Blessed Pica Bernardone
Mother of St Francis of Assisi
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 records, 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, Blessed Pica Bernardone 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 Bernardone has never been formally beatified.
From: The Franciscan Book of Saints, Marion A. Habig, OFM
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