Angela was born in 1248 of a prominent family in Foligno, three
leagues from Assisi. As a young woman, and also as a wife and mother, she
lived only for the world and its vain pleasures. But the grace of God intended
to make of her a vessel of election for the comfort and salvation of many. A
ray of the divine mercy touched her soul and so strongly affected her as to
bring about a conversion.
At the command of her confessor she committed to
writing the manner of her conversion in eighteen spiritual steps. "Enlightened
by grace," she wrote in this account. "I realized my sinfulness; I was seized
with a great fear of being damned, and I shed a flood of tears. I went to
confession to be relieved of my sins, but through shame I concealed the most
grievous ones, but still I went to Communion. Now my conscience tortured me
day and night. I called upon St. Francis for help, and, moved by an inner
impulse, I went into a church where a Franciscan Father was then
"I gathered courage to confess all my sins to him,
and I did this immediately after the sermon. With zeal and perseverance I
performed the penance he imposed, but my heart continued to be full of
bitterness and shame. I recognized that the divine mercy has saved me from
hell, hence I resolved to do rigorous penance; nothing seemed too difficult
for me, because I felt I belonged in hell. I called upon the saints, and
especially upon the Blessed Virgin, to intercede with God for me.
"It appeared to me now as if they has compassion on
me, and I felt the fire of divine love enkindled within me so that I could
pray as I never prayed before. I had also received a special grace to
contemplate the cross in which Christ had suffered so much for my sins.
Sorrow, love, and the desire to sacrifice everything for Him filled my
About this time God harkened to the earnest desire
of the penitent: her mother died, then her husband, and soon afterwards all
her children. These tragic events were very painful to her; but she made the
sacrifice with resignation to the will of God. Being freed from these ties,
she dispossessed herself of all her temporal goods with the consent of her
confessor, so that being poor herself, she might walk in the footsteps of her
poor Savior. She also entered the Third Order of St. Francis, and presently
found herself the superior and guide of others who followed in her path. Many
women joined her, even to the point of taking the three vows. She encouraged
them in works of charity, in nursing the sick, and in going personally from
door to door to beg for the needs of the poor.
Meanwhile, Angela became still more immersed in the
contemplation of the Passion of Christ, and she chose the Sorrowful Mother and
the faithful disciple John as her patrons. The sight of the wounds which her
Lord suffered for her sins urged her to the practice of still greater
austerities. Once our Lord showed her that His Heart is a safe refuge in all
the storms of life. She was soon to be in need of such a refuge.
God permitted her to be afflicted with severe
temptations. The most horrible and loathsome representations distressed her
soul. The fire of concupiscence raged so furiously that she said: "I would
rather have beheld myself surrounded with flames and permitted myself to be
continually roasted that to endure such things." Still, she called out to God,
"Glory be to Thee, O Lord! Thy cross is my resting place." These painful
trials lasted over two years; but then the purified and tried servant of the
Lord was filled with great consolation. She obtained a marvelous insight into
divine things and was very frequently found in ecstasy. For many years Holy
Communion was her only food, until at last, completely purified, she entered
into the eternal joy of the Supreme Good on January 4, 1309.
Pope Innocent XII approved the continual devotion
paid to her at her tomb in Foligno. He beatified her in 1693.
ON THE BENEFIT OF TEMPTATIONS
1. Consider how
Blessed Angela has to pass through many painful steps in order to arrive at
true conversion. True conversion is not accomplished as easily and as soon as
many people believe. One of these steps consisted in enduring temptations.
This was one of the most painful stages, but it was in this way that God
wishes to try the fidelity of His servants. Moses spoke thus to the chosen
people of God: "The Lord your God tried you that it may appear whether you
love Him with all your soul, or no" (Deut 13:3). What pleasure is it when the
temptation has been overcome, to know that one has stood the test! Have you
ever partaken of this joy after your temptations?
2. Consider that
temptations are also a means by which we may learn to know ourselves and our
weaknesses. Thomas a Kempis (1,13) says: "Temptations show us what we are."
Sometimes we do not think it possible that we could fall into this or that sin
into which a fellowman has fallen. But if severe temptation assails us, we
readily join with the Psalmist in declaring: "Unless the Lord had been my
helper, my soul had almost dwelt in hell" (Ps 93:17). Temptation does not make
us weak, it merely shows us how weak we are. Such experiences cause us to be
kinder in our judgements of others and more cautious in our own conduct. If
David became an adulterer and a murderer through a glance at Bethsabee, may we
then play with danger like a gnat flying about a glowing flame? "Watch and
pray that you enter not into temptation" (Matt 26:41).
3. Consider that
temptations impel us to draw nearer to God and to unite ourselves more closely
to Him. As a child runs to its mother when danger threatens, and hides itself
in her lap, so a Christian who loves his soul will have recourse to God in
time of danger. And just as the tree strikes its roots deeper into the earth
when storms whip its crown, so does the Christian attach himself more firmly
to God during the storm of temptation. While we acknowledge that God is our
all: our only hope, our support, our salvation. This acknowledgement is a
great boon. Blessed Angela says, "To know oneself and to know God, that is the
perfection of man; without this knowledge, visions and the greatest gifts are
of no account."
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, Thou sweetness of
hearts and light of the inhabitants of heaven, who didst refresh Blessed
Angela, Thy servant, with a marvelous insight into heavenly things, grant us
through her merits and intercession so to know Thee upon earth, that we may be
found worthy to rejoice in the vision of Thy glory in heaven. Through Christ
our Lord. Amen.
The Franciscan Book
of Saints, ed. by
Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald