But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists,
others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ
Ephesians 4:7, 11-13
The Lord calls us all to different vocations and gives us the grace to live them out in service to Him. Sometimes it doesn’t look as we imagined, or as we would plan for ourselves, but the Lord’s ways are higher than ours and following his call – whatever it may be – can sanctify us and bring us ever closer to Him.
Such is the story of St. Frances of Rome. She desired to be a nun from a young age but was married off in an arranged marriage at the age of 12. Though it wasn’t her initial choice, her marriage lasted happily for 40 years – until her husband’s death in 1436.
While fulfilling her vocation as wife and mother, Frances also served the poor of Rome, along with her sister-in-law and other wealthy women who followed her example. Together they visited the poor, took care of the sick, and distributed food and clothing to the needy.
As the numbers of those who wished to serve grew, Frances founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary in Rome. An oblate is someone who, while still living in the world as a layperson, has affiliated themselves with a monastic community. They follow the Rule of the Order as much as possible within the means of their everyday lives. Besides Catholic religious orders, there are Methodist and Anglican monasteries which also have oblates.
The Olivetan Oblates continued to live and serve in the world, not living in a monastery, yet under the authority of the Olivetan monks of the Abbey of Santa Maria Nova in Rome. St. Frances later founded a monastery for those who felt called to live in community with other members. They remained lay oblates, however – serving the poor in Rome continuously in the centuries since.
After her husband’s death, Frances herself entered the monastery and was voted its superior. She died on March 9, 1440 – a day she herself had predicted. She was canonized in 1608 and is buried in the Church of Santa Maria Nova, where she had dedicated much of her latter life to serving her fellow Romans.
St. Frances of Rome, you who lived out your life in service to the Lord, pray for us.