St. Angela Merici

Friends in the Lord,[i] today is the Feast of St. Angela Merici.
St. Angela was born in 1474 in Italy. By age 10 she was an orphan, and some years later her dear sister suddenly died; because her sister had not received the last sacraments, Angela was worried; she prayed often for her sister.
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She lived a life of great austerity, possessing nothing of her own, not even owning a bed. She ate bread and water and a fasted on vegetables. One day God showed her in a vision that her sister was with the saints in heaven, and this gave her much peace.
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Now Angela was a very short person, but she was quite attractive and really a born leader; she wanted to use her gifts and charm, to lead people to heaven. In those days one of the big problems was that young people knew very little of their Faith, so she organized her friends into a group of teachers. They gathered girls of the town together to teach them the Faith.[ii]
Eventually, many schools were built, and even the Pope in Rome heard of her success as a religion teacher.[iii] [iv]
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One time, she made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and while on the way, she suddenly went blind.[v] Her friends suggested turning back, but she insisted on completing the pilgrimage, praying at each of the places in the Holy Land, though seeing nothing. On the return trip she abruptly regained her sight and returned to her work of teaching.
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In 1535, she placed her little group under the protection of St. Ursula, and this was the beginning of the Ursuline Order of Sisters.
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Angela was like the mustard seed in the gospel. Though she was very short in stature, her life flowered like a giant mustard tree and brought many young girls closer to Jesus.
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She once wrote to her Sisters telling them: ‘Be ever concerned about each one of your daughters. Embrace them with a living love, for mothers, even if they have a thousand children, carry each one in their heart, and they never forget any one of them. The more children a mother has, the more her love for each one is increased.
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St. Angela Merici died in 1540. She is the patron saint of disabled people.

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[i] strive to draw them by love, modesty, charity, and not by pride and harshness. Be sincerely kind to every one; you also ought to exercise pleasantness toward all, taking great care especially that what you have commanded may never be done by reason of force. For God has given free will to everyone, and therefore he forces no one but only indicates, calls, persuades. Sometimes however something will have to be done with a stronger command, yet in a suitable manner and accordion to the state and necessities of individuals; but then, also we should be impplelled only by charity and zeal for souls. Brev. III, p. 1333.

[ii] She taught them that ‘a good heart and soul, inflamed with charity, can do nothing but good and holy works.’

[iii] In the jubilee year 1525, she visited Rome; Pope Clement VII, who had heard of her great holiness and her extraordinary success as a religious teacher of young girls, invited her to remain in Rome, but Angela, who shunned publicity, returned to Brescia.

[iv] It is related that one day, while in an ecstasy, she had a vision of young virgins ascending to heaven on a ladder of light; a voice had said: ‘Take heart, Angela: before you die you will found a group of maidens similar to those you have just seen.’

[v] On the island of Crete.

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