Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful moms! I hope your children spoil you with lots of love and appreciation! Here’s my little bit of encouragement for all you moms who are seeking holiness in the midst of children, chores, and distractions.
St. Frances of Rome. Have you heard of her? She was a 15th c. wife, mother, and mystic. (I never thought it possible for mom and mystic to go together, but there you have it.) At the age of twelve she earnestly desired to become a nun. (She probably noticed that nuns tend to look serene, whereas mothers tend to look harried.) However, her father had already arranged her marriage. When she went weeping to her spiritual director about about it, he told her to stop seeking her own will and to start accepting God’s.
Reluctantly she married the wealthy nobleman her father had chosen for her. It turned out to be a long and happy marriage; she and Lorenzo loved eachother dearly. Between raising three children and managing a large, bustling household (castle, actually), Frances was very busy. But she never lost her desire for a deep contemplative prayer life.
For those of you who struggle to find time alone for prayer, I thought you’d appreciate this wonderful description of what St. France’s prayer life was like when her children were young:
One morning Frances tiptoed out of bed to say her prayers. It was not yet dawn and a few sleepy stars were still winking. At last she had some time alone with Our Lord! No sooner did she kneel down and open her book to morning prayers than Lorenzo called her to come and watch the sunrise. She marked her page and went at once to the window, and together they marveled at the purple sky turning pink, with a few puffs of whipped-cream clouds.
Very well. She had seen the sunrise, now back to her book. She knelt down and took out the marker — and there was a knock at the door. The downstairs maid popped in and bowed. There was a beggar at the kitchen door, would it be all right to give him the leftover liver and onions from the night before? “Of course,” Frances said, “and give him the apple dumplings too.”
She got back on her knees and opened the book to the same page. Another knock. This time it was the new young cook who couldn’t remember whether to put the dill and garlic at the bottom of the jar or the top when she made the sour pickles. Frances told her the bottom, and praised her for being smart enough to ask.
The young girl hurried off and before Frances could close the door she heard little Agnes sobbing in the hallway. The boys had snatched her doll with the red hair and thrown it up into the plum tree. Frances hugged her and called to the gardener to rescue the doll. Then she found her sons and set them down to write I must not tease my sister 100 times. “And if you do it again,” she warned them, “you will go to the cellar and crack one bushel of black walnuts.”
Wearily she closed the door — and then jumped a little with surprise. A magnificent angel bathed in light was writing something in her prayerbook. She came up quietly behind him and peeked over his shoulder. There, in a beautiful gold script, he had written: “Therefore, God has blessed you forever.”
These were the very words where Frances had left off each time she had been interrupted. Frances looked at the angel with disbelief. “Why would God bless me when I can’t sit still long enough to pray to him?”
“Because you showed your love for him by doing exactly what he wants you to do — loving and taking care of your family.”Around the Year, Once Upon a Time Saints, by Ethel Pochoki.
I love this little story because it shows us mothers that although our prayers may never look or feel like this:
and although our prayers are much more likely to look like this:
our tired, interrupted, and distracted prayers are nonetheless pleasing to Our Lord. Really, they are.
There are two things worth nothing about St. Frances:
First, she never gave up trying no pray. Despite multiple distractions and interruptions, she kept going back to her prayer. She persevered.
Second, she was always ready to serve. She didn’t insist on having her alone time. She certainly tried to have time alone with God to pray — she was getting up before dawn. But when she was called to serve and attend to others, she did so with a generous spirit.
With the grace of God, St. Frances achieved a beautiful balance between Mary and Martha: she yearned for contemplative prayer (not just mommy time-out!) yet she served with alacrity and good humor. She knew that in serving others, she was really serving God:
“It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”St. Frances of Rome
So dear moms, if your prayers are like the beads of a broken rosary, small and scattered, persevere anyways. And when your prayers are interrupted because you need to attend to someone, consider that maybe Our Lord is asking you, at that moment, to pray through service and to love Him by loving others.
P.S. You might be interested to know that while her children were still young, a terrible plague swept across Italy and took the lives of two of her children. (Three others had already died in infancy.) Shortly after, war broke out in Italy, and her husband and son were taken as prisoners. Always concerned for the unfortunate, she turned her home into a hospital and began to beg in the streets to help feed the poor.
When her husband and son returned home from the war, Frances founded a third order of lay women called the Oblates of Mary. She devoted herself to caring for her ailing husband and to serving the poor from her castle. As her spiritual life progressed, she was given the grace to see her guardian angel at all times. Frances also had visions, ecstasies, revelations, and the gift of healing. She even prophesied the end of the Western Schism.
Yet, for all her extraordinary supernatural gifts, Frances is remembered most for the part of her life that was most ordinary: her loving faithfulness to her duties as wife and mother. May we imitate Frances in her love for prayer and her readiness to serve.
St. Frances of Rome, pray for us!
Around the Year Once Upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochoki
St. Frances of Rome, Catholic.org
Frances of Rome, Wikipedia