Dec 12 or 13 - Finding the Body of
Our Holy Father St. Francis
The church which was built at Assisi in honor of St. Francis soon after his death (1228-1230) was a double church, and the body of the saint was buried deep under the lower church. In the course of time the exact location of the tomb was forgotten, and with the permission of the Holy See, excavations were made in 1818 for the purpose of finding the relics. After 52 nights of hard work, the stone coffin containing the bones and ashes of St. Francis was found. A third underground church was then hewn out of solid rock upon which the church had been built; and there the relics of St. Francis are venerated today. Pope Leo XII instituted a special feast to commemorate the finding of the body of St. Francis. It is observed by the Franciscan Order on Dec 12, except in the Americas where it is kept on the following day.
Dec 15 - The Blessed Virgin Mary,
Queen of the Franciscan Order
As Thomas of Celano tells us in his Second Life of St. Francis, "what is a very special source of joy is the fact that he chose her (Mary) as the Patroness of his order; and he entrusted to her shielding mantle his children whom he was to leave that she might guard and protect them unto the end." In 1910 Pope S Pius X permitted the members of the three orders of St. Francis to add to the Litany of Loreto the invocation: "Queen of the Franciscan Order, pray for us!" And in 1950 Pope Pius XII granted them a special feast, with a proper office and Mass, honoring Our Lady as Queen of the Franciscan Order. The day chosen for this feast is Dec 15, formerly the octave day of the Immaculate Conception. The children of St. Francis through the centuries have always distinguished themselves by their devotion to Mary and by their efforts to promote this devotion among the faithful.
Dec 15 - Blessed Mary Frances Schervier
"One is as it were rich, when one has nothing; and another is as it were poor, when he has great riches" (Prov 13,7). This passage of scripture fits the servant of God, Frances, who with all her heart espoused holy poverty and thus came into the possession of the grace of God.
Born in 1819, Frances Schervier was a descendant of a distinguished family in the old imperial city of Aachen or Aix-la-Chapelle. While she was perhaps not prominent in the eyes of the world, she enjoyed the distinction of extraordinary supernatural privileges from the very days of her youth. Her desire to enter a religious order was thwarted by the early death of her mother in 1832, when Frances was only 13 years old. She was obliged to remain at home and attend to the household. But she did not let these circumstances prevent her from caring in a very special way for the poor and the sick. So lavish was her liberality that one of the old servants once remarked, "One of these days the child will have dragged everything out of the house." Later she was an active member of several benevolent societies of women and also of what was known as St. John's soup kitchen, a charitable enterprise organized to feed the needy.
Frances joined the Third Order of St. Francis in 1844. Henceforth she and four other young women resolved to lead a community life. They found a dwelling at the old city gate of St. James, and took possession of their first religious abode on the eve of the feast of St. Francis in 1845. Prayer and works of mercy were their principal occupation. Mother Frances and her first companions - the number soon increased to 23 -- received the religious habit on August 12, 1851, and a new religious family was formed. Very appropriately she called the new congregation the Sisters of the Poor if St. Francis. The poverty of St. Francis and his love for the poor of Christ superseded everything else in the eyes of the foundress. On one occasion she wrote to her sisters: "The impress of poverty and penance should mark even our chapels and churches and be their distinctive feature."
The first foundation of the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis in the United States was made in 1858. Twice Mother Frances came to the US, the first time in 1863 and the second time in 1868. During her first sojourn in this country, she joined here sisters in ministering to wounded soldiers of the Civil War and to the sick, the homeless, and the orphaned. The second time, while visiting the various institutions conducted by her sisters, she also lent a helping hand in caring for the sick, the aged, and the poor.
Mother Frances sacrificed everything for the poor out of love for God, and she was amply repaid by Him who cannot be outdone in generosity. Her foundation increased visibly, and to this day it enjoys the special blessing of Divine Providence. At her holy death on December 14, 1876, Mother Frances was mourned by thousands of daughters in religion as well as by the poor, and was venerated as a saint. Unusual conversions and other remarkable events occurred even during her lifetime in answer to her trustful prayer, and since her departure from this world, such things have happened even more frequently.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thy grace may ever precede and accompany our deeds; let it tend to make us ever mindful of good works. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
from THE FRANCISCAN BOOK OF SAINTS
edited by Marion Habig, ofm
Copyright 1959 Franciscan Herald Press