Monday, January 04, 2010

The Blessed Angela of Foligno


Penitent.
.
Today is generally considered the feast day of Blessed Angela of Foligno, a penitent from a town nearby Assisi.  She and St. Margaret of Cortona are two of my fovorite women mystics, along with Catherine of Genoa - who remained unaffiliated with any order.  These women appeal to me because of their penitence and prayer and because they were seculars.  It is extremely important that lay people have before them models of perfection who were not religious, as John Paul II emphasized by promoting the beatification and canonization of so many laity from every walk of life.
.
The Blessed Angela was married and had a family and by her own admission lived a rather vain and frivolous life.  At one point she committed a sin so shameful to her that she avoided confessing it.  We do not know what the sin was, but I have speculated it could have been the sin of abortion - just a hunch however.  Others like to portray her as a gossip - but that is neither here nor there in my opinion.  Eventually she appealed in prayer to St. Francis who won for her the grace of conversion and to do penance, which she writes about in her Book of Divine Consolations.  She begins; "As I walked by the way of penitence, I did take eighteen spiritual steps before I came to know the imperfections of my life."  Thus the saint describes the process of her conversion.
.
Her conversion did not happen overnight of course, it was indeed a process.  There was no "born again" mentality existent in those days.  People today imagine they are propelled into the state of perfection simply by a return to the Church or the sacraments, yet one's conversion is ordinarily a long, at times arduous process.  Angela speaks of a penance as "long and as hard as life itself".  One overcomes a fault or sin, only to discover another more spiritual sin, hence the need for ongoing purgation and purification, willingly or unwillingly undergone - in this life or in the next.  Angela did it in this life.  If you can, try to read her writings - not so much of what people write about her - go to the source.
.
If nothing else, it is important to remember one thing, conversion and penance is really a life-long process.  Consider that Teresa of Avila lived for 20 years as a nun before she finally committed herself to a serious life of prayer.  Today we tend to credit ourselves with what we know about the Church and the spiritual life, or pride ourselves upon our works or our commitment to social justice, or the promotion of the liturgy, or theology, or even mystical novelties - when in fact we neglect to reform our lives and actually believe in the Gospel.  It takes time to do the will of God - which is first and foremost our sanctification.
.
I also like the following from Bl. Angela:
.
'By 1298, Angela had become a "mother" to a group of Franciscans trying to reform the order that Francis had founded 90 years earlier; she was on the reformers' side, but always tried to keep them from going to extremes. Here she supports those who questioned whether their goal of absolute poverty should allow them to possess even books:'

.
"When you come across flatterers, men or women, who tell you: "Brother, your words have converted me to penance," do not pay any attention to them but rather turn to the Creator and thank him for this blessing. There are many preachers of falsehoods whose preaching is full of greed, and out of greed they preach for honors, money, and fame."


 
.

7 comments:

  1. SO TRUE, Terry. Blessed Angela ... " did take eighteen spiritual steps before I came to know the imperfections of my life". And THIS must happen before one can even undertake penance. Years and years of my life transpired before I was even able to see the depth and breadth of my sin. Upon seeing the long arc of it...Oh.I have only begun penance. And the conversion of my heart, by fits and starts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Never be discouraged though Maria. I've only just begun as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a beautiful reflection about the real issue of an interior life!
    Terry, I don't want to sound effusive, but I am deeply touched by this.
    Holiness, holiness, holiness.
    States of life are really up to God and the soul; the Church does intervene in the priesthood and religious life.
    But to belong completely to God, no matter what state in life, is really what we are meant for in this life.
    Blessed Angela, pray for us, that we may be faithful to Jesus, our Lord and God!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with you, Padre. Terry, thank you for the encouragement. You remind me that we need encouragement from each other, as the road is long. I read: Maximilian Sandaeus, a Jesuit, called her the Mistress of Theologians. Isn't that great? Before your post I knew nothing of her.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Maria, I'm the same as you.

    Thankfully, God is Love!!
    True, true, Love.
    :>

    ReplyDelete
  6. Of course you know how much I LOVE
    Bl. Angela....

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous8:06 AM

    Thanks. I wrote awhile ago about your hermit thoughts. I have now come to living the essence of it, but God has made clear for me He does not will strings attached in the temporal aspect, via the Church. Hope you understand that means I am not against those who are approved in formal, public ways. But He chooses me not for that. So what you write of Bl. Angela and of lay persons being free to be called by God into the depths of union, is quite meaningful to me this morning. I also very much NEEDED this assurance through what you wrote. I am working on a web page and am not tech savvy, so all the more admire yours for the artistic aspects. I suffer tremendously. Offer it in reparation for my sins, for souls, for Mary and Jesus--but it does absorb human energy. All the more to love and go to Christ. Thanks again for this post.

    ReplyDelete

Anonymous comments will no longer be accepted.
Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. Be sure and double check if your comment posted after you do the verification deal - sometimes it doesn't print if you made an error.