Omnium Gatherum

One of my favourite saints, St Frances of Rome (d 1440) has her feast on March 9. She married into the Ponziani family, whose medieval palazzo still stands in Trastevere. When first I moved to Rome many years ago I lived in that palazzo. Therein is a chapel in the room where she died, indeed on March 9.

When her husband died, Frances founded a convent of Benedictine nuns and became an Oblate member. This convent is open once a year (guess which day) for the public to enjoy. St Frances’s striking skeletal remains are in the crypt of the church named for her in the Roman Forum, also called S Maria Nova al Foro Romano, at the site where, legend has it, Simon Magus fell to his well-deserved death.

The painter Gentile da Fabriano (d 1427) is also buried here, though his tomb is now lost. His lovely Quaratesi Madonna is in the National Gallery. Frances lived in times of upheaval and great poverty in Rome, during the Western Schism. She was diligent in works of mercy for the poor and famous for performing miracles of healing. She had revelations and was said to be able to read souls. Frances is also famous for being able to see and communicate with her guardian angel. In art she is usually depicted with her angel.

Speaking of guardian angels, let us not forget that they are always with us, even if we don’t have the graces and privilege to see them. It is possible that the very young can, before they begin clearly to communicate. Friends of mine told me that when their grandson was very little, he would have infantile but seemingly real conversations with someone unseen. When he visited his grandparents’ house, he immediately latched on to a small statue of an angel, which he would carry about while he was there, though he was always content to leave it at their home and did not desire to take it with him.

One day, when he was about two, over the baby monitor in his room his parents heard him talking to someone about where his “binky” was. When they went to the room to investigate, there he was sitting on his bed. He said, dejected, that he couldn’t see his angel any more. Do not forget to ask the help of your angel guardian and to thank him for his good care.