Sunday, December 17, 2006

Blessed Angela of Foligno

Franciscan tertiary and penitent.
One of the best things about the article in the Catholic Spirit regarding blogs and sins against the 8th Commandment, was the fact that they mentioned Blessed Angela of Foligno.
The book, "Saints Behaving Badly" may have been their source for details of her life. The writer, Thomas Craughwell does an excellent job presenting various saints who were sinners - these are my favorite kinds of saints. It gives us all hope, knowing that "Saints are sinners who keep trying."
Before Craughwell's book, and the focus in the Spirit's piece concerning Angela as a gossip, I had never heard of that before as being one of her chief faults. Although in reading her book, "The Divine Consolations" I do recall a moment she relates how after a certain homily she was highly critical of a priest, for which the Holy Spirit chastised her for that sin of the tongue. (I cannot find the passage at present however.)
That anecdote always stayed with me though - and I know I have sinned in like manner over the years. However Angela's life of sin, prior to her conversion involved much more than gossip. She was very vain, self indulgent, and of course a sensualist, or hedonist. There was a mysterious sin she could not bring herself to confess, while continuing to receive the sacraments. Most speculate she had an affair, while I wonder, having grown up in an Italian neighborhood, which had a local 'strega' or witch who performed abortions, maybe Bl. Angela had committed a sin related to that? (After all, she had a few children already - who subsequently died, along with her husband and mother, one after another in quick succession. That was during her conversion process that the Lord took her family away.) We will never know, since she and her confessor, as well as the Holy Spirit has never revealed to us what the sin was. Rightly so, since it is none of our business.
Regardless, Angela considered her sins so grave she did "penance as long and as hard as life itself". She lived in poverty after having given away her great wealth, performing her penance publicly whenever she could, until her confessor inclined her to greater discretion. She also was elevated to great mysticism and devotion - hence the only book we have of her, "The Divine Consolations of the Blessed Angela of Foligno". What we know of her life is more or less contained in this volume. I esteem it next to the works of St. John and St. Teresa, and have read and re-read it for a couple of decades now. I have three volumes of the same book, one in Italian, and two different versions in English. I'll have to go back and find where her chief fault was gossiping.
Thanks to the Catholic Spirit for calling attention to both the Blessed Angela, and the vice of gossip and detraction. The article will certainly help me to be a better man and writer - I hope.


  1. Anonymous1:05 PM

    We have all the same friends, Terry. I have loved Blessed Angela of Foligno since my teen years. So passionate and fiery a woman! Where did I first hear of her? If I am not mistaken it was in the splendid little book by Father Bernadot, O.P., "From Holy Communion to the Blessed Trinity." Do you remember that book? Then in 1975 I visited Foligno and saw Blessed Angela's body. You were probably there too.

  2. Anonymous2:58 PM

    Terry, you wrote: "Although in reading her book, 'The Divine Consolations' I do recall a moment she relates how after a certain homily she was highly critical of a priest, for which the Holy Spirit chastised her for that sin of the tongue. (I cannot find the passage at present however.)" Do you think you could find that particular passage for me? It would be useful.

  3. I'll try to find it - I went through quickly and couldn't locate it.

  4. Interesting bio-

    thanks for the write up!

  5. I'm practically in ecstasy reading all this about my dear friend Angela of Foligno! I can't even explain it but Terry, somehow I know you know how I feel about her.


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