Ever since I discovered the story of St. Frances of Rome (via Adoro te Devote) I have felt more drawn to her than to almost any other saint. Probably the best adjective that most people would use to describe her life is unfair. From early childhood she desired nothing more than to be a nun, yet when she was 13 her parents had her married to a wealthy nobleman. She was quiet and introverted, yet her in-laws expected her to be vigorously involved in the proper social circles. She lived in a rough time where upheavals within the Church and plague ravaged her city. She often found herself surrounded by friends or relatives who didn’t understand her or even ridiculed her. Her home was looted and members of her household staff were tortured and killed. Not one but two of her beloved children died.
And yet, even in those dark days of suffering and strife and death, she showed Christ to the world. The more difficult things got, the more she turned to God. Through her passionate faith and selfless dedication to others, God was able to work in her life, and eventually in the lives of many people who knew her.
I highly recommend that you read the whole summary of her life, but I wanted to share one little gem that brings a tear to my eye every time I think of it. Though her marriage was arranged and originally unwanted on her part, Frances was a devoted wife. After more than 35 years of marriage her husband became ill, and she nursed him as his time on earth drew near an end. He spoke to her on his deathbed, and his last words before dying were:
I feel as if my whole life has been one beautiful dream of purest happiness. God has given me so much in your love.
Whenever I hear people talk about concepts like “success” and “achievement, ” I often think of that quote. For those of us who are married, what better goal, what more worthy achievement could there be than to have our spouses feel that way at the end of their lives?
I originally thought of finding God as a dry intellectual pursuit, a mere question to be answered. One of the many profound surprises I’ve encountered on this journey, however, is that Christianity is about so much more than having the right answers or attaining accurate knowledge about the concept of God; the Christian life well-lived is a life of love. And, as we see from the life of St. Frances, even during the darkest times, even when the world outside seems to be falling apart at the seams, God can still work through each of us to make our lives and the lives of those around us “one beautiful dream.”
St. Frances of Rome, pray for us.
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