Bl. Angela Foligno: 30 March

Rev. Vianney Vandendaele

Angela of Foligno is a model for people who want to simplify their lifestyle. As a young adult she revelled in luxury and sensuality. She married a rich man of Foligno, Italy, and used his wealth to indulge herself in possessions. And her impetuous temperament nudged her into sinful behaviour.

However, in 1285, Angela made a surprising conversion. One day she wept bitterly and confessed a serious sin to a friar, who absolved her. Then she embarked on a life of prayer and penance. Over the next six years, step-by-step she let go of her attachments to people and things.

In 1288, her mother, husband, and sons died of a plague. As a widow, Angela was free to concentrate on becoming holy. She modelled herself on St. Francis of Assisi and joined the Franciscan Third Order in 1291. Like Francis, Angela expected to meet Christ in the poor. For instance, on Holy Thursday 1292, she and a companion went to care for lepers at the hospital in Foligno. After they had washed a man who was badly decomposed, they were inspired to drink some of the bathwater as an act of humility. The experience so moved Angela that she says all the way home she felt “as if we had received Holy Communion.”

Angela of Foligno was a visionary who, like St. Catherine of Siena, at the drop of a hat might fall into a trance. From 1292 to 1296 she dictated her revelations to Brother Arnold, her confessor. Angela recorded 30 steps of her tortured spiritual journey, which always seemed to blend awareness and absence of God, certitude and doubt, joy and agony.

A small band of disciples gathered around the saint. She led them wisely, instructing them in basic Christian living. This excerpt from her Instructions advocates prayer and meditation on Scripture:

No one can be saved without divine light. Divine light causes us to begin and to make progress, and it leads us to the summit of perfection. Therefore if you want to begin and to receive this divine light, pray. If you have begun to make progress, pray. And if you have reached the summit of perfection, and want to be super-illumined so as to remain in that state, pray. If you want faith, pray. If you want hope, pray. If you want charity, pray. If you want poverty, pray. If you want obedience, pray. If you want chastity, pray. If you want humility, pray. If you want meekness, pray. If you want fortitude, pray. If you want any virtue, pray.

And pray in this fashion: always reading the Book of Life (the Gospels), that is, the life of the God-man, Jesus Christ, whose life consisted of poverty, pain, contempt and true obedience.

At Christmas, 1308, Angela told her companions she would die shortly. A few days later, Christ appeared to her, promising to come personally to take her to heaven. She died in her sleep on 3 January 1309.

Her remains repose in the Basilica of St. Francis at Foligno. Numerous miracles were worked at her tomb, and Innocent XII approved the immemorial veneration paid to her. Her feast is kept in the Order on the 30 March.

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