St Francis of Rome

Widow and Foundress of the Collatines (entered heaven this day in 1440)

Dear Frank,

Greed has many forms, my bright young nephew, and I think you have fallen prey to one of the subtlest, SPIRITUAL greed.  It is possible to spend too much time doing spiritual things.  According to the comments you’ve been making in your last few notes, that seems to be what you’re doing.  You are not a monk, you know, or a seminarian.  If you think God is calling you to such a life, to serve him with the total oblation of your time and talents, well then, you ought to be taking concrete steps of discernment.  But in the meantime, you are a college student, and God’s will for you consists in living college life as it ought to be lived.  God’s will is like that – it’s not abstract, but concrete; it commits you to the uncomfortable duties that go along with your state in life, whatever that happens to be.

Today’s saint learned and lived this principle to the maximum.  She was a daughter of Roman aristocrats, but felt more attracted to the trappings of religion than the fashions of nobility.  Even so, she obeyed her parents’ indications to marry a good-hearted nobleman, when she was just 13.  For forty years they were married (and blessed with four children).  During those years her first priority in every way was serving her husband and family.  She was so devoted that their home and marriage was a true haven of bliss and peace and joy and fruitful activity.  Keeping that as her first priority, she was also able to follow her religious sensibilities.  She spent as much time in prayer as she could.  She dedicated some of her own family wealth to establish the first home for abandoned children in Rome and to clothe, feed, and house the poor and the victims of the many epidemics that plagued Italy at the time.  She was so active and entrepreneurial in her charity that she attracted a host of other noble women to join her efforts, eventually forming a religious order.  But she didn’t join the order until her husband had died.

Her strength and zeal and holiness flowed from her keen sense of God’s will, and from her common-sense understanding that that will included first and foremost her duties as a wife and mother.  She used to say, “A married woman must, when called upon, quit her devotions to God at the altar, to find him in her household affairs.”  And she took her own advice literally.  One time she was reading from the book of Psalms in the Bible.  She had only gotten to the end of the first line of one of the Psalms when her husband called for her.  She got up and tended to him.  She returned to continue her prayers, read the first line again, and then was called away by one of her children… After the same thing happened three times, she returned to her Bible to find the rest of that line written in letters of gold.

God wants us to be humble, my dear nephew, and humility means giving first place to our first duties, not to the whims of our vanity – even if those whims seem to be “spiritual”.

Your loving uncle,


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