Frances, who was born to a noble family of Rome, married a wealthy young man at the age of thirteen. Though a dedicated wife and mother, she wished to be of wider service and spent her free time nursing the sick in the local hospital. Later, as outbreaks of plague and the violence of civil war encroached on her world, she emptied the family storehouse, sold all her jewels, and turned part of her house into a hospital. After the death of her children, her husband released her from the obligations of married life, freeing her to form a society of women living in the world, dedicated to serving God and the poor. Though under no vows, Frances and her companions placed themselves under the direction of the Olivetan Benedictine monks and followed the Rule of Benedict.
Frances’s practical skill in managing household affairs and her attention to the needs of others was combined with a deep life of prayer. For the last twenty years of her life she reported that an angel—visible only to her—accompanied her at all times, withdrawing only when she committed a fault and then returning when she made her confession. Her last years, when she was no longer capable of nursing, were dedicated entirely to prayer.
On the evening of March 9, 1440, sensing that her end was near, she said, “The angel has finished his task; he beckons me to follow him.” All of Rome turned out to mourn the passing of a saint. She was canonized in 1608 and is the patron of Benedictine oblates.
“A married woman must often leave God at the altar to find him in her household care.”
—St. Frances of Rome