Angela Merici or Angela de Merici was born in 1474 on a farm near Desenzano del Garda, a small town on the southwestern shore of Lake Garda in Lombardy, Italy. She and her older sister, Giana Maria, were left orphans when she was ten years old. They went to live with their uncle in the town of Salò. Young Angela was very distressed when her sister suddenly died without receiving the Last Rites of the Church and prayed that her sister’s soul rest in peace. It is said that in a vision she received a response that her sister was in heaven in the company of the saints. She joined the Third Order of St. Francis around that time. People began to notice Angela’s beauty and particularly to admire her hair. As she had promised herself to God and wanted to avoid worldly attention, she dyed her hair with soot.

After the death of her uncle, at the age of twenty, she returned to her home in Desenzano, and lived with her brothers, on her own property, given to her in lieu of the dowry. She had another vision that revealed to her she was to found an association of virgins who were to devote their lives to the religious training of young girls. Upon the success of this association, she was invited to start another school in the neighboring city of Brescia.

In 1525, she journeyed to Rome in order to gain the indulgences of the Jubilee Year being celebrated. Pope Clement VII, who had heard of her virtue and success with her school, invited her to remain in Rome. Angela disliked notoriety, however, and soon returned to Brescia.

On 25 November 1535, Angela with the 12 young women who had joined in her work in a small house in Brescia near the Church of St. Afra, committed themselves to the founding of the Company of St. Ursula, placed under the protection of the patroness of medieval universities. Her goal was to elevate family life through the Christian education of future wives and mothers. They were the first teaching order of women religious.

Four years later the group had grown to 28. Angela taught them to serve God, but to remain in the world, teaching the girls of their own neighborhood, and to practice a religious form of life in their own homes. The members wore no special habit and took no formal religious vows. She wrote a Rule of Life for the group, which specified the practice of celibacy, poverty, and obedience in their own homes. The Ursulines opened orphanages and schools. On 18 March 1537, she was elected “Mother and Mistress” of the group. The Rule she had written was approved in 1544 by Pope Paul III.

The traditional view is that Angela believed that better Christian education was needed for girls and young women, to which end she dedicated her life. When she died in Brescia on 27 January 1540, there were 24 communities of the Company of St. Ursula serving the Church through the region. Merici was not included in the 1570 Tridentine Calendar of Pope Pius V because she was not canonized until 1807. In 1861, her feast day was included in the Roman Calendar – not on the day of her death, 27 January.

References:

  1. St. Angela Merici | Christian Apostles.com”christianapostles.com. 11 December 2020. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  2. Ott, Michael. “St. Angela Merici.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 28 May 2013.
  3. Coulson, John. The Saints: A concise Biographical Dictionary, Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1960.
  4. Pirlo, Fr. Paolo O., SHMI (1997). “St. Angela Merici”. My First Book of Saints. Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate – Quality Catholic Publications. p. 33. ISBN 971-91595-4-5.
  5. “Angela Merici”, Saints Resource, RCL Benziger.
  6. Foley, Leonard, OFM. “St. Angela Merici”, Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast (revised by Pat McCloskey, OFM) Franciscan Media.
  7. “History”Company of St Ursula-Daughters of St Angela-Brescia.
  8.  “St. Angela Merici”faith.nd.edu. Retrieved 9 January 2021.

*Information retrieved from Wikipedia 26 January 2022.

1852 – Finnish Lutheran lay evangelist Paavo Henrik Ruotsalainen died. He was transformed by the words of a blacksmith who told him he needed Christ’s life in him. And became the revivalist Awakening religious movement in Finland.

*Information retrieved from ChristianHistoryInstitute.org.

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