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St. Angela of Foligno

Name: St. Angela of Foligno
Date: 4 January

Saint Angela was born in Foligno, Italy, and lived most of her life in the small Umbrian town ofher birth. There was nothing remarkable about Angela’s early years, and there was nothingscandalous about her life. Yet she tells us in her later writings that for over thirty years she led amortally sinful life. Perhaps she was referring to the pride and comfort of a wealthy andfashionable existence, for she came from a family of great property, married well, and afterwardsruled a large household of children and servants. As she describes her conversion, it reads like thestory of many a soul today. Fear of her damnation led her to the confessional one day. But shewas afraid to tell her most serious sins, and so made a bad confession, then a sacrilegiousCommunion. Only greater remorse followed. Tormented in soul, she prayed to Saint Francis ofAssisi, and he appeared to her in a vision. The next day she made a complete and sincereconfession.

From this point on, her life was completely changed. The thought of her sins gave her a desire forpenance, suffering, and reparation. In Foligno and its neighboring town, Assisi, the memory ofSaint Francis, who had died in 1226, was still fresh. It is not surprising, then, that Angela wasinspired by Franciscan ideals from the time of her conversion until her death in 1309. When oneby one her mother, her husband and all her children had died, she became a Franciscan tertiary andlater lived as a mendicant, a poor beggar, completely dependent upon the charity of others.

She was a soul whom God chose to fulfill the role of a mystic. Her confessor recorded from herown lips the visions and ecstasies that were granted to her with startling frequency. For Angela“the whole world was filled with God,” and she was in almost constant communion with Him. Yetwe would misunderstand the interior life of this mystic, or any other, for that matter, if weimagine that her life was without pain, without constant suffering. Angela herself tells us that attimes she was overcome with grief because she could see nothing but the extraordinary goodnessof God and, in contrast, the vanity of earthly things and the ingratitude of creatures. The sight of acrucifix produced in Saint Angela torrents of tears. The intimacy she enjoyed with God was agrace which at one period of her life was entirely withheld from her, that she might like Job,become a model of constancy amid great and prolonged torments.

Of the thousands of tourists who annually visit Assisi and pray at the tombs of Saint Francis andSaint Clare, few travel the short distance to Foligno, where Angela is buried in the Franciscanchurch. But she, like the Saints of Assisi, has many a lesson for our day. No sinner who wouldhave recourse to her would ever despair.

Sources: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints

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