Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For All the Saints: Blessed Mary Frances Schervier

Posted by Webster
Sometimes you read about a saint for the first time and you think, I want to know everything I can about him. Or her. That's how I feel about Blessed Mary Frances Shervier, whom we remember December 15. OK, she is not a fully accredited “saint” yet, but so what? Her canonization is “pending.” Meanwhile, let me tell you what I have learned about Blessed Mary Frances Schervier. . . .

Born in Aachen, Germany in 1819 (imagine growing up in the shadows of Aachen Cathedral, left), Mary Frances was the goddaughter of an Emperor (Francis I of Austria). Her mother and two sisters died of tuberculosis when she was sixteen. So what did she do? Took over the household of her father, the wealthy owner of a needle factory. (Who gets wealthy owning needle factories anymore? That’s worthy of notice.)

In 1844, at the age of 25, she became a secular Franciscan. The following year, she and four friends founded an order dedicated to caring for the poor, Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis. Twelve years later, she inspired a male friend to found the Brothers of the Poor. Six years further on, we find Blessed Mary Frances on the battlefields of America's Civil War ministering to wounded soldiers.

Frankly, this is where she gets me. What was she doing on this side of the Atlantic taking care of our heroes? If you served those brave soldiers—as Blessed Mary Frances did, as Walt Whitman did—you have my vote.

In 1868, Mother Frances wrote to all her sisters, reminding them of Jesus’s words: “You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:14,17)

She continued: “If we do this faithfully and zealously, we will experience the truth of the words of our father St. Francis who says that love lightens all difficulties and sweetens all bitterness. We will likewise partake of the blessing which St. Francis promised to all his children, both present and future, after having admonished them to love one another even as he had loved them and continues to love them.”

The Catholic Church offers us a wealth of saints and blesseds to venerate. Today, let's all say a prayer for Blessed Mary Frances Schervier and ask her to pray for us. You can read about the order Blessed Mary Frances founded right here.