Lent 10 ~ Needled by Frances


          An old memory returned to me today. When I was a child, I found a book of baby names at home. Carefully going through the rather limited list, I felt I could have given myself a better name.

          So, I chose Frances for myself. To me, the name resounded with individuality and strength. Different. I didn’t want to be one of the flock, and Frances set me apart from being one of the flock. I guess it appealed to the hidden rebel within me. I informed my parents, and their amusement told me while they would indulge me for a bit, there was no chance they’d ever consider a permanent name change.

         So for a time, when at play, I made myself Frances.

          I never imagined that there were saints by that name. I found the one I named myself after this morning. St Frances of Rome. And what I learned of her life from  http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=49  told me Frances was not just a name I had chosen on a whim decades ago.

          St Frances was born in Rome into a wealthy aristocratic family. Although she wanted to be a nun, she was forced by her iron-handed father into an arranged marriage to a wealthy commander of papal troops. Although by most accounts, there was no real trouble between husband and wife, Frances’ mother-in-law, Cecilia, was another matter.  A socialite, she thrived on social calls and balls and every manner of frivolity. She and Frances were poles apart; Frances, in her simplicity and piety, could not adjust to this life lived in the meaningless light of material splendor and profligacy. This major difference between them tore at both the women. When her social circle began to mock Cecilia for her daughter-in-law’s oddness – as they perceived it – an angry Cecilia ordered Frances to conform to the family’s social status and embrace the glittery life it called them to.

          That exacted a greater toll on Frances than anyone could have imagined. The young girl fell seriously ill, and lay close to death. And it was death she wished for, because to live was not to live in the freedom to worship God, but to live the emptiness of a socialite’s calling.

          It was then that Frances had a vision of St Alexis whose piety and religious yearnings had also not been accepted by his own family. St Alexis came to Frances and brought her God’s message, “Do you wish to recover or not?”

          Young Frances knew that death was her choice, not God’s, and with a heavy heart, she chose the Hand of God, whispering, “God’s Will is mine.” The hardest words she could have said, but the right words to set her on the road to sanctity.

          Frances came back from the brink of death, to glorify God. Despite this, she was not permitted to escape the old unpleasant life that awaited her. The emptiness of dressing up and being with those who had no thought of God hurt as deeply as before. Yet, in accepting God’s will as hers, Frances knew that if He did not save her from the cluttered yet barren living of the rich, then, His will for her must somehow lie in them. So, determined to put family first for God, she joined her mother-in-law on the social scene, while maintaining her religious practices in secret.

          In a few short years, however, Cecelia died, and it fell to Frances to take her place to lead and care for her husband’s household.

          From that point, God led Frances on to caring for the sick and troubled of Rome. As she had always yearned to do.


          Stepping away from the story, 4 little words follow me: God’s Will is mine. I roll the words on my tongue to get a feel of them.

          And they don’t sit comfortably.

          I cannot explain why. For some odd reason, although to me they mean the same, it is relatively easier for me to say Thy Will be done than God’s Will is mine. I have a needling suspicion it is the inescapability of God’s Will is mine. Thy Will be done allows me some wiggle room, to hold that it’s a call to all – not just for me; God’s Will is mine somehow narrows the focus of illumination to just me.

          The words are like needles in my spirit. They prod and poke. The discomfort tells me I am not as obedient to Him as I think. That life is still too much of my own jaunt.

          As they happy evening winds depart to their repose, the moon assumes her throne in the dark skies. Gazing at her gentle luminescence, the swells within fall into peace.

          I might have thought it was I who found Frances decades ago, but I now know it was St Frances of Rome who sought out the little girl from years before. To teach her the same words she writes on my stubborn heart now.

          Words which feel too much like needles. God’s Will Be Mine.


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