St. Frances of Rome, Obl. S.B.
Born: 1384 in Rome
Died: March 9, 1440 in Rome
Canonized: 1608 by Pope Paul V in Rome
Feast Day: March 9
Patronage: Benedictine Oblates, Automobile Drivers, Widows
There are many ways that someone can attempt to visit the Eternal City of Rome. Many will opt to see the most famous sites like the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Spanish Steps, limiting themselves to the most tourist saturated sites that Rome has to offer. Others will try to be more adventurous, and in addition to seeing the most popular sites in Rome, also seek to see sites that are lesser known and are typically void of large crowds and short tempers.
However, if one takes this path less travelled, my own limited experience of adventuring in Rome has taught me that some pre-planning is necessary to map out what regions of the Eternal City you wish to see. It is best to visit many sites in a particular area, as opposed to haphazardly trying to rush from one area of the city to another and losing precious time that could have been spent in some obscure church or shrine.
When I was helping to plan a pilgrimage for a group of young adults in 2016, I resolved to make each day in Rome one where we would stay in a particular area of the city and see as many churches as we could, both the famous ones and the obscure sanctuaries that few visit. As our pilgrimage plans were finalized, we had decided that since we were staying near St. John Lateran Cathedral, we would spend our first afternoon in Rome seeing a few lesser known churches in and around the Coliseum.
It was decided that the first church we would visit on our pilgrimage was one I had only just learned about, the Basilica of Santa Francesca Romana in the ancient Roman Forum. Built on top of Hadrian’s Temple of Venus and Roma, this 10th century basilica was first dedicated to the Virgin Mary and in the 13th century dedicated to the saint whose name now adorns this church building. This woman was St. Frances of Rome.
As I began to explore this majestic church, I found myself behind the main altar and looking at the tomb of St. Frances of Rome. To my surprise, I found her body to be laying in an ornate coffin with a glass opening, allowing me to see the mortal remains of St. Frances which consisted of her entire skeleton being wrapped in her oblate habit.
To many, seeing a human skull looking at you from within a nun’s veil might come across as macabre and a scene from a horror movie. But as one learns more about the life and vocation of St. Frances of Rome, you realize that her final resting place is a fitting testimony to her willingness to live as a disciple of Christ who left this world poor of earthly treasure but rich in the treasures of heaven.
As a mother, wife, Benedictine Oblate, advocate of the poor and dedicated disciple of the Holy See of Rome, St. Frances of Rome inspired the people of her time and Christians today to remember that our time on earth is short and that a life spent in service to Our Lord, His Church and those in need, will assure that we will be among the saints of the Heavenly Kingdom.
Fr. Nathan Siray
To learn more about the life of St. Frances of Rome, please refer to the follow links about her life and vocation: