We should not be surprised that the saints speak to us through the ages, how they responded in their own era – always with its own troubles and crises – offering us an example for how we should act in our own, and standing as intercessors.
Such was Saint Frances of Rome (1384 – 1440). Born into privilege in 1384 into a Europe already ravaged by the Black Death, which peaked from 1347 to 1351, Frances lived through tumultuous times, with Christendom severed by the ‘Great Western Schism’, which had begun in 1378, eventually with three rival claimants to the papacy, none of them providing a particularly edifying example. Frances wanted to give her life to God, but was ordered at the age of twelve to marry – as per custom back then – given to the wealthy Lorenzo di Ponziani, the commander of the papal troops. The marriage proved a happy one for its four decades, even if Frances’ liberal – one might say excessive from a worldly view – almsgiving and care for the poor caused some consternation, the miraculous replenishing of the supplies alleviated the anxieties of the Ponziani clan.
Rome was in ruin during her life – before the magnificent building boom of the renaissance in the next century – wolves wandered the deserted streets, and the sick, suffering from the recurrent plagues and pestilences, were often left to fend for themselves. Her care for them was renowned, even taking them into her own house. A contemporary wrote of Frances: