St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus

St Mary Francis of the Five Wounds of Jesus--Stigmatic 
Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus (Anna-Maria Gallo, 1715-1791).
-An Italian laywoman (3rd Order Franciscan) who bore the stigmata

HER BIRTH—PREDICTIONS AND SIGNS OF HER FUTURE SANCTITY.
St Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus (Santa Maria Francesca delle cinque piaghe di Gesu) was born in Naples, Italy on the 25th day of March, 1715. Her parents were Francesco Gallo and Barbara Basinsin. She was baptized with the name Anna Maria (Gallo) at the local Parish Church of S.S. Francis and Matthew in Naples. He father was said to be a severe and greedy man, who allegedly had a fiery temper, and from him the saint and her mother had very much to suffer. He subjected them to ill-treatment and excessively hard work, which caused them both health issues. However her mother, Barbara Basinsin, was a gentle and pious person who was patient in bearing with the brutal conduct of her husband.

The prediction of two Saints concerning her future, St. John Joseph of the Cross, O.F.M., and St. Francis de Geronimo, S.J
God, it seems, was pleased to foreshadow the birth of this blessed child by two extraordinary signs pointing to her future sanctity. During the pregnancy her mother was reportedly being tormented by evil spirits and afraid for herself and for the child in her womb she decided to visit St. John Joseph of the Cross, a professed priest of the Franciscan Order of St. Peter of Alcantara, who was known at that time for his life of heroic virtue and penance. The Saint blessed her with a crucifix, and after reciting some prayers, he stated
"Be not afraid, and take good care of the child God is sending to you, for she will become a great saint."

Regarding this episode, it is interesting to note that St Mary Frances of the Five Wounds later joined the Order of St. Peter of Alcantara (to which this holy priest was attached) as a 3rd Order Franciscan.

In addition, almost the same exact words were also addressed to her by St. Francis de Geronimo, S.J, who said that God had a noteworthy future mission for her child, and that He would one day raise her child to an extraordinary degree of holiness.

A miracle through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Given these wondrous predictions, once can imagine what must have been the mother's joy and exultation of soul when she pondered over these different prodigies surrounding the birth of her child. But the Lord, who for the good of our souls is often pleased to unite sufferings and difficulties to the graces He may also give to us, that we may resign ourselves completely to His Holy Will, permitted that she should be no longer able to nourish the child herself through breastfeeding, and she was therefore obliged to hire a person to breastfeed for her (a wet nurse).

Apparently the woman who took the position concealed from the parents that she was no longer producing milk, and the child began losing weight quickly. The nurse was changed, yet still the child's health did not improve and became worse each day, to the extent that she was soon reduced to skin and bone.

Full of the most bitter sorrow at this sight, and not knowing any other person to whom she could entrust her child, the mother took her in arms, and with tears in her eyes she presented her before an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying:
"My Mother, You who are so powerful through Your Son, I beg of You to obtain for me the favour of being able to nurse my own child."

She then placed her hand on the sacred image, and behold! from that night she was to breastfeed her little Anna-Maria, all thanks be to God through His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Thanks much in part to the spiritual guidance of her pious mother, from a young age little Anna-Maria showed herself to be a devout and disciplined soul, especially noteworthy in the practice of devotions and her desire to always please God.

Statue made from a wax facial cast taken right after her death
The Blessed Virgin Mary intercedes once again
Having arrived at that age when young girls at that time were called to help support their families, her father decided that she should be instructed in the trade of a gold ribbon weaver, which was also his own business. Unfortunately he exacted too much of her, and the delicacy of the young child's health was not suitable to the severity of the work, and she soon began vomiting blood, became feverish and was consigned to bed. This illness quickly progressed to such and extent that there was a fear she was going to die, so her mother called for the parish priest to administer the last Sacraments of the Church.

At this time both her and her mother together turned to their dear protectress, Mary, the Mother of God, and almost immediately she began to get well once again, so much so that her cure was regarded by all as being miraculous. Rescued from this danger, she passed, by orders of her parents, from the trade of weaver to that of sewer of gold ribbons, which was the occupation of her mother, as well as of her sisters.

She denies a marriage offer from a wealthy young man, and becomes a 3rd Order Franciscan
When she reached her sixteenth year, her modesty, manners, innocence and humility drew to her the affections of a certainly wealthy young man, who sought her hand in marriage. The father, rejoicing at the prospect of the fortune which he imagined would benefit his own interests through the marriage, gave his consent without consulting his daughter. When he sent for her and communicated his intention, he was astonished to hear her answer: "My father," she said, "dont give yourself any trouble on my account in this matter, for I have already made up my mind to know nothing of the world. On the contrary I wish to be clothed with the religious habit of St. Peter of Alcantara, and for this I now ask your permission." 

There was nothing the father did not say to dissuade her, first with sweet and then with angry words, but finding her becoming more steadfast in her resolution, he got enraged, and taking a rope, beat her unmercifully, and would have gone further if her mother had not rushed in and taken her into her own hands. During all this time the poor girl was motionless, and did not attempt to defend herself, rejoicing to suffer for Jesus Christ, and offering as first fruits to her Heavenly Spouse the cruelty of an earthly father, who refused to give permission for his daughter to be joined to the King of kings, and to contract spiritual relationship with Him.

St Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus (1715-1791)
Her father then shut her up in a room, where he kept her many days on bread and water, prohibiting both mother and sisters from seeing her. Thus closed up, she occupied the hours in one continued prayer, beseeching the Lord to save her from this furious storm, grieving not for herself but for the anxiety it caused the rest of the family.

The Lord was moved by the piety of His servant, and through a certain Father Theophilus, a devout and pious priest, he enlightened the blinded father, so that he completely changed his mind and, calling together the family, confessed his error, and permitted Anna Maria to embrace the state of life she had determined upon. She did not speak, tears choked her utterance, and falling at the feet of her father, she kissed his hand in a transport of joy, and then retiring to her room returned thanks to the Divine Goodness for the grace she had received. She began at once to prepare with extraordinary fervor to receive the habit of St. Peter of Alcantara, choosing for the entire sacrifice of herself the eighth day of September, on which day the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy.

And so it was at age 16 on September 8, 1731 that Anna Maria received the habit of St. Peter of Alcantara as a 3rd Order Franciscan, taking the name MARY FRANCES OF THE FIVE WOUNDS OF JESUS, out of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, St. Francis of Assisi, and the Sacred Passion of Jesus.

Ecstasies and other various Mystical phenomenon are noted
 And it is precisely from the names taken by Sister Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus that we can see how much she was devoted to torments endured by our Lord in His passion, seeking to emulate the Virgin Mary and St Frances of Assisi in their devotion to Jesus at the foot of the Cross. In fact, ever since she was a small child she made the Way of the Cross each day at the local parish Church, and it was said to be her very favorite act of devotion, apart from attending Holy Mass everyday. In fact, not a day would pass that she did not go to the Church to pray and meditate on the Way of the Cross, and a torrent of tears usually accompanied her prayer.

Henceforth in this article, all the events that will now be related concerning various mystical gifts given to her by Our Lord, is documented extensively in the sworn statements of numerous witnesses, as contained in the official documents for her cause for canonization.

And so it was that various people who happened to be in Church while Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus was making her daily way of the Cross would see her suddenly collapse to the ground, usually after having reached the second or third Station, seemingly in great pain, and she would remain senseless upon the ground for quite some time.

At first it was believed by the local townspeople that these falls were the effect of epilepsy or some similar illness; but during one of her "falls" during the Stations of the Cross those around her in Church noticed that a few of her bones were visibly disjointed from the fall, so her priest-confessor was immediately called to examine her, and having blessed her with the Sign of the Cross, he ordered her under obedience to come back to her senses, and those surrounding saw that not only did she return to herself, but her bones also were restored to their places with a "popping"sound that was heard by everyone present, and it was then realized that the falls were not of natural origins, but obviously an extraordinary gift given by God.

Mary Frances wept when she heard of the judgment formed of her by the townspeople, since in her humility she ardently desired to lead a life hidden and crucified in Jesus Christ, and so she prayed that the ecstasies might no longer take place in public. Rev D. Giovanni Pessiri, a priest of virtue and charity has testified in the most solemn manner to the truth of these facts, which he himself witnessed during the many years he was acquainted with her.

As time went on it was discovered that during the meditations which she made on the Passion of Jesus on Thursdays and Fridays of each week, and especially in the month of March, she became changed both internally and externally into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, and in the end was marked by Him with the impression of His Sacred Stigmata, as shall be presented below.

The gloves she wore to cover her Stigmata
Gift of Prophecy
To the many mystical gifts given to her Lord united those of prophecy and revelation of future things, so that notwithstanding all her efforts and artifices to conceal herself, the fame of her sanctity increased day after day.

In the year 1763 Mary Frances learned by Divine revelation that in the following year (1764) a great famine would desolate the Kingdom of Naples, and afterwards would be followed by a deadly plague. She told Father Pessiri and others: "Make a provision of wheat for yourself, as much as will be necessary for the coming year, because there is about to be a great famine, which will be followed by a mortal epidemic, for the Lord has shown me the dead bodies lying in pairs in the houses; more than this I cannot tell you now".

Having confided this same prediction to the members of a few families who came to see her, they all recommended themselves to her prayers, and the Saint answered them in these terms, "Don't be afraid; I shall pray for you and neither you nor your families will die."

And this prediction came true to the finest points, for although famine and disease laid waste almost the whole Kingdom of Naples, none of those for whom the Saint prayed died. She herself, however, in the beginning of that year was stricken down by the epidemic, and reduced so low that she received the last Sacraments, nor did she recover till the epidemic had entirely abated.

On another occasion it was revealed to her by the Lord that a certain Marguerite Troise, a penitent of her own Confessor, would be clothed with a habit like her own on the approaching solemnity of Pentecost. This young woman, Marguerite, was not known by either Sister Mary Frances or her priest director, but the latter made diligent enquiry and found out where she was.

Come to find out, everything seemed opposed to the fulfillment of the prophecy—the nearness of the predicted date, the extreme poverty of the girl and the lack of any assistance from relatives or friends. "No matter," said Mary Frances, "the same Lord who has revealed it to me will arrange it" and she was not deceived.

On the predicted day she received the funds necessary for a dowry from somebody who was inspired at the moment, was clothed with the holy habit of St. Peter of Alcantara, and took the name of Sister Mary Felix of the Passion. According to the express prediction of Sister Mary Frances, she became her inseparable companion, and lived the most familiarly with her for fifty years, even up to her death, and survived to be able to give plentiful first hand legal testimony at the canonization process concerning the virtues and graces with which the goodness of God enriched and adorned His chosen servant, Mary Francis.

Statue covered in little gifts, tokens of gratitude
Her guardian Angel
Mary Frances of the Five Wounds not only was gifted with visions of Jesus, but she also reportedly had frequent visits from her Guardian Angel, for whom she had a singular affection and devotion, which she for her part tried as much as possible to communicate to others. Great was the joy and strength she drew from the almost continual presence and conversation of this blessed spirit. From him she learned how to defend herself against the assaults of her father's anger, and in her trials and difficulties she received most wonderful light and assistance.

It was under the Angel's guidance that she learned to distinguish between true and false apparitions, and therefore was able to thwart the deceptions of the devil. The rule for such discernment was that at th appearance of a purported heavenly visitor, she was to immediately say "Blessed be Jesus and Mary!", of which a heavenly visitor would always be happy to repeat, but which a demon would never say. Thus her Angel taught her a most important means for "testing the Spirits".

Interestingly, this was the very same method was given to the 20th century mystic and stigmatic, St Gemma Galgani. 

Mary Frances receives the Stigmata
As mentioned earlier in this article Mary Frances had a very deep devotion to the Passion of her loving Spouse, Jesus Crucified, and how she reflected on His sufferings in the Way of the Cross each day, and how during this holy exercise she was often called to a share in His mortal agonies, to suffer in union with Jesus for the conversion of sinners.

For His part the Lord was pleased to reward her tender love for Him by a most singular privilege— namely, by impressing her with His Five Wounds, and by making her share in what He suffered for our eternal salvation. By freely consenting to suffer in union with Jesus for the conversion of souls, she would suffer all the Mysteries of the Passion, as recited in the Sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary.

Thus, the stigmata was physically imposed upon her over the course of 5 successive Fridays during Lent, in the form and manner of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, culminating on Good Friday (5th Sorrowful mystery--the Crucifixion) with the visible wounds of Jesus impressed upon her hands, feet and side.

She was praying in front of this Crucifix when she received the Stigmata
And so it was that on the First Friday of Lent that year she suffered the Agony in the Garden, in conformity with the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, the 2nd Friday was the Scourging at the Pillar (of which those privileged souls witnessing this event were deeply shocked and moved), 3rd Friday was the Crown of Thorns, 4th Friday was the Carrying of the cross, and finally culminating with the 5th Friday (which was Good Friday that year) and the 5th Sorrowful Mystery- the Crucifixion--whereby that morning she visibly received the stigmata on her hands, feet and side, and then soon afterwards she began to mystically suffer death, remaining motionless from Good Friday afternoon until  when the bells rang at the Gloria in Excelsis. As if she had suffered nothing, she then stood up, and, full of joy and gladness, began to put her little chapel in order. During the time she suffered the pain of the Passion, there came forth from her body a most delicious odor, which perfumed the whole room, an odor so agreeable, that no earthly fragrance could be compared with it.

On Easter Sunday she was perfectly restored, not a trace or sign of her suffering remained except the Sacred Stigmata which her Divine Spouse left impressed in her, in order to comfort her heart and to testify that she had been raised to the incomparable honour of being the crucified spouse of Jesus.

There were many persons who had witnessed the Stigmata. One of these, the Rev. Dean Pascal Nitti, testifies as follows: "I have seen them (i.e., the Sacred Stigmata) in her hands, have touched them, and, like the Apostle St. Thomas, have inserted my finger in them. The wounds were right through her hands; for my index finger being inserted in the wound met my thumb placed on the opposite side of her hand, an experiment I often repeated in later years during the Fridays of Lent, at which time the Sacred Stigmata were most perfect. I know from the Saint's own admission, to which I obliged her in virtue of holy obedience, that she had them also on her feet and side."

But, as there was nothing the good Mary Frances more desired than to be hidden in Jesus Christ, she earnestly besought Him to conceal her inestimable gift from the eyes of others as much as possible, and the Lord was pleased to do so, by covering the Sacred Stigmata at times with a most subtile coating of skin. Father Nitti ascertained this for himself, by holding her hands between himself and the light, when he saw the holes and the transparent skin that covered them. When the Lord di nit permit that the wounds be hidden, Mary Frances of the five wounds of Jesus would wear handmade gloves in an attempt to hide them.

Instruments used for acts of penance
Her special assistance for the souls in Purgatory
The Most Reverend Anselm Marin Toppi, Bishop of Termoil, relates the following, which he witnessed, and which is formally recorded in the Summary of the process for canonisation, No. 12, p. 307:
"More extraordinary was her charity towards the holy souls in Purgatory, for whose liberation she employed voluntary sufferings, fasts, mortifications, disciplines, haircloths, and other penances, in addition to many purgatories she underwent to assist anyone specially recommended to her, as occurred in the case of a relative of mine, commended to her by me.

"For a long time she offered up continual prayers for this poor soul, when at length on the night before Corpus Christi, and while I was in bed, I was struck a blow at the sound of the bell, and thrown to the ground, and as I saw the whole room filled with a great light, I became frightened and began to recommend myself to God.

Meanwhile, I heard a voice which told me to give thanks to God, for that the soul of my relative was freed from Purgatory. Returning to myself and feeling greatly consoled, I determined that very day to discreetly inquire with the Saint concerning this remarkable circumstance. Accordingly, after dinner, I went to her, and without telling her anything of what had occurred to me, I asked,' Sister Mary Frances, have you remembered the soul of my relative?' 

She replied, 'How is it Father that she has not been liberated from Purgatory, for was she not with you at the very hour last night that she was released?! Yet you ask me whether or not I have remembered her?"

Mystical espousal with Jesus on Christmas Eve
In proportion as the flames of Divine love increased in her, in the same proportion increased also the marks of God's graces and blessings towards her. Not content with preparing herself for the celebration of the birth of Jesus by recollection and continual prayer during the nine days preceding Christmas, she began her preparations for it from the first Sunday of Advent, by fasts, penances, disciplines, and by redoubling the fervor of her prayers and meditations.

In the year 1741, while the Saint and her companion Sister Mary Felix knelt before the nativity crib in their house, the latter suddenly saw Mary Francis rapt in ecstasy and conversing with some invisible person. Suddenly Mary Francis became so weak that she could scarcely keep herself from falling on the floor, and it became necessary to carry her into her own room; but as there was in her own room another little crib which she had made with her own hands, the ecstasy continued.

When Mary Felix asked her afterwards who it was with whom she spoke with, she was silent, and did not answer; but being pressed on the point by a gentle questioning, Mary Frances shared all her confidence with her companion, and said to her secretly that the Lord appeared to her amidst a great light, and spoke to her thus:
"My Spouse, I have come to visit thee; what have you to offer to Me?" and she replied, "What can I give Thee, oh Lord, for I am poor both in soul and body? You alone give me everything."

She then continued and said that when she was carried to the little crib in her own room, the Lord again appeared to her, and after taking her right hand said, "This night I have made thee My spouse" (Sum. No. 8, p. 155).

However, such was the brightness of the light with which she was surrounded her when Jesus appeared that night, that she was rendered blind by it, and the next day (Christmas), Mary Felix had to lead her by the hand to the Church of St. Lucia del Monte, where, having narrated everything to their common Confessor, Father Felix, he blessed her and at his precept of obedience, she returned to her former state.

And now that Mary Frances was made the spouse of the Lord, as happened formerly to St. Catherine of Sienna and a number of other mystics, now at the simple mention of Jesus in the Crib or the events surrounding His Birth no matter what her infirmity was, her countenance would get inflamed, and she appeared to forget all her sufferings of the moment.

A vision of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
In the year 1787, the Ven. P. D. Francesco Bianchi, for whom the spouse of Jesus Christ had a great respect, learned from her that on Christmas Eve of that year beginning at 3pm she was rapt out of herself, and that having performed the ceremony of placing the Holy Babe in the crib at 6pm she again fell into an ecstasy, during which she was conducted in spirit by the Lord into the grotto of Bethlehem, where He showed her the place He was born in, how wretched and poor it was, and how there was a very cold rain during the time of His birth, causing significant discomfort for the holy family. These visions deeply increased her love and devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Child Jesus statue that miraculously moved its arms and legs

In relation to the Child Jesus we have yet another wonderful event to relate. Mary Frances was a skillful weaver, and on one occasion she made a beautiful outfit for a statue of the Infant Jesus. The small statue's arms were resting on its breast and the legs were closed, making it so that she couldn't dress it with the outfit that she had made, so she prayed to Jesus to help her. Suddenly the small statue raised its arms and stretched its legs in such a way that she was easily able to reclothe it with the new outfit.

Her Holy Death
Towards the end of her life her body was tortured with a host of ailments, though her spirit was joyful and yet very serious. She was foretold of her death one year before it was to occur, and she prepared for it in every way possible, most especially through a deep contrition and frequent confession.

On the day before her death she told Fr. Giovanni that she "will be departing tomorrow."

Finally, the sixth of October 1791 dawned, the last day of her mortal life. She had passed the whole night lying in the one position, and uttering low, plaintive groans, which, however, she ceased when Father Pessiri suggested to her some sentiment connected with the Passion of Jesus Christ. When morning came, although her eyes were closed and her teeth clenched, so that she could hardly be distinguished from a corpse, Father Giovanni asked her if she would like to receive Holy Communion, to which, unable as she was to speak, she made a sign of assent.

He celebrated Mass, and whilst he presented to her Jesus her Spouse in the Most Holy Sacrament, she rallied a little, bowed her head in adoration, and then with open mouth communicated. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy of most indescribable sweetness, during which she repeated in a clear voice: "The Madonna, the Madonna! See ! my Mother is coming; oh my Mother!"

Being asked by Signora Kosaria Aletto, who never left her during the whole time of her last illness, and by Signora Grazia Bolognino, where the Blessed Virgin was, the dying Saint was silent, and only bowed her head in adoration.

Blood stained undershirt of St Mary Frances
Midday arrived, and those good Priests in attendance, thinking they had a few minutes to spare, left for their own houses with the intention of returning as soon as possible. Thus there remained around the sick bed only Father Pessiri, Father Luigi of Jesus, an Alcantarine, Signor Francesco Borrelli, Signora Alletto, and Signora Bolognino. Indeed the Saint had already predicted that she would leave this world without many being aware of the event, for as she changed colors every moment, she always seemed on the point of dying. Suddenly Father Pessiri approached with a blessed candle, and after giving her Sacramental Absolution, presented the crucifix to her, in order to ascertain if she had departed. "Mary Frances," said he to her, "kiss the feet of your Spouse who died on the cross for us."

In obedience to his command, the Saint tried to raise herself a little, and approaching her lips to the feet of her beloved Lord, kissed them in the most tender manner; this done, she let her head fall back on the pillow, and died. She was age 77.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His servants. Precious also the death of St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus Christ, Professed Tertiary of St. Peter of Alcantara, who in her love for Jesus Christ and the conversion of sinners sacrificed everything and offered herself completely, without reserve. Happy now is she whose battles are finished, and whose joy in heaven will never have an end!

Her mortal remains are buried at St. Lucia del Monte, the Alcantarine church in Naples where St. John Joseph of the Cross is also buried.

St Mary Frances was the first woman from Naples to have been declared a saint by the Catholic Church. She was declared Venerable by Pope Pius VII on May 18, 1803, she was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI on November 12, 1843, and she was canonized a Saint by Pope Pius IX on June 29, 1867. Her feast day is celebrated each year on October 6th.
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-Primary source is the book "The life of St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus Christ" by Bernardo Laviosa, which can be read online for free here.

-Official site Santuario di Santa Maria Francesca delle cinque piaghe

-For those interested, I have posted a number of photos pertaining to St Mary of the Five Wounds of Jesus that would not fit into this article.

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1 comment:

Joseph J. said...

Another interesting post of a mystic I had not heard of before. Thanks.

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