“To the women of her time Angela offers a new style of life, that of a Consecration to God, freely chosen and lived as a “spouse of the Son of God,” open to a spiritual maternity, while remaining in the world living in one’s family or in one’s working environment. To this family Angela gives a proper Rule, Counsel and Testament with a profound ascetic and spiritual value as well as impregnated in a remarkable pedagogical intuition.”
Foundation Day 25th November 2018
Four Hundred and eighty-four years ago, on 25th November, Angela Merici founded the Company of St Ursula in the city of Brescia. Angela had gone to this city in 1516 at the request of the Franciscans to comfort Caterina Patengola a widow who was grieving the death of her children. Brescia was a city recovering from the devastating French wars and Angela, given the title of Madre Sur Angela there, was recognised over time as one of the ‘holy women’ which were the boast of many Italian cities.
This was pre-Council of Trent and the atmosphere of widespread lax religious leadership gave rise to lay movements of devotion. Women from all walks of life were drawn to Angela, seeking and receiving spiritual guidance but looking for more.
They did not want to be forced into protective, arranged marriages and the only other alternative was the cloister with dowry requirements. Brescia’s ancient monastery of San Salvadore housing the precious Cross of Desiderius, its Longboard founder, (753) was famous. However, as Sr Janice Howard stated in the sub-title of her novel on St Angela, ‘Faced with two alternatives, Angela chose a third.’ She formed a group where the treasure for them was not to be gold and precious stones but Jesus Christ. Let them have Jesus Christ for their only treasure, (5th Counsel 43)
Angela supported this new way of consecration by placing her Company under the patronage of St Ursula the strong, faith filled martyr and leader of women. She chose St Catherine of Alexandria, that celebrated Spouse of Christ, to be their inspiration and wrote a Rule which reinforced the way to live the radical nature of her vision. In two other documents, Counsels and Legacies she gave instructions for the formators of the young women and established wealthy widows to safeguard and protect the young members of her Company. These writings, works of deep experiential wisdom of the ways of human nature and of God, are a constant inspiration to her followers today.
Please follow the link to Angela's Writings
Images: top left: The Cross of Desiderus. Brescia, Italyabove: Angela's Only Treasure. Crucifix in the Duomo of Salo', Italy