St. Angela Merici: Emancipator of Women
Today is the feast of St. Angela Merici, the foundress of the Ursulines, the the first teaching congregation of women in the Church. It was a new, almost revolutionary foundation for its time, as it focused primarily on the education of women. Her foundation led to the emancipation of women not only in the Church, but in society as well. Women were educated so as to transform society by educating their own family in the faith and living out that faith in their lives.
Angela was born to a family of minor nobility on March 21, 1474 at Desenzano, Lake Garda, Italy and died on January 27, 1540 in Brescia. She worked diligently on her father’s farm and was also taught by her family the habits of prayer and fasting — which she continued to practice her entire life. Her parents died when she was only ten years old. Together, with her older sister, she moved to the nearby town of Salo, to live with her uncle. When her sister died quite suddenly without receiving the last sacraments, Angela was deeply upset. At the age of 15, she became a third order Franciscan and increased her prayers and sacrifices for the repose of her sister’s soul. When she asked God to reveal to her the condition of her deceased sister, He answered her prayer by showing her a vision of her sister in heaven.
When her uncle died, she returned to live at Desenzano to make a life for herself. She was convinced of the need for women to be educated in their faith and converted her home into a school where she daily gathered all the girls of Desenzano to teach them the basics of Christianity. It was at this time that she received a vision, which led her to found a religious order who were to devote their lives to the spiritual education of young women. Angela’s school at Desenzano was so successful that she was invited to the neighboring city of Brescia, to establish a school there. Angela gladly accepted the invitation.
In 1524, during a pilgrimage to Holy Land, while visiting Crete, Angela was struck blind. This did not interrupt her trip, however, but she continued on the journey, visiting the shrines with as much dedication and zeal as if she still had her sight. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was miraculously restored at the same place where it had been lost.
In 1525, Pope Clement VII, who had heard of her great holiness and her success as a religious teacher of young girls, invited her to remain in Rome; however, Angela returned to Brescia to live a quiet life, away from the limelight.
At the age of 57, Angela chose twelve young women to assist her in catechetical work. Four years later, the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula, commonly known as the Ursulines, for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through the solid Christian education of future wives and mothers.
She died only five years later. St. Angela’s body is incorrupt and lies buried in the Church of St. Afra at Brescia. She was beatified in 1768 by Pope Clement XIII and canonized in 1807 by Pope Pius VII.
St. Angela Merici is the patron saint of physically challenged people, sick people, and of those who have lost their parents.
Quotes From St. Angela Merci
“Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family.”
“We must give alms. Charity wins souls and draws them to virtue.”
“Mothers of children, even if they have a thousand, carry each and every one fixed in their hearts, and because of the strength of their love they do not forget any of them. In fact, it seems that the more children they have the more their love and care for each one is increased.”
“As our Savior says: ‘A good tree is not able to produce bad fruit.’ He says: A good tree, that is, a good heart as well as a soul on fire with charity, can do nothing but good and holy works. For this reason Saint Augustine said: “Love, and do what you will,” namely, possess love and charity and then do what you will. It is as if he had said: Charity is not able to sin.”
“Be sincerely kind to every one according to the words of our Lord: ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.’ Thus you are imitating God, of whom it is said: ‘He has disposed all things pleasantly.’ And again Jesus said: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden light.’
– From Spiritual Testament by Saint Angela Merici
St. Angela Merici — A Prayer of Remembrance
Angela, a valiant woman, inspire us today to be people of faith,
people of action, people in love with God and all creation.
May we be makers of peace in a wounded world.
May we be creators of justice in a broken world.
May we be passionate and compassionate in a indifferent world.
You who traveled the road before us, be with us as you promised.
May the example of your pilgrim heart encourage us on our journey.
~ Author Unknown