Mother of our Holy Father St. Francis, Tertiary
The Franciscan menologium says concerning the servant of God Pica, that she not only gave bodily birth to St. Francis, but by her prayers and the example of her virtues gave him as a brightly shining light to Holy Church.
Pica was descended from a noble French family of the Bourlemonts. In France she was given in marriage to the wealthy Italian merchant, Peter Bernardone of the house of Moriconi, the father of St. Francis.
Concerning the birth of her first child, our Seraphic Founder, an old manuscript, which is preserved in the Vatican, relates the following: When Pica had for several days suffered the severe pains of labor, there appeared an unknown stranger, in pilgrim’s garb, and announced to the mother that her child would not come into the world until she had been conveyed to a stable. Tradition relates that the chapel which now bears the title, “To St. Francis, the Little One,” was the stable wherein the mother happily gave birth to her first son.
When the child was carried about later, the manuscript continues, again a mysterious stranger came, made the Sign of the Cross on the child’s right shoulder, and recommended that the greatest care be tendered the child. Being a truly Christian mother, Pica did that. One can readily assume that it was she who animated the boy who, as St.
Bonaventure [documented], grew up from his earliest youth with a passionate love for the poor.
His father was not so compassionately inclined. When, at the beginning of the extraordinary career to which God called him, Francis had sold his riding horse, and gathered alms to restore a ruined church, his father went out in search of him, laid hold of him, maltreated him, and cast the twenty-five-year-old young man into a dark room in the cellar of his home. His mother, however, who in dealing with her son recognized the workings of God, did not in any way sanction the actions of her husband; soon after, when he was gone for a few days, she set Francis free. Undoubtedly she had on that account to hear reproaches and angry words upon Bernardone’s return, but in this son of hers she had the comfort of seeing the signs of holiness stand out in ever bolder relief.
After the death of her husband, Pica committed herself to Francis’s spiritual guidance, donned the penitential garb of the Third Order, and lived a secluded life devoted to piety and the practice of good works. Blessed Pica has never been formally beatified.
ON THE HABITS OF CHILDREN
1. How exceedingly important is the rearing of children and the cultivation of habits in children! When an angel announced to the mother of Samson, who had been long without child, that she should receive a son, and she reported that to her husband, the latter bade God almighty to send the angel again, so that the angel might instruct him how to rear that son. When the angel really came, the father of Samson said to him: “When thy word shall come to pass, what wilt thou that the child should do? Or from what shall he keep himself?” (Judges 13, 12). To accustom children to the things they should do, and constantly to protect them from the things they should not do, is the most difficult duty in the entire process of education. Blessed Pica received such a great reward because she accustomed her son Francis from his earliest youth to those acts of tender mercy which brought such great blessings to his labors.
2. He who must rear children will often experience how difficult it is to accustom them to what is good; cleanliness, orderliness, obedience, sociable ness – especially when their disordered nature rebels against it. How much effort must be expended to break them of bad habits, of lying, pilfering, quarreling, and the like, if their natures are thus inclined? But the longer and more determinedly one applies oneself to the task, so much the easier will it be for the child to overcome itself. Finally, it will do what is good, and it will as easily desist from evil as it formerly did the opposite; habit will become second nature. Such is the power of habit. Have you not already experienced this yourself? It is, therefore, a weak and pernicious love if one does not want to hurt the child, and as a result gives the child over to the influence of its lower nature. The Holy Ghost says: “He who loves his son, corrects him betimes” (Prov. 13, 24).
3. Consider what a fortunate thing it is for a man throughout his life if he has been well trained in his youth. “A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22, 6). If he has accustomed himself to diligence, self-conquest, obedience, compassion, to regular prayer, attendance at church, and the reception of the sacraments, how many dangers will he then escape throughout life, how many merits will he gather for eternity, how grateful will he be to his parents on his deathbed that they trained him to do good! But if they did not train him thus, how will it be with him then? “The things that you have not gathered in your youth, how shall you find them in your old age?” (Eccli. 25, 5).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
(Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)
O God of Hosts, the Giver of all good things, implant in our hearts the love of Thy name; make us to grow in fervor; foster in us that which is good, and in Thy loving kindness, of that which thou fosterest, be Thyself the safeguard.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.