February 4, 2010
Today we honor St. Jane of Valois, surely an example of humility, persistence in prayer and also great charity. She was born in 1464 and died in 1505. A daughter of King Louis XI and Charlotte of Savoy, she was hated by her father from birth because he wanted a boy. Not only did he not get a boy, Jane was sickly and had some physical handicap. The king banished her to a country place where she was raised in a condition of grave neglect. But God had plans for His spurned and despised creature. She developed a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, especially in the mystery of the Incarnation. The Angelus was her favorite prayer. One day Our Lady revealed to her that she would found a religious community dedicated to her.
St. Jane could not escape being a pawn in the hands of her father. Although he despised her, in a political scheme he betrothed her to his second cousin, Louis, Duke of Orleans, at the age of two months. They were married when Jane was nine. She remained his loyal and devoted wife for twenty-two years. Unfortunately, the Duke did not return her devotion. He had not wanted the marriage and hated her even though she was instrumental in obtaining his release from prison for treason. Upon taking the throne as Louis XII, he publicly humiliated her by treating her ill in front of the court, repudiating her and seeking an annulment of his marriage from Rome. He got the annulment on the grounds that the marriage had not been consummated and that he had not consented to it. St. Jane saw this as a great blessing and used her situation to found the Order of the Annunciation.
The charism of her order is to practice the ten virtues of Our Lady as found in the Gospels. They are:
- Most Pure (Mt 1:18, 20, 23; Lk 1:27,34)
- Most Prudent (Lk 2:19, 51)
- Most Humble (Lk 1:48)
- Most Faithful (Lk 1:45; Jn 2:5)
- Most Devout (Lk 1:46-7; Acts 1:14)
- Most Obedient (Lk 1:38; 2:21-2, 27)
- Most Poor (Lk 2:7)
- Most Patient (Jn 19:25)
- Most Merciful (Lk 1:39, 56)
- Most Sorrowful (Lk 2:35)
St. Jane also charged her community to pray for her husband, her father, and her brother as her legacy. Such forgiveness after the cruel treatment she received is awe-inspiring. St. Jane would be a great patron to ask for help in mastering the virtue of forgiveness. When she died, she was buried with the royal purple and a crown under her habit.
During St. Jane’s lifetime the Angelus prayer spread throughout France, helped by Pope Sixtus IV who was the first to attach an indulgence to it in 1475. Devotion to this prayer continues today, and is enshrined in the great Impressionist painting of Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) of the Barbizon school of landscape painting.
It is interesting that almost two-hundred years after Pope Sixtus encouraged the praying of the Angelus a painter named Jean-Francois created a work expressing the devotion to Our Lady that St. Jane (Jeanne) of Valois, whose spiritual directors were Franciscans, practiced.
We cannot escape suffering in this world so we might as well profit from it spiritually as did St. Jane, who though queen, was humiliated repeatedly by the very people who should have loved and cherished her. She is a great example of suffering with joy.
If you would like to know how to pray the chaplet of the Ten Virtues of the Blessed Mother, go here.
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