In the most troubled of times, God raises up saints as exemplars and intercessors, and Frances of Rome is no exception. Born into privilege in 1384 into a Europe already ravaged by the Black Death, which peaked from 1347 to 1351, Frances lived through tumultuous times, with Rome ravaged by the effects of the ‘Great Western Schism’, which had begun in 1378, with eventually three rival claimants to the papacy, none of them providing a particularly edifying example. Frances wanted to give her life to God, but was ordered at the age of twelve – as per custom back then – to marry, and was given to the wealthy Lorenzo di Ponziani, the commander of the papal troops. The marriage proved a happy one, even if Frances’ liberal – one might say excessive from a worldly view – almsgiving and care for the poor caused some consternation, the miraculous replenishing of the supplies alleviated the anxieties of the Ponziani clan.

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