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St. Angela of Foligno, Franciscan

St. Angela,  Sanctuary of Foligno St. Angela, Sanctuary of Foligno 

“My place is in the world.” This conviction accompanied Angela da Foligno throughout her life: from the years of her youth, characterized by worldliness and an apparent indifference to God, to those of her spiritual maturity, which followed, in which she realized that she was called to better things: to serve and imitate the Lord, to live a life of holiness in the concreteness of the everyday. Born in Foligno on January 4, 1248 to a well-to-do family, she soon lost her father, and received little supervision from her mother. Thus, did she spend youth far from faith.

Beautiful, intelligent, passionate, she married a notable local man, by whom she had several children.

Conversion and the fear of hell

The frivolity and light-heartedness of her youth were upset by a series of events in quick succession: the violent earthquake of 1279, an impetuous hurricane and then the long war against Perugia led her to question the precariousness of life and to feel the fear of hell. The desire to approach the Sacrament of Penance was born in her. Nevertheless, the chronicles narrate, “shame prevented her from making a complete confession and for this she remained in torment.” In prayer she obtained from St. Francis of Assisi the reassurance that she would soon know God's mercy.

The encounter with the merciful love of God

Angela then returned to the confessional and this time she was fully reconciled with the Lord. At the age of 37, despite the hostility of her family, conversion began in the sign of penance and renunciation of things, affections, and herself. After the premature death of her mother, husband and children in close succession, the woman sold all her goods, distributing the proceeds to the poor. She went on a pilgrimage to Assisi in the footsteps of the Poor One, and in 1291 entered the Third Order of St. Francis, relying for spiritual direction on the friar Arnaldo, a fellow citizen and blood relation,, who later became her biographer, author of the famous Memorial. In this text, the stages of Angela's vocation and her constant ecstasies and mystical experiences, culminating in the dwelling in the soul of the Holy Trinity, are divided into thirty “steps” or stages. “I saw something full,” she told her confessor, regarding the vision of the Triune God, “an immense majesty, which I can not say, but it seemed to me that it was all good. (...) After his departure, I began to scream aloud (...) Oh, unknown Love, why do you leave me?”  The youthful fear of damnation soon gave way to the awareness of not being able to save oneself by one’s own merits, but, with a repentant heart, only through the infinite merciful love of God.

Assiduous in prayer and tenderness towards the least

In addition to constant prayer, especially expressed in Eucharistic adoration, Angela of Foligno always conducted charitable activity, assisting lepers and all the sick with a tenderness in which they saw Christ Crucified. Known already in life as Magistra Theologorum, she promoted a theology based on the Word of God, on obedience to the Church and on the direct experience of the Divine in its most intimate manifestations.

 

Fruitful in her spiritual motherhood

Passionately involved in the controversies that tore the Franciscan order, Angela drew around her person a cenacle of spiritual children, who saw in her a guide and a true teacher of faith: for this reason her figure embodies one of the models of the feminine genius in the Church. Even before her death, which occurred on January 4, 1309, the title of saint was attributed by the people, unofficially. On 9 October 2013, Pope Francis completed what had already been started by his predecessors by canonizing Angela da Foligno, using the process of “equipollent” canonization.