17 November 2011

Lives of the Visitation Sisters: Frances Xaviera McGuire, 1798-1823

Frances Xaviera McGuire was born in Ireland on August 17, 1798, and when she was young her family moved to Baltimore. She had an engaging disposition and that made her seem fit for the world rather than religious life, but God inspired her with contempt for follies and vanities, and a desire to consecrate herself irrevocably to His service. She originally thought about entering the Ursulines, but she was told in a dream that God was not calling her there, but instead to the Convent of the Visitation at Georgetown. She hadn’t even heard of it before this dream, and she didn’t want to act too precipitously, so she consulted with her spiritual director in Baltimore. He advised her to pray to God for light to make a proper choice before deciding anything. She also didn’t want to make her intention of retiring from the world public until she had fully determined her path, so she continued to dress gaily and she engaged in pleasantries with others. She still found her heart inclined to this house, however, so she petitioned to be admitted, and she entered toward the end of November, 1816. Her parents, especially her father, were remarkably fond of her, and they were about to move to St. Louis, so this would be a sacrifice for everyone, and she made hers with courage and generosity. In fact, generosity of mind was the most distinguishing feature of this dear sister’s character, and she gave many proofs of it during the short time God permitted her to remain.
Frances Xaviera began and finished her noviceship with much fervor, and then made her holy profession. That day her countenance and demeanor reflected the interior joy of her soul. She took great satisfaction in obliging others, and if it hadn’t been for her health she might have done much more. She was naturally industrious and ingenious, and she had a particular taste for adorning little images and relics. She was employed during some months as assistant to the mistress of Novices, and later as an aid with the boarding students, where she gained their hearts. Her last job was as a habit keeper, demonstrating through that service her sincere affection for all of her sisters.
In the spring of 1821 she had a severe attack of vomiting blood, followed by a second one in March of 1823. After the second episode she declined rapidly, and toward the end of July that same year, despite being a naturally active person, she had to confine herself to the infirmary where she was a very meek, affable, and grateful patient. Instead of complaining, she frequently said that too much care was taken of her (something we also heard in the earlier biography of Sister Margaret Louisa Beall). Frances Xaviera sometimes expressed a desire to die on the feast of her holy patron, St. Francis Xavier, but not unless God pleased. Instead, God called her three months earlier, on the feast of the glorious St. Augustine, “after having been fortified for that dangerous and awful passage from time to eternity, with all the last sacraments and helps of the holy Church and religion. She expired with much peace and composure, and preserved her perfect presence of mind to her last breath. May God grant us the grace to imitate her example.”

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