Lady Jacoba de Settesoli
…Saint Francis called her “Brother Jacoba”…
Each year, on the 3rd of October, when we celebrate the death of Saint Francis of Assisi in what is called the Transitus ceremony, we hear the story about how Lady Jacoba de Settesoli arrived in Assisi just in time to fulfil the wishes of the dying saint.
In his very last days, suffering greatly, he asked the friars to send for her, telling them to write and ask specifically for “a burial shroud, some candles and some of those sweet almond biscuits that she always made for him when he came to Rome”.
But before they could even do so Lady Jacoba, already warned by divine inspiration of his imminent death, arrived at the friary of the Portiuncula
in the valley down below the Town of Assisi. Even more surprisingly she had not only brought with her the sweet almond biscuits he had asked
for, but also the candles and a new habit she made for him from the undyed wool of a sheep that he had previously given to her as a pet.
However, immediately there was a crisis. Francis was far too ill to come out to see her, his health too fragile even to move him and the strict
rule of enclosure imposed on religious made it impossible for a woman to enter the friary. The friars in complete surprise at her arrival and
in confusion about letting her into the friary came to ask Saint Francis what they were to do in this situation. Saint Francis with his joyful
sense of fraternity said to them, “Let her come in immediately; the rule of cloister does not apply to ‘Brother’ Jacoba!” So Brother
Jacoba came in and was present when Saint Francis died and he was buried in the habit she brought to him. Such is role that Lady Jacoba plays
in the Transitus of Saint Francis each year. But this is only the beginning of her story.