Monday, March 8, 2010

MARCH 9 SAINT FRANCES OF ROME

“The Vision of
St Francesca Romana”
by Orazio Gentileschi,
1615-19
MARCH 9

SAINT FRANCES OF ROME, RELIGIOUS

Biographical Information about St. Frances of Rome[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Frances of Rome

Readings and Commentary:
[2]

FIRST READING
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and makes cloth with skillful hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward of her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
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Commentary on
Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

This entire section (Proverbs 31:10-31) is an acrostic poem (each strophe starting with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet). It is sincere praise for the wife of virtue (unlike Ecclesiastes 7:28 in which the author finds guile) and is intended to be a model for the good Hebrew wife to follow. The strophes selected emphasize, first the esteem in which she is to be held by all (not just her family), and next the example of diligence in the tasks she performs. The concluding strophe is praise for the woman who “fears the Lord,” as indicated earlier in Proverbs 9:10 and 1:7. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

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RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11

R. (2) I will bless the Lord at all times.
or:
R.
(9) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear and be glad.
R. I will bless the Lord at all times.
or:
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. I will bless the Lord at all times.
or:
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. I will bless the Lord at all times.
or:
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. I will bless the Lord at all times.
or:
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Fear the LORD, you his holy ones,
for nought is lacking to those who fear him.
The great grow poor and hungry;
but those who seek the LORD want for no good thing.
R. I will bless the Lord at all times.
or:
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
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Commentary on
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11

Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving and a favorite for celebrating the heroic virtue of the saints. The psalmist, fresh from the experience of being rescued (Psalm 34:5, 7), can teach the "poor," those who are defenseless, to trust in God alone. This psalm, in the words of one being unjustly persecuted, echoes hope for deliverance and freedom. The promise of salvation for those who follow the Lord gives hope to the poor and downtrodden.

CCC: Ps 34:3 716; Ps 34:8 336
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Gospel:
Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
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Commentary on
Mt 22:34-40

The story of Jesus delivering the Great Commandment is the fourth of the “Controversy Stories” in St. Matthew’s Gospel (stories in which Jesus argues with the Jewish leadership). The question posed by the “Scholar of the Law” (probably a scribe; see also
Luke 10:25-28) “…which commandment in the law is the greatest?” is asked in a rabbinical sense, meaning; which of the 613 distinct statutes was considered greatest. Within this body of law, 248 of these precepts were positive and 365 were prohibitions. In addition these precepts were further divided into “Light” and “Heavy”. This was a fairly typical type of exchange for a rabbinical debate.

In answering Jesus quotes two texts of the law that now form the foundation for a new morality in the Gospel. He first quotes Deuteronomy 6:5Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This text forms part of the Shema, the Jewish profession of faith. This first quote would not be surprising. What makes this exchange novel and important is that Jesus adds the quote from Leviticus 19:18bYou shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This juxtaposition of quotes makes them equally “Heavy” and there is no parallel In Jewish literature.

CCC: Mat 22:23-34 575; Mat 22:34-36 581; Mat 22:36 2055; Mat 22:37-40 2055; Mat 22:37 2083; Mat 22:40 1824
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Reflection:

How often the heroic virtue of the great saints centers around their ability to accept Christ and his Great Commandment with such completeness that it exceeds physical understanding. Such was life of St. Frances of Rome (or Francesca Romana). Her story, set during one of the most difficult times of the Church’s history, with the plague ravaging Europe, and schisms within the Church abounding, is one of God’s fingerprints. The Church hierarchy had become so embroiled in the politics of the day that it might have fallen apart had it not been for God’s intervention using the likes of the great Saints (Francis of Assisi, Benedict, Gregory, Dominic and of course St. Francesca to mention a few). What they accomplished was incredible – bringing the compassion and love of Christ to those who could have perished without knowing the love of God.

We who live in a more compassionate time might wonder at the likes of St. Frances of Rome – on the surface she was canonized because she founded a small religious order (to this day only one house exists) but her impact on that region of the country and the Church went far beyond that visible remnant. She stood as a heroic example of the lived Gospel in a time when such examples were rare and she did so in a way that demonstrated that God was truly involved and active in the salvation of humanity. Her visions and ecstasy gave the people hope in the living God.

Today we ask for her intercession. We ask that through her prayers we too might be examples of the lived Gospel to those we meet and that our genuine compassion and love of the poor might bring hope to those without hope and love to those who are unloved.

Pax

[1] The picture is “The Vision of St Francesca Romana” by Orazio Gentileschi, 1615-19
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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