On the Feast of St. Frances: A Saint Who Struggled, Too
A married woman must, when called upon, quit her devotions to God at the altar to find Him in her household affairs. // St. Frances of Rome
As a mom, I have struggled with this. Longing for just a few more minutes of morning prayer, before my children wake up. Hoping for quiet and stillness at Mass so I can soak in the grace I desperately need for the next week.
This was especially difficult when I was a new mom with young children.
“All I want is some quiet time with You, Lord. Is that too much to ask?” I often wondered.
Even though my children are older now, new challenges come into play. I continue to struggle with balancing prayer and the duties required of me as a wife and mom.
At times, this feels isolating, like I am the only one who wrestles with this. But I know, deep down, that my experience is not unique. In fact, I think it is safe to say that most moms struggle with a lack of their own time to do their own things, including prayer.
St. Frances of Rome: A Saint Who Struggled, Too
I stumbled upon the above quote from St. Frances of Rome a few years ago, when I was curious about the Saint whose feast day shares my birthday. Her words gave me a tremendous amount of hope. And I soon learned that she was not only advising other women with these words, she was incorporating them into her own life, too.
Frances also struggled with finding a balance between living a quiet, contemplative, and prayerful life and being present to the obligations she had to her husband and children. Over the course of her life, though, she learned some valuable lessons that helped her not only be a good wife and mother, but also a holy, prayerful woman of God.
Yes, we can be both! And St. Frances of Rome can show us how.
God’s Will or Yours?
Frances was born in 1384 in Rome. From an early age, she had a strong love for God. By age 11, she decided that she wanted to become a nun. Her father, however, had different plans for her. By the time Frances was 13, he already promised her hand in marriage to the son of another wealthy family.
Frances prayed that God would somehow prevent the marriage from happening. She complained to her confessor, who responded, “Are you crying because you want to do God’s will, or because you want God to do your will?”
She surrendered her will to God’s, but she did so reluctantly. Her husband was a good man who cared about her very much. But her heart was not in the marriage, and she still longed to be a bride of Christ.
What made it worse was that Frances was thrown into a very social life. She was expected to attend and host numerous parties while her heart longed for quiet time with God. This took a toll on Frances’ health, and she collapsed from the stress.
Close to death, Frances had a vision of St. Alexis, a fourth-century monastic who became a beggar instead of marrying and lived a life of anonymity, even to his family. He told her that God was giving her a choice: to recover or not.
Frances responded, “God’s will is mine.”
St. Alexis promised Frances that she would live a life that glorified the Lord.
You’re Not Alone
Frances recovered, but her struggle did not disappear. She was still expected to entertain and go visiting with her mother-in-law. While she was constantly surrounded by people, Frances felt utterly alone.
Finally, Frances took a risk and confided in her sister-in-law Vannozza, who seemed to like being social. But it turned out that Vannozza was just a naturally joyful person. Deep down, she wanted to live a devout life, too.
Frances and Vannozza became the best of friends and made a plan to balance their devotions with their obligations to their families. They decided that their vocations came first. They renewed their commitment to their husbands and families and worked with joy. But they also attended Mass together and set up a secret chapel in the palace where they could go and pray.
With this new commitment, and a sister in Christ by her side, Frances turned more of her attention toward the needs of her own household. She gave birth to two sons and one daughter. She became the administrator of the household when her mother-in-law passed away. Her family flourished under her care. She was faithful to her duties but still managed multiple works of mercy, too.
Coming Full Circle
Throughout her life, Frances endured war, plagues, the kidnapping of her son, and the early deaths of two children. Eventually, her husband and father-in-law had a deeper conversion, which allowed her to sell her jewels and fancy clothing to give more to the poor.
Later in life, with her husband’s permission, Frances started a lay order of women attached to the Benedictines called the Oblates of Mary. The women lived in the world but offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor.
After her husband’s death, Frances moved in with the Oblates of Mary and became the superior. At the age of 52, she had the life she wanted at age 11. God just had other plans for her in between. Frances died in 1440 at the age of 56.
St. Frances of Rome, Pray for Us!
The life of St. Frances is an encouraging one. She struggled with something that I struggle with on a daily basis: balancing prayer and work. And her life story has taught me a lot:
- I am a work in progress.
- The Lord loves the time I spend with Him.
- The Lord also gives me important work to do.
- I am not alone in my struggle to find balance.
- Sisterhood is important. One friend can make all the difference.
- The Lord places desires on my heart, but I need to trust that His timing is perfect in bringing those desires to fruition.
Lord, I long to spend time with You in prayer. I also know that you have given me work to do in this world. May I find You, Lord, in every moment of my day, whether before the tabernacle or in front of a pile of laundry. St. Frances of Rome, pray for me. Amen.
This was originally published on the Blessed Is She blog.