The feast day of Angela Merici is 27th January – a day of celebration for all who call themselves Ursuline or Daughters of Angela…whoever we are and whatever our connection to Angela at the heart of our celebration is a woman of vision – a vision she shared with the world of her time and which we continue to live today.
Born c.1470 in Desenzano Angela through her life was a woman in love with God and who loved the people around her. She listened…she watched…not just with her ears and her eyes but with her heart and in this she saw that something new was needed in Northern Italy of her time. Her vision focussed on women and their life – they had little choice for themselves. Their parents could arrange a marriage for her…she could enter a monastery and live her life for God in the enclosure…she could enter into service in one of the large houses of the day. Angela herself was a woman who through her vision saw a new reality for women and she took time to develop her vision from her own life.
She was a woman who prayed…who lived her life for God…a woman who opened her heart to listen to others…she offered care and companionship to those in need…she sought to be a peacemaker between people. She was a woman who was open to the movements of the Holy Spirit in her own life and she saw possibilities for others who sought to live like her. The town of Brescia where she eventually settled was a place of war and disease, she witnessed the breakdown of family life around her and wanted to offer something to the people of her time and place. As a small group of women gathered around her she saw this new way as the inspiration of God in her life calling her to found this new way for women to live in the world while consecrating their life to God without the need for monastery walls. This led her to found the Company of Saint Ursula and to compose the first rule for women written by a woman – these women would promise to live a life of virginity while remaining in the world living at home with their families, at their work place if they were servants or for some in twos or threes but all scattered throughout the city of Brescia coming together regularly for prayer and to learn from the woman they called the Madre – Angela Merici.
From this small beginning in 1535 the story continued…it changed in many ways yet it continued to live the rule and the spirit of Angela herself. And so today across the globe Angela is celebrated as foundress…as Madre…as inspiration…as a woman of vision who saw a new possibility for life for women.
Today we say thank you Angela…and we celebrate her legacy as we continue to live our Ursuline life in our time and place.