Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Friday, March 23, 2007

Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds

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

Mary Frances was scarcely 4 years old when she began to spend hours in prayer. She sometimes even arose at night to pray. She had such a desire to know the truths of the Catholic Faith that an angel appeared to her and instructed her regularly. Before she was seven, she desired to receive Holy Communion. The priest was astonished 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.

As she grew, Mary would help her parents in their work. Her father was a weaver of gold lace and 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.

When she was only sixteen years old, a rich young man asked her father for her hand in marriage. Rejoicing at the favorable prospect, her father at once gave his consent.

Mary’s father was shocked at Mary’s defiance when she was told of the plans for her marriage. She refused and would only espouse her Heavenly Bridegroom. Mary asked her father’s permission to become a Franciscan Tertiary. He became so enraged that he seized a rope and whipped the delicate girl unmercifully, 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 considered herself fortunate to be able to offer her divine bridegroom this early proof of her fidelity. She saw this as a pre-nuptial celebration. The earnest plea of a priest made her father, who after all was a believing Christian, realize that he had done wrong. He gave his blessing for Mary to take the Tertiary habit and serve God as a consecrated virgin at home, as was customary in those days.

Joy, joy, holy joy! Mary received the habit and with it the surname "of the Five Wounds." This name was prophetic of her ensuing years. At home she had much to endure. Her father never quite got over Mary not marrying the wealthy young man.

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 believed at last that it was God who was doing these things in her. Mary’s mother had died and 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. She asked Almighty God to let her suffer her father's death agony and his purgatory. Both requests were granted.

Mary suffered continuously but our Lord also gave her 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 saw him in a vision wearing a crown of thorns. Pope Pius died 24 years later as a prisoner of the French Revolution at Valence.

Mary Frances also prophesied the tragic events of the French Revolution. She asked that she be taken from this world before they would happen and her request was granted. 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.
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