Blessed Pica Bernardone
Saint of the Day for September 23
Blessed Pica Bernardone’s Story
Though never formally beatified, Pica Bernardone is blessed in the popular mind as the mother of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Pica was a noble French lady who married the wealthy Italian cloth merchant, Pietro Bernardone. The story is told that when she was in difficult labor with her first child, a stranger in pilgrim’s attire appeared who told her and her husband that the child would not be born until she had been transported to a stable. A little chapel is now built on the spot of that stable where Francis Bernardone, now known as Francis of Assisi, was born.
It was Pica who taught Francis his faith by both her word and example. It was she who gave him his love of poverty. And it was she who set him free after his father had locked him up for selling his horse and his father’s cloth to rebuild a small church.
After the death of her husband, Pica went to Francis for spiritual guidance, wore the penitential garb of the Third Order of St. Francis, and devoted her life to works of charity and piety.
What a tightrope Pica walked! Her son and her husband were hopelessly at odds. She watched her boy ride off to war with a pain familiar to too many mothers. And when he returned with his dreams of glory shattered, she surely worried about him. When he rejected his father’s wealth—indeed, his father himself—part of her surely rejoiced, for it was she who had tried to teach him that there are more important things in the world than earthly glory. Still, the rift between father and son must have continued to grieve her. She is surely a friend to any parent who suffers the same perplexing difficulty.