Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thy eyes (Ct 4:9).
Oblates’ Pilgrimage to Santa Maria Nuova
Yesterday I accompanied a group of Benedictine–Cistercian Oblates of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme to the tomb of their patroness Saint Frances of Rome in the Church of Santa Maria Nuova near the Coliseum. Don Teodoro, a young Olivetan Benedictine monk in residence at the adjoining monastery, welcomed us and gave us a marvelous guided visit of the church.
Saint Frances of Rome
We lingered at the tomb of Saint Frances of Rome; her body is visible in its glass–fronted shrine. She is clothed in her black habit with the distinctive long white muslin veil; in her hands she holds a little breviary, a sign of her dedication to the Opus Dei, even as a married woman.
Ancient Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The sacristy of Santa Maria Nuova holds one of Rome’s (and the world’s) great Marian treasures: a 5th century icon of the Holy Mother of God. The icon was uncovered in 1950 by Professor Pico Cellini during his restoration of the church’s works of art. It was before this icon that Saint Frances of Rome pronounced her oblation on August 15, 1425. It is one of the seven most ancient icons of the Blessed Virgin in Rome.
The face of the Holy Mother of God holds one spellbound. The enormous eyes, full of a mysterious light, seem to radiate the secret of the things that, according to Saint Luke, the Blessed Virgin Mary “held in her heart” (Lk 2:19). One’s first impulse is to fall to one’s knees before this icon of the 5th century. It has been called one of the finest examples of Christian poetry translated into art.