St. Angela of the Cross: Mother of the Poor
Today, March 2, the Church honors St. Angela of the Cross, foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross.
Born in 1846 in Seville, Spain, and given the baptismal name “Maria of the Angels” Guerrero Gonzalez, Angela was affectionately known as “Angelita”. Her father worked as a cook and her mother a laundress in a Trinitarian Fathers convent. They had 14 children, with only six reaching adulthood.
Angelita was greatly influenced by the teaching and example of her pious parents, and was taught from an early age how to pray the Rosary. She could often be found in the parish church praying before the image of “Our Lady of Good Health”, while her mother prepared a nearby altar. In their own home, a simple altar was erected in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the month of May, where the family would recite the Rosary and give special honor to Our Lady.
Angelita made her First Communion when she was eight, and her Confirmation when she was nine. She had little formal education, beginning work as a young girl in a shoe shop. Her boss and teacher of shoe repair, Antonia Maldonado, was a holy woman; every day the employees prayed the Rosary together and read the lives of the saints. Angelita was 16 years old when she met Fr. José Torres Padilla of Seville who became her spiritual director.
At nineteen, Angelita asked to enter the Discalced Carmelites in Santa Cruz but was refused admission due to her poor health. Instead, following the advice of Fr Torres, she began caring for destitute cholera patients, because a cholera epidemic was quickly spreading among the poor.
At twenty-two, Angelita tried once again to enter the convent, this time the Daughters of Charity of Seville. Although her health was still frail, she was admitted. The sisters tried to improve her health and sent her to Cuenca and Valencia, but to no avail. She left the Daughters of Charity during the novitiate and returned home.
Angelita continued to work in the shoeshop, but under obedience to Fr Torres she dedicated her free time to writing a detailed spiritual diary that revealed the style and ideal of life she was being called to live. On August 2, 1875 three other women joined Angelita, beginning community life together in a room they rented in Seville. From that day on, they began their visits and gave assistance to the poor, day and night.
These Sisters of the Company of the Cross, under the guidance of Angelita, named “Mother Angela of the Cross”, lived a contemplative life when they were not among the poor. Once they returned to their home, they dedicated themselves to prayer and silence, but were always ready when needed to go out and serve the poor and dying.
In 1877, a second community was founded in Utrera, in the province of Seville, and a year later one in Ayamonte. While Mother Angela was alive, another 23 convents were established, with the sisters edifying everyone they served by their example of charity, poverty and humility. In fact, Mother Angela herself was known by all as “Mother of the Poor”.
Mother Angela of the Cross died on March 2, 1932 in Seville. She was canonized in 2003 by Pope John Paul II.
“The nothing keeps silent, the nothing does not want to be, the nothing suffers all…. The nothing does not impose itself, the nothing does not command with authority, and finally, the nothing in the creature is practical humility.” — St. Angela of the Cross