it into a foundling hospital when some fishermen presented him with dead babies who had been caught in their nets. A turntable installed in the hospital walls provided an alternative to the Tiber River for abandoning unwanted babies. The babies were treated with musical therapy as the foster mothers breastfed them. The hospital, run by Guido of Montepellier's Hospital Brethren, was enlarged to also care for all who needed it.

Frances continued to go to Dom Antonio every Wednesday for confession and communion at the Church of Santa Maria Nuova. On Saturdays she went to the Church of San Clemente for a conference with Fra Michele, a Dominican monk who was an intimate friend of her father-in-law.

Because she loved to entertain, Cecilia Ponziano resented her daughter-in-law for spending so much time in prayer and refusing to dance or play cards. Many of Cecilia's friends began to laugh at Frances, and to turn her piety into ridicule. Lorenzo found his wife too perfect to interfere with her activities as he was advised to do. Both he and her brother-in-law were supportive, though neither appears to have participated with their respective spouses.

Both Frances and Vannozza wore haircloth under their beautiful brocades and velvets, and starved and scourged themselves. Whenever possible Frances slipped into nearby Saint Cecilia's Church for prayer and meditation. Silence, habitual to her since her childhood, became a more and more distinctive trait; she was courteous in conversation, gracious in manner to all she met, but, in so far as she properly could, she avoided chatter with associates which seemed to her purposeless.

Frances was able to see, hear, and feel her guardian angel after her marriage. "At the least imperfection in her conduct . . . she felt the blow of a mysterious hand . . . and every day her virtues and piety increased" (Fullerton). At an early age Frances was aware of the nearness of demonic temptation and danger. The devil was very real to her: he had attacked her physically and spiritually. Her viewpoint concerning a personal devil was one shared with many other great saints, Teresa of Avila among them.

In 1400, Giovanni Battista was born and baptized on his birthday in Saint Cecilia's. Frances insisted on nursing her son herself. Shortly thereafter Paolo di Bussi died and was buried in the Church of Saint Agnes (later his body moved to the Tor di Specchi). Her mother-in-law followed soon after and Frances was asked to assume the duties of lady-of-the-house.

She was a good administrator and a fair employer. She carefully arranged her servants schedules to allow them time to attend Mass, family prayers, and parochial instruction on Sundays and holidays. Mourning was followed by famine and pestilence, so there was no need for entertaining. Frances opened the doors to the poor and needy; no one asking for alms was to be turned away. She also went out among the nearby poor to offer corn, wine, oil, and clothing. Andreazzo, her father-in-law, then took from her the keys to the granary and wine cellar. Fearing that he would give in to her entreaties for additional food for the poor, he sold all the wine and corn the family would not need.

So, she and Vannozza begged door to door for supplies without much luck. She, Vannozza, and a faithful old servant Clara went to the granary to search for stray kernels, and collected a measure after several hours. They were carrying off their cache when Lorenzo entered the granary and found the straw had turned into 40 measures of corn.

Daily she drew wine from the one large cask left in the family cellar until it ran dry. Andreazzo hurled angry, bitter reproaches at her, joined by Lorenzo and Paluzzo. She prayed and said, "Do not be angry; let us go to the cellar; may be through God's mercy, that the cask may be full by this time." And so it was. Thereafter Lorenzo venerated her and encouraged her to follow in every respect the divine inspirations she received.

Earlier miracles included quince falling at her feet out of season; and a particular fish desired by the ill Vannozza miraculously appearing on the bedcover that immediately restored Vannozza to health.

After consulting her spiritual director and receiving permission from her father-in-law, Frances sold all her jewels and clothing, and distributed the money to the poor. From then on she dressed in coarse green cloth and increased her good works and prayer. She was joined by Vannozza, Rita Celli--a devout young friend, and their servant Clara. Even with severe fasts and a stringent schedule, she retained her health. They were later joined by Lucia degli Aspalli, a young matron and kinswoman.

When Giovanni Battista was four years old (Frances, 20), Giovanni Evangelista, "a child of grace and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven," was born. Evangelista was old in sense, small in body, great in soul, resplendent in beauty, angel-like in all his ways. At age three he was endowed with the gift of prophecy, and the faculty of reading the unuttered thoughts of men's hearts. Frances's third child was named Agnes after her favorite saint.

Politically this was a turbulent period of two popes (Rome and Avignon) and the virtual rule of Rome by Ladislas of Naples. The Ponziani and Orsini families were engaged in a battle to end the schism without result. Lorenzo and the rest of the family supported Alexander V, a second anti-Pope, and Louis of France's quest to conquer Naples. Lorenzo was gravely wounded in a street fight and restored to health by the ministrations of his wife.

Soon thereafter, Paluzzo was arrested, then the family was informed that they must surrender nine-year-old Battista to Ladislas' governor or Paluzzo would be killed. She fled into the streets with Battista and ran into Dom Antonio, who told her to go to the Church of Santa Maria d'Aracoeli, which she did. The Count of Traja was awaiting them and she convinced the tearful Battista to go to him. Turning away, she entered the church to weep bitterly before the altar of the Merciful Mother. As soon as she had left, the count had ordered Battista taken away on a horse, but all five that were tried refused to move. So, they took him back to his mother who was still praying.

Political troubles continued when Balthazar Cossa (John XXIII) was elected anti-Pope and Louis d'Anjou succeeded in getting a foothold in Rome. Ladislas attacked and pillaged Rome. The Ponziani palace was marked for demolition. They were about to escape to one of their country estates when their terrified vintners, shepherds, and cattlemen poured into the palace with tales of death and destruction in the countryside. Lorenzo, in convalescent condition, was finally persuaded to flee to a distant province. Soon after his departure their home was invaded, servants tortured and killed, the palace and all its contents demolished, and 13- year-old Battista carried off to Naples. The wreckage was cleared and the family continued to live there.

Famine and pestilence followed. The beautiful child Evangelista died happily convinced that angels had come to accompany him to heaven. Thereafter Frances increased her good works. She and Vannozza turned the destroyed inner banqueting hall into a hospital for the homeless. They were joined by Rita and Lucia, plus two others: Margherita di Montellucci and Giacobella di Biunemonti.

Occasionally Frances went to the family vineyard near the Church of Saint Paul's-Outside-the-Walls to gather grapes and dry vines to supplement the meager supply of firewood and distribute among the poor who were without fuel.

Her nursing skills were supplemented by the gift of healing and skill in making ointments. She brought a dead, unbaptized baby back to life. Many miracles are attributed to her, including a vision of the dead Evangelista, who said:

My abode is with God; my companions are the angels; our sole occupation the contemplation of the Divine perfections,-- the endless source of all happiness. Eternally united with God, we have no will except His; and our peace is as complete as His Being is infinite. He is Himself our joy, and that joy knows no limits. There are nine choirs of angels in heaven, and the higher orders of angelic spirits instruct in the Divine mysteries the less exalted intelligences. If you wish to know my place amongst them, my mother, learn that God, in His great goodness, has appointed it in the second choir of angels, and the first hierarchy of archangels.

While he was speaking, Frances saw that he was not alone; a second celestial figure stood beside him, very like him in build and height, but even more beautiful. Evangelista turned in his direction and said,

This my companion is higher than I am in rank, as he is more bright and fair in aspect. The Divine Majesty has assigned him to you as a guardian during the remainder of your earthly pilgrimage. Night and day by your side, he will assist you in every way. Never amidst the joys of Paradise have I for an instant forgotten you, or any of my loved ones on earth. I knew you were resigned; but I also knew that your heart would rejoice at beholding me once more, and God has permitted that I should thus gladden your eyes.

I have a message for you, Mother--a message from God. He is asking for Agnes. So, before long, she will leave you, too. But the archangel will remain. To the moment of your death he will be ever present in your sight.

The light surrounding her guardian archangel was so bright that she could read and write at night by it. She described him as full of sweetness and majesty, long curly golden hair that fell over his shoulders, eyes turned heavenward, wearing a luminous long robe covered with a tunic of white, red, or sky blue. Frances collapsed after burying her daughter and was gravely ill for months and had frequent visions of hell. She was only 29.

With Ladislas poisoned by his mistress, and his sister and heir Joanna too preoccupied with a succession of scandalous affairs, Battista was returned to his mother. He had acquired the social and cultural graces of court without losing his piety. Lorenzo, too, returned but was a broken man. He tacitly blamed her for the death of Evangelista and Agnes. When he had left she was strikingly beautiful; now wan and wasted. Through tenderness and patience Frances succeeded in restoring him to normalcy from deep melancholia.

On November 11, 1417, the Western schism ended with the deposition of the two schismatic popes, abdication of Gregory XII, and election of Ottone Colonna as Pope Martin V. Now unmolested the vineyards and stock farms of the Ponziani prospered and their houses restored. Frances began to spend more time with those of her own social class, tending to their problems--perhaps because of her visions of hell.

A former detractor, frivolous Gentilezza, was restored to health by Frances after promising to reform her life. Doctors had given up on her. She persuaded Giovanni Antonio Lorenzi to abandon murderous designs on an erstwhile friend and helped Angelo Savelli to forgive the one who mortally wounded him in a duel. She helped the Benedictine Dom Ippolito to rightly consider his vocation and position, which led him to conversion, confession, and humble service, and eventually to being named prior.

Frances believed her obligations to her family came first and must never be slighted in order to spend more time in prayer or acts of charity. Once while attempting to recite Morning Prayer, she was interrupted four times to handle domestic chores and each time responded cheerfully. When she returned the fourth time, the antiphon was inscribed in gold and remained that way until her death.

Now the miracles associated with her began to have a more mystical character--she received the stigmata in her side, which was known only to Vannozza who dressed it and Dom Antonio, her confessor. The wound was healed after a vision in which she was transported to Bethlehem and cleansed by the BVM.

Battista married 12-year-old Mabilia Papazunni, also of noble family. Frances had hoped that Mabilia would take on the responsibilities of the household, but she preferred entertaining. Mabilia criticized and ridiculed Frances in public. She dressed immodestly and opulently, and found Frances's green dress obnoxious. Discord entered the family with Mabilia. Frances continued tranquilly to hope for a change in Mabilia's attitude. Mabilia collapsed while railing against her mother-in-law's habits, dress, and standards. When she recovered she acknowledged her sinful pride and was reconciled with Frances. Eventfully, she bore children: Girolamo and Vannozza.

Sensing the deep holiness of his wife, Lorenzo promised Frances complete liberty if she would only agree to always inhabit his house, and, naturally, she agreed. Mabilia took on more responsibilities and freed Frances further to participate in the activities of the Jubilee of 1423 and listen to the great Franciscan preacher Bernardine of Siena.

Frances and her friends approached Dom Antonio regarding establishing an Oblate of Saint Benedict, since its rule did not permit third orders. He went to Dom Ippolito, who was helped by Frances and who obtained approval for the establishment of the Oblates of Mary. The friends prepared for their consecration on the Feast of the Assumption, 1425, with prayer, fasting, and penance. They included Frances, Vannozza, Rita Celli, Agnes Selli, and probably Anastasia di Clarelli, Perna Colluzzi, Caterina Manetti, Frances di Veroli, Giacobella di Brumemonti, Agostina di Viterbo, and Lella Maioli. This was not a solemn vow but an affiliation.

Frances left Rome only once to receive the "Great Pardon" at the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi. She walked there and back accompanied by Vannozza and Rita. Lorenzo and the released Paluzzo objected to this. They miraculously encountered Saint Francis along the way (long dead).

While they were gone Dom Antonio Savelli died. She chose the 33- year-old Dom Giovanni Matteotti as her new confessor. He ordered her to relate her visions to him in minute detail and kept a daily record of all she told him. He became her biographer.

Some of the Benedictines questioned the legitimacy of attaching a secular order to the monastery. So, Frances sought formal recognition from the pope, but there were new political troubles.

Lorenzo was growing feeble. Battista, as a brigadier general, was in constant danger. Vannozza, mortally ill, was tended by Frances and their friends until a soft white mist enveloped her as she breathed her last and a shaft of light slanted toward heaven. She wasn't buried in the Ponziani chapel, but in the Santa Croce family chapel in the Church of Aracoeli.

Frances's ecstasies and prophetic visions came more and more frequently. She was extremely affected by meditating on our Savior's passion, which she had always present to her mind. At Mass she was so absorbed in God as to seem immoveable, especially after holy communion: she often fell into ecstasies of love and devotion. She had a particular devotion to John the Evangelist, and above all to our Lady.

Seven years after their consecration, Frances invited her friends to dine in her home during Lorenzo's absence and said that they needed to be united in outward as well as interior life. Christ had commanded her to build a spiritual edifice. They selected a house under the spiritual guidance of Dom Ippolito, Dom Giovanni, and Fra Bartolommeo Biondii, a Franciscan monk who was brother-in- law to Agnes Selli and a theologian and orator of exceptional talent. She refused to use the monies of her family but later accepted the deeds to the vineyard near Saint Paul's-Outside-the- Wall and another known as Porta Portere.

Only the unwed or widowed were to live together, but it still alarmed their parents. The married would visit. The choice fell to the site of the Tor di Specchi (Tower of Mirrors). When the papal bull was finally issued, the congregation was described as that of the Oblates of Tor di Spechhi. The rules were revealed to Frances in a series of visions. These divided the day into periods of work, rest, and prayer, prescribed the manner of dress that was symbolic, etc. Ten oblates moved into the Tor di Specchi on the Feast of the Annunciation and Agnes Selli was chosen as their first superior.

When Lorenzo died peacefully, Frances arranged for Masses to be said for him and settled his estate. She tried to train Battista to take over the management of the agricultural estates. She then applied for admission to the community at Tor di Specchi. Agnes wanted to resign as superior, Frances objected but was overruled by the oblates and Dom Giovanni who commanded her to take charge. On March 25, 1436, she was duly elected Superior.

That night her guardian angel left her and presented the one to take his place, who was even higher in the angelic hierarchy. The newcomer also wore a dalmatic but of more precious tissue; the light surrounding him was more dazzling, and his very glance was sufficient to put demons to flight (while the other had to shake his locks). He carried three golden boughs from which came golden threads that he wound around his neck or into balls to provide for a mysterious tissue that would be used later on.

When in March 1440 Battista succumbed to a fever, Frances instantly responded. During the day it became apparent that she, too, was ill, nevertheless she insisted on returning on foot and stopping to ask her spiritual director's blessing. He commanded her to return to the palace. In a vision Jesus, surrounded by angels and saints, announced that she would die in seven days. For the next days she resumed her normal prayers. Her deathbed was marred only by an incident wherein she accused her son of wrong dealings and he admitted his guilt.

She died as she finished her vespers. Her last words were: "The Angel has finished his task; he calls me to follow him." The cause for her canonization was introduced almost immediately, but it was not much advanced until the accession of Clement VIII, who had a great devotion to the saint, but he and his successor died before this was accomplished. Paul V (Borghese) decreed her canonisation.

Her husband and children are entombed beneath the pavement of the Ponziani family chapel (now the sacristy) of the Church of Saint Cecilia. The walls have scenes from her life. Her skeletal remains, clad in the habit of the Oblates of the Congregation of Mount Olivet, which she founded, lie exposed in a glass casket in the church with her name, coupled with its original designation of Santa Maria Nuovo. Once every hundred years it is opened to reclothe her body in a fresh habit. This is her father Paolo di Bussi's church.

On her feast day, the priest blesses cars parked outside because she is La Padrona degli Automobilisti, which is odd because she may have left Rome only once to go to Assisi and generally travelled by foot.

She did not live in the Tor di Specchi on the via Teatro di Marcello near the Orsini Palace until after the death of her husband. The chapel of the Tor di Specchi has 20 frescoes, plus the altarpiece, all in perfect condition, depicting the miracles of Saint Frances (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Berthem-Bontoux, Cecchetti, Delaney, Delany, Encyclopedia, Farrow, Fullerton, Gill, Grandi, Husenbeth, Keyes, Martindale, Morton, White, Windham).

In art, Saint Frances is portrayed as a nun with her guardian angel dressed as a deacon by her side. At times the icon may include (1) a monstrance and arrow; (2) a book; or (3) an angel with a branch of oranges near her; or she may be shown (4) receiving the veil from the Christ Child in the arms of the Blessed Virgin (Roeder). She is the patroness of Roman housewives (Roeder) and motorists and automobiles (Farmer).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0309.shtml


Saint Frances of Rome


St. Frances of Rome was an Italian noblewoman from the fifteenth century. Frances surprised her wealthy parents when she asked to join the convent at age eleven. Having previously arranged for Frances to marry a wealthy land owner, instead she found herself married two years later at age thirteen. She remained devotedly married for the next forty years.

The early fifteenth century found the city of Rome to be less than the “eternal city” we know today. Rome suffered from internal warfare, natural catastrophe and disease. It was during these difficult periods that Frances and her sister-in-law,Vannozza, reached out to assist many of those affected by disease and the warring strife. Disasters did not escape Frances. Her home was pillaged by Ladislaus of Naples in 1409 and her husband, Lorenzo dei Ponziani, was forced into exile. Historically, these were not uncommon occurrences, however these were, none the less, difficult situations to endure. Upon his return home in 1414, Lorenzo found himself a broken man, yet fortunate to have Frances care for him.

Frances of Rome found fame for her acts of charity and she attracted other women who shared her ideals of self-denial and good works. On August 15, 1425 she founded the Benedictine Oblates of Monte Oliveto. At this time Frances shared her time between family and “community.” In 1433 Pope Eugenius IV approved the community’s Constitution and in 1436, finding herself widowed, Frances officially entered her own community.

Frances of Rome died on March 9, 1440 at the age of fifty-six. She had lived an honorable and good life, especially through her continued acts of charity and love for her townspeople. Though early on she had lost two of her three children, seen her husband lose his pride and dignity and lost all of her personal possessions, Frances never swayed from contributing to the aid of others. Ultimately, Frances was canonized on May 29, 1608. Today her tomb can be viewed at Santa Francesca Romana and her congregation still flourishes through their educational work.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/st-frances-of-rome/


Antonio del Massaro da Viterbo (Italian, ca. 1450–ca. 1516), Sainte Françoise romaine revêtue par la Sainte Vierge Marie, 1445, or et tempera sur bois, New York, Metropolitan Museum


March 9

St. Frances, Widow, Foundress of the Collatines

Abridged from her life by her confessor, Canon. Mattiotti; and that by Magdalen Dell’Anguillara, superioress of the Oblates, or Collatines. Helyot, Hist. des Ordr. Mon. t. 6. p. 208.

A.D. 1440

ST. FRANCES was born at Rome in 1384. Her parents, Paul de Buxo and Jacobella Rofredeschi, were both of illustrious families. She imbibed early sentiments of piety, and such was her love of purity from her tender age, that she would not suffer her own father to touch even her hands unless covered. She had always an aversion to the amusements of children, and loved solitude and prayer. At eleven years of age she desired to enter a monastery, but in obedience to her parents, was married to a rich young Roman nobleman named Laurence Ponzani, in 1396. A grievous sickness showed how disagreeable this kind of life was to her inclination. She joined with it her former spirit; kept herself as retired as she could, shunning feastings and public meetings. All her delight was in prayer, meditation, and visiting churches. Above all, her obedience and condescension to her husband was inimitable, which engaged such a return of affection, that for forty years which they lived together, there never happened the least disagreement; and their whole life was a constant strife and emulation to prevent each other in mutual complaisance and respect. Whilst she was at her prayers or other exercises, if called away by her husband, or the meanest person of her family, she laid all aside to obey without delay, saying: “A married woman must, when called upon, quit her devotions to God at the altar, to find him in her household affairs.” God was pleased to show her the merit of this her obedience; for the authors of her life relate, that being called away four times in beginning the same verse of a psalm in our Lady’s office, returning the fifth time, she found that verse written in golden letters. She treated her domestics not as servants, but as brothers and sisters, and future co-heirs in heaven; and studied by all means in her power to induce them seriously to labour for their salvation. Her mortifications were extraordinary, especially when some years before her husband’s death, she was permitted by him to inflict on her body what hardships she pleased. She from that time abstained from wine, fish, and dainty meats, with a total abstinence from flesh, unless in her greatest sickness. Her ordinary diet was hard and mouldy bread. She would procure secretly, out of the pouches of the beggars, their dry crusts in exchange for better bread. When she fared the best, she only added to bread a few unsavoury herbs without oil, and drank nothing but water, making use of a human skull for her cup. She ate but once a day, and by long abstinence had lost all relish of what she took. Her garments were of coarse serge, and she never wore linen, not even in sickness. Her discipline was armed with rowels and sharp points. She wore continually a hair shirt, and a girdle of horse-hair. An iron girdle had so galled her flesh, that her confessor obliged her to lay it aside. If she inadvertently chanced to offend God in the least, she severely that instant punished the part that had offended; as the tongue, by sharply biting it, &c. Her example was of such edification, that many Roman ladies having renounced a life of idleness, pomp, and softness, joined her in pious exercises, and put themselves under the direction of the Benedictine monks of the congregation of Monte-Oliveto, without leaving the world, making vows, or wearing any particular habit. Saint Frances prayed only for children that they might be citizens of heaven, and when she was blessed with them, it was her whole care to make them saints.

It pleased God, for her sanctification, to make trial of her virtue by many afflictions. During the troubles which ensued upon the invasion of Rome by Ladislas, king of Naples, and the great schism under Pope John XXIII, at the time of opening the council of Constance, in 1413, her husband, with his brother-in-law Paulucci, was banished Rome, his estate confiscated, his house pulled down, and his eldest son, John Baptist, detained an hostage. Her soul remained calm amidst all those storms: she said with Job: “God hath given, and God hath taken away. I rejoice in these losses, because they are God’s will. Whatever he sends I shall continually bless and praise his name for.” The schism being extinguished by the council of Constance, and tranquillity restored at Rome, her husband recovered his dignity and estate. Some time after, moved by the great favours St. Frances received from heaven, and by her eminent virtue, he gave her full leave to live as she pleased; and he himself chose to serve God in a state of continency. He permitted her, in his own life-time, to found a monastery of nuns, called Oblates, for the reception of such of her own sex as were disposed to embrace a religious life. The foundation of this house was in 1425. She gave them the rule of St. Benedict, adding some particular constitutions of her own, and put them under the direction of the congregation of the Olivetans. The house being too small for the numbers that fled to this sanctuary from the corruption of the world, she would gladly have removed her community to a larger house; but not finding one suitable, she enlarged it in 1433, from which year the founding of the Order is dated. It was approved by Pope Eugenius IV. in 1437. They are called Collatines, perhaps from the quarter of Rome in which they are situated; and Oblates, because they call their profession an oblation, and use in it the word offero, not profiteor. St. Frances could not yet join her new family; but as soon as she had settled her domestic affairs, after the death of her husband, she went barefoot, with a cord about her neck, to the monastery which she had founded, and there, prostrate on the ground, before the religious, her spiritual children, begged to be admitted. She accordingly took the habit on St. Benedict’s day, in 1437. She always sought the meanest employments in the house, being fully persuaded she was of all the most contemptible before God; and she laboured to appear as mean in the eyes of the world as she was in her own. She continued the same humiliations, and the same universal poverty, though soon after chosen superioress of her congregation. Almighty God bestowed on her humility, extraordinary graces, and supernatural favours, as frequent visions, raptures, and the gift of prophecy. She enjoyed the familiar conversation of her angel-guardian, as her life and the process of her canonization attest. She was extremely affected by meditating on our Saviour’s passion, which she had always present to her mind. At mass she was so absorpt in God as to seem immoveable, especially after holy communion: she often fell into ecstacies of love and devotion. She was particularly devout to Saint John the Evangelist, and above all to our Lady, under whose singular protection she put her Order. Going out to see her son John Baptist, who was dangerously sick, she fell so ill herself that she could not return to her monastery at night. After having foretold her death, and received the sacraments, she expired on the 9th of March, in the year 1440, and of her age the fifty-sixth. God attested her sanctity by miracles: she was honoured among the saints immediately after her death, and solemnly canonized by Paul V. in 1608. Her shrine in Rome is most magnificent and rich: and her festival is kept as a holy-day in the city, with great solemnity. The Oblates make no solemn vows, only a promise of obedience to the mother-president, enjoy pensions, inherit estates, and go abroad with leave. Their abbey in Rome is filled with ladies of the first rank.

  In a religious life, in which a regular distribution of holy employments and duties take up the whole day, and leave no interstices of time for idleness, sloth, or the world, hours pass in these exercises with the rapidity of moments, and moments by fervour of the desires bear the value of years. There is not an instant in which a soul is not employed for God, and studies not with her whole heart to please him. Every step, every thought and desire, is a sacrifice of fidelity, obedience, and love offered to him. Even meals, recreation, and rest are sanctified by this intention; and from the religious vows and habitual purpose of the soul of consecrating herself entirely to God in time and eternity, every action, as St. Thomas teaches, renews and contains the fervour and merit of this entire consecration, of which it is a part. In a secular life, a person by regularity in the employment of his time, and fervour in devoting himself to God in all his actions and designs, may in some degree enjoy the same happiness and advantage. This St. Frances perfectly practised, even before she renounced the world. She lived forty years with her husband without ever giving him the least occasion of offence; and by the fervour with which she conversed of heaven, she seemed already to have quitted the earth, and to have made paradise her ordinary dwelling.

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/3/091.html

Santa Francesca Romana Religiosa


- Memoria Facoltativa

Roma, 1384 – 9 marzo 1440

Nacque a Roma nel 1384. Cresciuta negli agi di una nobile e ricca famiglia, coltivò nel suo animo l'ideale della vita monastica, ma non poté sottrarsi alla scelta che per lei avevano fatto i suoi genitori. La giovanissima sposa, appena tredicenne, prese dimora con lo sposo Lorenzo de' Ponziani altrettanto ricco e nobile, nella sua casa nobiliare a Trastevere. Con semplicità accettò i grandi doni della vita, l'amore dello sposo, i suoi titoli nobiliari, le sue ricchezze, i tre figli nati dalla loro unione, due dei quali le morirono. Da sempre generosa con tutti, specie i bisognosi, per poter allargare il raggio della sua azione caritativa, nel 1425 fondò la congregazione delle Oblate Olivetane di Santa Maria Nuova, dette anche Oblate di Tor de' Specchi. Tre anni dopo la morte del marito, emise ella stessa i voti nella congregazione da lei fondata, assumendo il secondo nome di Romana. Morì il 9 marzo 1440. (Avvenire)

Patronato: Motoristi

Etimologia: Francesca = libera, dall'antico tedesco

Martirologio Romano: Santa Francesca, religiosa, che, sposata in giovane età e vissuta per quarant’anni nel matrimonio, fu moglie e madre di specchiata virtù, ammirevole per pietà, umiltà e pazienza. In tempi di difficoltà, distribuì i suoi beni ai poveri, servì i malati e, alla morte del marito, si ritirò tra le oblate che ella stessa aveva riunito a Roma sotto la regola di san Benedetto.

Il Cinquecento fu un secolo in cui nacquero e operarono figure di grande santità, che rivoluzionarono il cammino della Chiesa nei secoli successivi; ma nel Quattrocento ci fu un preludio di tale fioritura, con il sorgere specie in Italia, di sante figure di uomini e donne, che vivendo in un’epoca di grandi trasformazioni, artistiche, letterarie, filosofiche, che prese il nome di ‘Rinascimento’ e che si manifestò essenzialmente come “scoperta del mondo e dell’uomo”, seppero mettere in pratica questo sorgente umanesimo, prestando attenzione all’umanità sofferente nel corpo e assetata di istruzione e guida spirituale nell’anima.

Si ricorda alcuni di questi campioni della santità cattolica del XV sec.: San Giovanni da Capestrano († 1456) francescano; san Giacomo della Marca, († 1476) frate Minore; sant’Angela Merici (1474-1540), fondatrice delle Orsoline; san Bernardino da Siena († 1444), frate Minore; santa Rita da Cascia († 1457), agostiniana; san Vincenzo Ferrer († 1419), domenicano; santa Caterina da Bologna († 1453), clarissa; ecc. 

A loro si aggiunge la luminosa figura di santa Francesca Romana (1384-1440), contemporanea di s. Bernardino, che fu sposa, madre, vedova, fondatrice e religiosa, secondo la volontà di Dio.

Origini, sposa per obbedienza

La nobile Francesca Bussa de’ Buxis de’ Leoni, nacque a Roma nel 1384, in una famiglia abitante nei pressi di Piazza Navona e fu battezzata e cresimata nella chiesa di Sant’Agnese al Circo Agonale.

Ebbe un’educazione elevata per una fanciulla del suo tempo, grandicella accompagnava la madre Jacovella de’ Broffedeschi, nelle visite alle varie chiese del suo rione, ma spesso fino alla lontana chiesa di santa Maria Nova sull’antica Via Sacra, gestita dai Benedettini di Monte Oliveto, dai quali la madre era solito confessarsi e in questa chiesa, anche Francesca trovò il suo primo direttore spirituale, padre Antonello di Monte Savello, che ben presto si accorse della vocazione della fanciulla alla vita monastica, nonostante vivesse negli agi di una ricca e nobile famiglia.

Ma fu proprio questo benedettino a convincerla ad accettare la volontà del padre, Paolo Bussa de’ Buxis de’ Leoni, che secondo i costumi dell’epoca, aveva combinato per la dodicenne Francesca, un matrimonio con il nobile Lorenzo de’ Ponziani; il padre, in quel periodo conservatore del Comune di Roma, intendeva così allearsi ad un’altra famiglia nobile.

I Ponziani si erano arricchiti con il mestiere di macellai, comprando case e feudi nobilitandosi, essi risiedevano in un palazzo di Trastevere al n. 61 dell’attuale via dei Vascellari, che nel Medioevo si chiamava contrada di Sant’Andrea degli Scafi; dell’antico palazzo più volte trasformato nei secoli, rimangono le ampie cantine e al pianterreno l’ambiente quattrocentesco con il soffitto a cassettoni.

Una volta sposata, Francesca andò ad abitare nel palazzo dei Ponziani, ma l’inserimento nella nuova famiglia non fu facile, e questa difficoltà si aggiunse alla sofferenza provata per aver dovuto rinunciare alla sua vocazione religiosa; ne scaturì uno stato di anoressia che la sprofondò nella prostrazione.

Si cercò di sollevarla da questa preoccupante situazione ma invano; finché all’alba del 16 luglio 1398 le apparve in sogno sant’Alessio che le diceva: “Tu devi vivere… Il Signore vuole che tu viva per glorificare il suo nome”.

Al risveglio Francesca, accompagnata dalla cognata Vannozza, si recò alla chiesa dedicata al santo pellegrino sull’Aventino, per ringraziarlo e da allora la sua vita cambiò, accettando la sua condizione di sposa e a 16 anni ebbe il primo dei tre figli, che amò teneramente, ma purtroppo solo uno arrivò all’età adulta.

Santità vissuta in famiglia e nelle opere di carità

Con la cognata Vannozza, prese a dedicare il suo tempo libero dagli impegni familiari, a soccorrere poveri ed ammalati; erano anni drammatici per Roma, gli ecclesiastici discutevano sulla superiorità o meno del Concilio Ecumenico sul Papa; lo Scisma d’Occidente devastava l’unità della Chiesa e lo Stato Pontificio era politicamente allo sbando ed economicamente in rovina.

Roma per tre volte fu occupata e saccheggiata dal re di Napoli, Ladislao di Durazzo e a causa delle guerriglie urbane, la città era ridotta ad un borgo di miserabili.

Papi ed antipapi di quel periodo di scisma, si combattevano fra loro e spesso mancava un’autorità centrale ed autorevole, per riportare ordine e prosperità.

Francesca perciò volle dedicarsi a sollevare li misere condizioni dei suoi concittadini più bisognosi; nel 1401 essendo morta la moglie, il suocero Andreozzo Ponziani le affidò le chiavi delle dispense, dei granai e delle cantine; Francesca ne approfittò per aumentare gli aiuti ai poveri e in pochi mesi i locali furono svuotati.

Il suocero allibito decise di riprendersi le chiavi, ma ecco che essendo rimasta nei granai soltanto la pula, Francesca, Vannozza e una fedele serva, per cercare di soddisfare fino all’ultimo le richieste degli affamati, fecero la cernita e distribuirono anche il poco grano ricavato; ma pochi giorni dopo sia i granai che le botti del vino erano prodigiosamente pieni.

Andreozzo che comunque era un uomo caritatevole, che già nel 1391 aveva fondato l’Ospedale del Santissimo Salvatore, utilizzando la navata destra di una chiesa in disuso, oggi chiamata Santa Maria in Cappella, restituì le chiavi alla caritatevole nuora.

A questo punto Francesca decise di dedicarsi sistematicamente all’opera di assistenza; con il consenso del marito Lorenzo de’ Ponziani, vendette tutti i vestiti e gioielli devolvendo il ricavato ai poveri e indossò un abito di stoffa ruvida, ampio e comodo per poter camminare agevolmente per i miseri vicoli di Roma.

Era ormai conosciuta ed ammirata da tutta Trastevere, che aveva saputo del prodigio dei granai di nuovo pieni, e un gruppo di donne ne seguirono l’esempio; con esse Francesca andava a coltivare un campo nei pressi di San Paolo, da cui ricavava frutta e verdura trasportate con un asinello e che poi elargiva personalmente alla lunga fila di poveri, che ormai ogni giorno cercava di sfamare.
Alla morte del suocero Andreozzo de’ Ponziani, Francesca si prese cura dell’Ospedale del Ss. Salvatore, ma senza tralasciare le visite private e domiciliari che faceva ai poveri.

Incurante delle critiche e ironie dei nobili romani a cui apparteneva, si fece questuante per i poveri, specie quelli vergognosi e per loro chiedeva l’elemosina all’entrata delle chiese; mentre si prodigava instancabilmente in queste opere di amore concreto, tanto che il popolino la chiamava paradossalmente “la poverella di Trastevere”, Francesca riceveva dal Signore il dono di celesti illuminazioni, che lei riferiva al suo confessore Giovanni Mariotto, parroco di Santa Maria in Trastevere che le trascriveva.

Queste confidenze, pubblicate poi nel 1870, riguardavano le frequenti lotte della santa col demonio; del suo viaggio mistico nell’inferno e nel purgatorio; delle tante estasi che le capitavano; e poi dei prodigi e guarigioni che le venivano attribuite.

Le tragedie familiari

Ma questi doni straordinari che il Signore le aveva donato, furono pagati a caro prezzo, la sua vita spesa tutta per la famiglia ed i poveri di Roma, fu funestata da molte disgrazie; già quando aveva 25 anni nel 1409, suo marito Lorenzo, comandante delle truppe pontificie, durante una battaglia contro l’invasore Ladislao di Durazzo re di Napoli, contrario all’elezione di papa Alessandro V (1409-1410), venne gravemente ferito rimanendo semiparalizzato per il resto della sua vita, accudito amorevolmente dalla moglie e dal figlio.

Nel 1410 la sua casa venne saccheggiata e i loro beni espropriati, mentre il marito sebbene invalido fu costretto a fuggire, per sottrarsi alla vendetta di re Ladislao, che però prese in ostaggio il figlio Battista.

Poi a Roma ci fu l’epidemia di peste, morbo ricorrente in quei tempi, che funestava alternativamente tutta l’Europa, il suo slancio di amore verso gli ammalati, le fece commettere l’imprudenza di aprire il suo palazzo agli appestati; la pestilenza le portò così via due figli, Agnese ed Evangelista e lei stessa si contagiò, riuscendo però a salvarsi; passata l’epidemia poté ricongiungersi con il marito e l’unico figlio rimasto Battista.

È di quel periodo l’apparizione in sogno del piccolo figlio Evangelista, insieme con un Angelo misterioso, che s. Francesca da allora in poi avrebbe visto accanto a sé per tutta la vita.

Fondatrice di confraternita

Francesca Bussa, continuando ad aiutare i suoi poveri ed ammalati, senza fra l’altro trascurare la preghiera, tanto da dormire ormai solo due ore per notte, prese a dirigere spiritualmente il gruppo di amiche, che la coadiuvavano nella carità quotidiana e si riunivano ogni settimana nella chiesa di Santa Maria Nova.

E durante uno di questi incontri, Francesca le invitò ad unirsi in una confraternita consacrata alla Madonna, restando ognuna nella propria casa, impegnandosi a vivere le virtù monastiche e di donarsi ai poveri.

Il 15 agosto 1425 festa dell’Assunta, davanti all’altare della Vergine, le undici donne si costituirono in associazione con il nome di “Oblate Olivetane di Maria”, in omaggio alla chiesa dei padri Benedettini Olivetani che frequentavano, pronunziando una formula di consacrazione che le aggregava all’Ordine Benedettino.

Nel marzo del 1433 Francesca poté riunire le Oblate sotto un unico tetto a Tor de’ Specchi, composto da una camera ed un grande camerone, vicino alla chiesa parrocchiale di Sant’Andrea dei Funari; e il 21 luglio dello stesso 1433, papa Eugenio IV eresse la comunità in Congregazione, con il titolo di “Oblate della Santissima Vergine”, in seguito poi dette “Oblate di Santa Francesca Romana”, la cui unica Casa secondo la Regola, era ed è quella romana.

Religiosa lei stessa, la santa morte

Si recava ogni giorno nel monastero da lei fondato, ma continuò ad abitare nel Palazzo Ponziani, per accudire il marito malato; dopo la morte del marito, con il quale visse in armonia per 40 anni, il 21 marzo 1436 lasciò la sua casa, affidandone l’amministrazione al figlio Battista e a sua moglie Mabilia de’ Papazzurri, e si unì alle compagne a Tor de’ Specchi dove fu eletta superiora.

Trascorse gli ultimi quattro nel convento, dedicandosi soprattutto a tre compiti: formare le sue figlie secondo le illuminazioni che Dio le donava; sostenerle con l’esempio nelle opere di misericordia alle quali erano chiamate; pregare per la fine dello scisma nella Chiesa.

Prese il secondo nome di Romana e così fu sempre chiamata dal popolo e dalla storia, perché Francesca fu tra i grandi che seppero riunire in sé, la gloria e la vitalità di Roma; il popolo romano la considerò sempre una di loro nonostante la nobiltà, e familiarmente la chiamava “Franceschella” o “Ceccolella”.

Francesca Romana insegnò alle sue suore la preparazione di uno speciale unguento, che aveva usato e usava per sanare malati e feriti; unguento che viene ancora oggi preparato nello stesso recipiente adoperato da lei più di cinque secoli fa.

Ma la ‘santa di Roma’ non morì nel suo monastero, ma nel palazzo Ponziani, perché da pochi giorni si era spostata lì per assistere il figlio Battista gravemente ammalato; dopo poco tempo il figlio guarì ma lei ormai sfinita, morì il 9 marzo 1440 nel palazzo di Trastevere.

Le sue spoglie mortali vennero esposte per tre giorni nella chiesa di Santa Maria Nova, una cronaca dell’epoca riferisce la partecipazione e la devozione di tutta la città; fu sepolta sotto l’altare maggiore della chiesa che avrebbe poi preso il suo nome.

Da subito ci fu un afflusso di fedeli, tale che la ricorrenza del giorno della sua morte, con decreto del Senato del 1494, fu considerato giorno festivo.

Fu proclamata santa il 29 maggio 1608 da papa Paolo V; e papa Urbano VIII volle nella chiesa di Santa Francesca Romana, un tempietto con quattro colonne di diaspro, con una statua in bronzo dorato che la raffigura in compagnia dell’Angelo Custode, che l’aveva assistita tutta la vita.

Santa Francesca Romana è considerata compatrona di Roma, viene invocata come protettrice dalle pestilenze e per la liberazione delle anime dal Purgatorio e dal 1951 degli automobilisti.

La sua festa liturgica è il 9 marzo.

Autore:
Antonio Borrelli



Traité de l'Enfer de Sainte Francoise Romaine : http://enfer-catholique.blogspot.ca/2008/10/trait-de-lenfer-de-sainte-francoise.html

Voir aussi : http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j011sdSt.FrancesRome3-9.htm

 http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/1359613/posts