After reading some excerpts of Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience of October 13, 2010 on Blessed Angela of Foligno I discovered that I found the motivation to add her writings to my next cycle of personal spiritual readings. I am well aware of the dangers of a layman reading mystical writings because in the normal course most laymen do not have mystical experiences. Such experiences are a singular gift from God for the individual who receives them. One who is scrupulous can easily discouraged. One who is lax can easily get cynical.
Nevertheless, the writings of a Church-proclaimed Blessed are sure to bring fruit. I was fortunate to have received the Blessed Angela's Complete Works as a Christmas gift and have begun my reading. So far I think I have made a good selection. The author begins by placing Blessed Angela in context of her times with an emphasis on the ecclesial and spiritual currents of women in late 13th century Italy. I hope to have additional posts at a later time.
From Pope Benedict's Address of October 13, 2010...
People are usually fascinated by the consummate experience of union with God that she reached, but perhaps they give too little consideration to her first steps, her conversion and the long journey that led from her starting point, the "great fear of hell", to her goal, total union with the Trinity. The first part of Angela's life was certainly not that of a fervent disciple of the Lord. She was born into a well-off family in about 1248. Her father died and she was brought up in a somewhat superficial manner by her mother. She was introduced at a rather young age into the worldly circles of the town of Foligno, where she met a man whom she married at the age of 20 and to whom she bore children. Her life was so carefree that she was even contemptuous of the so-called "penitents", who abounded in that period; they were people who, in order to follow Christ, sold their possessions and lived in prayer, fasting, in service to the Church and in charity.
Certain events, such as the violent earthquake in 1279, a hurricane, the endless war against Perugia and its harsh consequences, affected the life of Angela who little by little became aware of her sins, until she took a decisive step. In 1285 she called upon St Francis, who appeared to her in a vision and asked his advice on making a good general Confession. She then went to Confession with a Friar in San Feliciano. Three years later, on her path of conversion she reached another turning point: she was released from any emotional ties. In the space of a few months, her mother's death was followed by the death of her husband and those of all her children. She therefore sold her possessions and in 1291 enrolled in the Third Order of St Francis. She died in Foligno on 4 January 1309.
Blessed Angela's life began with a worldly existence, rather remote from God. Yet her meeting with the figure of St Francis and, finally, her meeting with Christ Crucified reawakened her soul to the presence of God, for the reason that with God alone life becomes true life, because, in sorrow for sin, it becomes love and joy. And this is how Blessed Angela speaks to us. Today we all risk living as though God did not exist; he seems so distant from daily life. However, God has thousands of ways of his own for each one, to make himself present in the soul, to show that he exists and knows and loves me. And Blessed Angela wishes to make us attentive to these signs with which the Lord touches our soul, attentive to God's presence, so as to learn the way with God and towards God, in communion with Christ Crucified.
Image: Angela of Foligno : Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) Amazon.com