Monday, January 27, 2014
St. Angela Merici (1470-1540 - Feastday: January 27)
She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She became the center of a group of people with similar ideals.
She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.
At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty and obedience. The idea of a teaching congregation of women was new and took time to develop. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death.
As with so many saints, history is mostly concerned with their activities. But we must always presume deep Christian faith and love in one whose courage lasts a lifetime, and who can take bold new steps when human need demands.
In a time when change is problematic to many, it may be helpful to recall a statement this great leader made to her sisters: “If according to times and needs you should be obliged to make fresh rules and change certain things, do it with prudence and good advice.”