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Oct 6 - St Mary Francis of the Five Wounds 1715-1791

 Anna Maria Rosa, as Mary Frances was christened, was born in Naples in 1715 of a family that belonged to the middle class of society. Her mother, a devout and gentle woman, who had much to contend with from her hot-tempered husband, was quite worried before the birth of this child. But St. John Joseph of the Cross, who lived in Naples at that time, calmed her and recommended special care of the child, as it was destined to attain to great holiness.

She was scarcely 4 years old when she began to spend hours in prayer, and sometimes arose at night for this purpose. Such was her desire to know the truths of the Catholic Faith, that an angel appeared to her and instructed her regularly. She had not yet attained her 7th year when she desired to receive holy Communion. Her pastor marveled at her knowledge of the Faith, as well as her ardent desire for the Bread of Angels, and felt that he could not deny her the privilege. In fact, it was not long before he permitted her to receive daily.

Meanwhile, although physically of a very delicate constitution, the little saint was making herself useful to her parents by assisting them in their work. Her father, a weaver of gold lace, was anxious to have his children help as early as possible. He found that Mary Frances was not only the most willing but also the most skilled in the work.

Mary Frances was 16 years old when a rich young man asked her father for her hand. Rejoicing at the favorable prospect, her father at once gave his consent.

But when he told Mary Frances about it, he was amazed to hear her, who had never contradicted him, declare her firm intention of espousing only her heavenly Bridegroom, and asking his permission to become a Tertiary. He became so enraged that he seized a rope and whipped the delicate girl un mercifully, until her mother intervened. He then locked her in a room, where she received only bread and water, and no one was permitted to speak to her.

Mary Frances considered herself fortunate to be able to offer her divine bridegroom this early proof of her fidelity; she regarded the trial as a pre-nuptial celebration. The earnest representations of a priest made her father, who after all was a believing Christian, realize that he had done wrong; and he consented that his daughter take the Tertiary habit and serve God as a consecrated virgin at home, as was customary in those days.

Filled with holy joy, Mary Frances now received the habit and with it the surname "of the Five Wounds." This name was prophetic of her subsequent life. At home she had much to endure. Her father never got over it that he lost a wealthy son-in-law. When God favored her with unusual graces -- she was sometimes granted ecstasies at prayer and suffered our Lord's agony with Him -- her own brothers and sisters insulted her as an imposter. Even her confessor felt obliged to deal harshly with her. For a long time she could find consolation nowhere but in the wounds of Christ.

Her confessor perceived at last that it was God who was doing these things in Mary Frances. Since her mother had died meanwhile, he saw to it that she found a home with a fellow Tertiary. There one day, as she herself lay ill, she learned that her father was near death; and she asked almighty God to let her suffer her father's death agony and his purgatory. Both requests were granted her.

Although she suffered continuously, our Lord also gave Mary Frances great graces and consolations. She received the marks of the wounds of Christ and was granted the gift of prophesy and of miracles. When Pius VI was crowned pope in 1775, she beheld him in a vision wearing a crown of thorns. Pope Pius closed his life 24 years later as a prisoner of the French Revolution at Valence.

Mary Frances also prophesied the tragic events of the French Revolution; and God heard her prayer, asking that she be taken from this world before they would happen. She died on October 6, 1791, kissing the feet of her crucifix. God glorified her by many miracles. She was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI, and canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867.

ON CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
1. What made Mary Frances so resolute that she never failed in courage amid her many trials, but rather advanced in holiness? The lessons of the catechism did that for her. She entertained such a longing to know them that almighty God had her guardian angel instruct her in them before she received any human instruction. Without a knowledge of Christian doctrine, as it is impressed on the heart in through catechetical instruction, man impressed on the heart in thorough catechetical instructions, man is not safe in the storms of life. Piety itself is built on sand without that knowledge; if the waters of tribulation surround it, it collapses. But the soul that is well instructed in the truths of our Faith is like the house in the Gospel: "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock" (Matt 7:25). -- Have you properly appreciated the lessons of the catechism?
2. Consider how the lessons of the catechism should be taught to children. Before they ever learn to read or go to school, the parents and other members of the household, like visible guardian angels, should teach the children their prayers and the more important lessons of faith, so that the instructions will not be something strange to them later. The first school and the first church of the little ones should be the parental home. And when the children begin to attend instructions in school, the parents should encourage their interest by asking them questions and hearing them recite their lessons. Above all they should not neglect to send the children regularly to the instructions. Those lessons are the most necessary and the most important of their lives. The Holy Spirit speaks of their importance when He says: "From your mouth receive instructions, and even to gray hairs you shall find wisdom." (Eccli 6:18). -- How can parents be guilty of keeping their children ignorant for life of the most important matters?
3. Consider that even in later life we should not neglect the lessons of the catechism. We learn them in youth, but we must use them throughout life. That is why we should frequently review these lessons and reflect on them. Take up your catechism occasionally and re-read it. Its lessons mean much more to us as we grow older than they did when we were children. If public catechism instructions or study clubs are conducted in your parish, or is a series of sermons on these lessons is given in your church, so not fail to attend, for they offer valuable lessons for young and old. If one received money for attending them, no doubt, there would be many present who now prefer the comfort of their homes. But Holy Scripture says: "Receive my instructions and not money; choose knowledge rather than gold" (Prov 8:10). Christian doctrine is worth more than all the gold on earth. It reaches us that man is made for heaven and not for the earth; and if we live in accordance with that principle, we shall enter the kingdom of heaven when we have to leave the things of earth.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O Lord Jesus, who, together with many other graces, didst give St. Mary Frances the grace of perfect contempt of the world, grant that through her merits and intercession, we, too, may despise material things and aspire to those which are heavenly. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., 1959 Franciscan Herald Press