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Blessed Mary Frances Schervier

 Monument for Mary Frances Schervier | Aachen, Germany | photo by Berthold Werner
Image: Monument for Mary Frances Schervier | Aachen, Germany | photo by Berthold Werner

Blessed Mary Frances Schervier

Saint of the Day for December 15

(January 3, 1819 – December 14, 1876)


Blessed Mary Frances Schervier’s Story

This woman who once wanted to become a Trappistine nun was instead led by God to establish a community of sisters who care for the sick and aged in the United States and throughout the world.

Born into a distinguished family in Aachen—then ruled by Prussia, but formerly Aix-la-Chapelle, France—Frances ran the household after her mother’s death, and established a reputation for generosity to the poor. In 1844, she became a Secular Franciscan. The next year she and four companions established a religious community devoted to caring for the poor. In 1851, the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis were approved by the local bishop; the community soon spread. The first U.S. foundation was made in 1858.

Mother Frances visited the United States in 1863 and helped her sisters nurse soldiers wounded in the Civil War. She visited the United States again in 1868. She encouraged Philip Hoever as he was establishing the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis.

When Mother Frances died, there were 2,500 members of her community worldwide. They are still engaged in operating hospitals and homes for the aged. Mother Mary Frances was beatified in 1974.


The sick, the poor, and the aged are constantly in danger of being considered “useless” members of society and therefore ignored—or worse. Women and men motivated by the ideals of Mother Frances are needed if the God-given dignity and destiny of all people are to be respected.

The Franciscan Saints

Say Yes Even in the Midst of Darkness

In Matthew’s version of the annunciation story, in this case telling Joseph that the events in his life are part of God’s plan, we can imagine what Joseph has been going through. We’ve had similar difficulties in our own lives. At the time, we may have longed for a sign as clear as the one Matthew describes.

Pope Francis reminds us that at times such as these, we need to have a kind of desperate faith that says yes in the midst of darkness. What helps more than anything is to be immersed in the stories of the Bible, the stories of God’s presence with his people.

—from The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

The Joy of Advent by Diane M. Houdek


Holiness in Our Daily Lives

Advent remind us that Jesus was born into a human family. It was important that he took on our flesh and blood, but it was equally important that he took on the social relationships that both complete and complicate our lives. We can sometimes think that it would be easier to be holy apart from the people with whom we live and work. But the incarnation reminds us that God calls us to be holy in the midst of those very relationships.  What we learn from Mary and Joseph is that as long as we say yes to God, he will guide us through the darkness with a sure hand. 

—from Diane M. Houdek's The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis 

The Joy of Advent by Diane M. Houdek

Joy Is the Essence of the Christmas Message

If anything marks the Christmas season in the words of Pope Francis, it’s simplicity, smallness, and humility. He rejoices in the gifts of lights and Christmas trees, carols and crèches, and the happy faces of children who gather to be blessed. Joy is always part of his Christmas message. But it’s a joy that comes from the heart rather than from the external trappings that we sometimes mistake for essentials.

—from Diane M. Houdek's The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections from Pope Francis

The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections with Pope Francis

God Reaches Out to Us through Others

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is familiar to most Christians. We can imagine what it must be like to wander away from the flock, to be lost and cold and out of reach of all that’s familiar. Few of us have a direct experience of God caring for us as the Good Shepherd. For most of us, that loving presence comes from the flesh-and-blood people in our lives. God reaches out to others through us just as he reached out to us through others.

—from the book The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis
by Diane M. Houdek

The Joy of Advent by Diane M. Houdek

Hope and Heroism

The prophet Isaiah wrote at a time when violence and war were the order of the day. The people of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrians and would later be taken into exile. And yet Isaiah could speak of a hope rooted in the Lord’s call for justice and for peace. Our own world seems to be increasingly violent. We might think that Isaiah’s vision is further away than ever before.

The Internet brings violence from the far corners of the world into our lives, but we also know that there is violence in our cities, our neighborhoods, and even, at times, in our own homes. But we also hear of hopeful and heroic actions, often by a few individuals standing in the face of darkness and offering what light they have.

—from The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

The Joy of Advent by Diane M. Houdek

Due to violence, Mexican diocese avoids Christmas Masses at high-risk times

Villahermosa, Mexico, Dec 9, 2017 / 08:08 am (EWTN News/CNA).- A diocese in one of Mexico's most violence-ridden states has indicated it will avoid scheduling Masses for Christmas and its octave at "high risk" times. It has also asked the state's police to protect parishioners.

Look for a Joyful Peace

Have you ever been surrounded by a whirlwind of activity, perhaps in the midst of family and friends, and felt a sudden whoosh of deep contentment? This is what Pope Francis refers to as a “joyful peace.” It’s the swirling flow of a dance, the soaring notes of a symphony. Too often when we imagine peace, we think that it needs to be perfect stillness. When we reflect on the life of Jesus in the Gospels, we realize he was almost always in motion: walking, preaching, teaching, healing, eating, and drinking. Even when he went off to deserted places to pray, one imagines that he was in an active communion with his Father.

—from The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

The Joy of Advent by Diane M. Houdek

The Tiniest Miracles in God's Creation

Christmas can become a celebration of artifice and manufactured wonders. From the dangling icicle lights along the roofline to the inflatable cartoon characters on suburban lawns, we run the risk of treating this holiday as a time of one-upping not only the neighbors but also God. But we know deep down that no factory in China can produce something as wonderful as the tiniest miracle in God’s creation.

—from The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections from Pope Francis
by Diane M. Houdek

The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections with Pope Francis

Make Room for God

Those who hope in the Lord “will run and not grow weary.” We might have trouble believing these words when we’re running in a hundred different directions trying to get everything done. It’s hard not to get caught up in the frenetic activity of the season. We want this kind of boundless energy. We can find it by keeping God as our central priority and reminding ourselves that life will go on and people will still love us, even if our errands go unfinished. Cross something off today’s list and write in God instead.

—from the book Advent with St. Francis: Daily Reflections
by Diane M. Houdek

A curated collection of Advent books and audios from Franciscan Media