Bl. Frances D’Amboise was born in 1427, probably at Thouars, France. At fifteen years of age, she was married to Peter II, Duke of Brittany and crowned with him in the cathedral at Rennes in 1450. She was widowed in 1457 and, not wanting a second marriage, she turned towards religious life. For this purpose, she built a Carmel for sisters at Bondon in 1463 following the advice of Blessed John Soreth, Prior General of the Carmelites.
However, she herself only entered the monastery in 1468. In 1477 she transferred to the monastery at Nantes, another of her foundations. The records show that, as prioress, she had a strong personality but coupled with a motherly understanding and considerable psychological awareness. Some of the inspired spiritual direction which she gave to her sisters has been preserved. To her is due the introduction of frequent communion (daily for those who were sick) and the fourth vow of strict enclosure. She died on 4th November 1485 and her last testament was the phrase which she had said most often during her life: “In everything, do that which will make God loved the more!” Her cult was approved in 1863 by Pope Pius IX, as a recognition of the faithfulness of the Bretons to the Catholic Church and to their duchess. She is considered the foundress of the Carmelite nuns of France. She was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1866.
Exhortation of Blessed Frances to her nuns:
“Whatever the troubles and difficulties that weigh you down, bear them all patiently and keep in mind that these are the things which constitute your cross. Offer your help to the Lord and carry the cross with Him in gladness of heart. There is always something to be endured, and if you refuse one cross, be sure that you will meet with another, and maybe a heavier one. If we trust in God and rely on His help, we shall overcome the allurements of vice. We must never let our efforts flag nor our steps grow weary, but must keep our hearts under steady discipline.
Consider the afflictions and great trials which the holy Fathers endured in the desert. And yet the interior trials they suffered were far more intense than the physical penances they inflicted on their own bodies. One who is never tried acquires little virtue. Accept then whatever God wills to send, for any suffering He permits is entirely for our good. Christ assures us in the Gospel, “Who wishes to follow me must deny himself. He must be forgetful of self; he must regard himself as nothing; he must despise himself and desire to be despised by others.”
The attitude derives from Our Lord’s command that we are to take up his cross and follow Him. We are to accept sufferings of mind and body for love of Him, just as He bore His sufferings for love of us. It is true that the Jews lifted the cross from our Savior’s shoulders, but this was out of concern lest He die from blows and exhaustion before reaching the place where He was to be crucified.
And when they laid the weight on Simon’s shoulders he submitted most unwillingly, even though aware that he was not destined to die on the cross he carried. Christ, by contrast, willingly and gladly carried His cross and died upon it, breathing forth His soul at last into His Father’s hands. Let us follow Him and imitate all He did.
You have various afflictions which constitute your cross. Bear them willingly to the very end, when you will finally yield your soul to God. Give Him praise and thanks for calling you to His service. Scorn no-one, for it is God’s will that you love each one of your neighbors as you do those of your own community. Strive to curb all unruly instincts within you. To this end try one remedy today and another tomorrow, so that gradually you will subdue your unruly impulses, and when the Lord sees your good will and your perseverance, He will give you the support of His grace, enabling you to sustain to the end the burdens of religious life. Through His love nothing will be too difficult for you to bear.