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Catholic Heroes… St. Mary Frances Of The Five Wounds Of Christ

October 4, 2018 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

When a holy priest was dying of cancer, racked with excruciating pain, he begged for more. He was asking for more suffering to save more souls. Such is the glory of the saints when Christ dispenses His mercy with the grace to embrace more suffering. St. Mary Frances endured more suffering than many saints and she, too, embraced the crosses sent to her.
In Naples, Italy, on March 25, 1715, Francesco Gallo and his wife, Barbara, gave birth to a lovely baby, naming her Anna Maria. Before the child was born, two saints predicted that the child would be saintly.
St. John Joseph of the Cross received Barbara when she sought relief from the spirits that were tormenting her. After blessing her, he told her, “Be not afraid, and take good care of the child God is sending you, for she will become a great saint.”
St. Francis of Geronimo also told Barbara that God would raise her child to extraordinary holiness.
However, after these consoling predictions, sadness soon entered the Gallo household when infant Anna Maria began to lose weight inexplicably. Two wet nurses where engaged to feed Anna Maria, but the infant was soon reduced to skin and bones. Barbara, in desolation, presented the child to an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pleading, “My Mother, you who are so powerful through your Son, I beg of you to obtain for me the favor of being able to nurse my own child.”
From that moment Barbara was able to nurse her daughter. She also provided for her soul by great prayer, devotion, and instruction as Anna Maria became a holy and disciplined child seeking always to please God.
When Anna Maria reached the age of work, her father brought her to his business to be a gold ribbon weaver. Sadly, he was demanding, abusive, and greedy. Both Anna Maria and her mother endured his unreasonable demands of hard work, which also affected their health.
Anna Maria worked to the best of her ability, but the difficult work soon made her bedridden. Feverish and vomiting blood she became weaker and neared death. The parish priest came to administer the last sacraments of the Church.
Once again, Barbara did not give up hope and both she and Anna Maria implored Mary once again to save the girl. Presently, she was cured and she returned to the family business, but this time she worked with her mother and sisters sewing gold ribbons.
When Anna Maria turned 16, a wealthy man sought her hand in marriage to the delight of Francesco. However, she adamantly refused, saying she belonged to Christ, enraging Francesco so that he beat and kicked her — she offered no defense. He flogged her with a rope and she was only saved by the interference of her mother.
Then he isolated the young girl in a room, locked her in, and only allowed her to have bread and water. He also forbade her mother or sisters to visit her. This was actually a relief to the maiden since she could spend all of her time praying peacefully. She deeply regretted these events, not because of the pain and suffering she endured, but for the agony that it caused her family.
Her prayers were soon answered when Fr. Theophilus visited Francesco and discussed the situation with him. After the priest left, Anna Maria’s father called the family together and admitted his grave error and apologized. He released Anna Maria from her room and allowed her to follow her heart. She joyfully gave thanks to God, embraced her father, kissed him, and prepared for the religious life.
On September 8, 1731, Anna Maria received the habit of the Third Order Franciscans of St. Peter of Alcantara, taking the name Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Christ. These names reflected her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis of Assisi, and the Passion of Jesus.
Before she became a religious, even as a very young child, Mary Frances attended daily Mass and made the Way of the Cross, nurturing her devotion to the Sorrowful Mother and St. Francis, who also had a deep devotion to the sufferings of Christ. Once she became a member of the Franciscans, records were kept of her spiritual journey.
Falling into ecstasies was a frequent occurrence for Mary Frances, especially when she made the Way of the Cross. Many observers thought she had seizures until a priest ordered her to come to her senses. She immediately awoke, and her bones that had become disjointed during the episode came back together.
People then realized she had received great gifts and they began to praise her and honor her, causing Mary Frances much anguish because she wanted to remain hidden. Thus she prayed that the ecstasies would stop, as Fr. D. Giovanni Pessiri testified. Eventually Mary Frances received the marks of Christ’s crucifixion, the stigmata.
She also received the gift of prophecy. In 1763 Mary Frances told Fr. Pessiri about a coming famine and plague: “There is about to be a great famine, which will be followed by a mortal epidemic.” Those families who asked for her prayers did not die during the famine and plague that followed.
In addition, she predicted that a young penniless lady whom no one knew would be clothed with the habit of St. Peter of Alcantara. Despite the short time before the foreseen date, the young woman came forward and someone donated the dowry for her to enter the order. She took the name Sr. Mary Felix of the Passion.
In addition, Mary Frances had a wonderful relationship with her guardian angel, who helped protect her from the rage of her father. The angel also taught her to discern real visions from false by immediately saying, “Blessed be Jesus and Mary.” Only good spirits would be pleased by such words.
She received the wounds of the Five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary on each of the last Fridays of Lent, culminating in the wounds of the crucifixion on Good Friday. On Easter Sunday the marks disappeared, leaving only thin skin over the wounds. Mary Frances tried to hide these and would only show them to persons when ordered to do so.
Her special devotion to the Poor Souls helped to release a friend of Bishop Anselm Mario Toppi from Purgatory.
On Christmas Eve in 1787, her love for the Holy Family greatly increased when she received a vision of the Nativity. During that ecstasy, she witnessed the cold rain and the miserable shelter they endured. When she made a special outfit for the Infant Jesus and she could not get it on because His arms were crossed, she asked for help and He opened His arms to her.
As she neared death, she remained cheerful and serene despite her many ailments and sufferings. Foreseeing her passing, she prepared every way she could with Confession and prayer. On October 6, 1791 her teeth were clenched, but marvelously opened to receive our Lord. She fell into her last ecstasy, exclaiming, “The Madonna, the Madonna! See! Mother is coming; oh, my Mother!”
She was canonized in 1867 by Pope Pius IX. Her feast is celebrated on October 6.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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