Reflective Moments Moments Reflective February 2006
Our reflection for February takes a look at the inner journey of Saint Angela. We will contemplate her early childhood and her teenage years. In the next issue, we will look at her adult years. This reflection looks at the many ways Angela experienced God in her life. Some of these experiences were extraordinary, such as the vision that assured her of her sister’s salvation and her own vocation to found a company of virgins. We will also look at Angela’s ordinary experiences, the kinds we all have in our lives: our need for God, support found in community and family life, and our need for prayer that overflows into service.
Angela’s Inner Journey By Sister Ann McGrew, OSU, and Sister Marietta Wethington, OSU
ngela’s inner journey began in her early childhood. Her parents were faith-filled, devout, and very attentive to every aspect of their children’s lives, giving them the nurturing and affection they needed to grow into wholesome persons. They prayed with their children in the morning, when the angelus bells rang, and when they tucked them into bed at night. Angela’s father could read, and that seems to have had a big influence on her relationship with God. He frequently read aloud to the family from the Bible and from the lives of the saints. Angela, particularly, was inspired by the stories of the saints and was moved to imitate some of them. Her biographers report that from the time she was five years old, she began to devote herself to a contemplative and spiritual way of life. Angela’s vocation most likely had its roots in those family times of prayer and spiritual reading. Another part of Angela’s inner journey was fasting, which also began in her childhood. When Angela was 60 and was encouraging a young man in his spiritual life, she told him about the hard work she did as a child, helping with the housework and on the farm. Yet she fasted on Thursdays, eating only a small piece of bread. Her parents were aware of her practice and monitored it to make sure she didn’t harm her health. The Merici children did what many of us did as children — they played church. Those games were
reflective of the church life and the religious events they attended with their parents. At that time in history, holy days or special feasts were celebrated with processions, Mass, bells, incense and candles. Those things were appealing to children and for the most part were mere child’s play. For Angela, the games grew into more than this. They became for her a moment of grace, of invitation, of religious experience — and a call to a deeper relationship with God. There is one story told about Angela and her brother that says they decided to imitate the hermits by going off into the desert to pray and do penance. That didn’t last long. When the rest of the family missed them, they set out to find them and promptly brought them home. Some biographers tell us that Angela’s practice of rising during the night to pray also began in her childhood. This, too, may have begun as a game, considering Angela’s fascination with the saints and her practice of imitating them. Writers have recognized it as a response to an inner call, though maybe not a fully conscious one. So we can see from some of these stories that Angela’s desire for God began at an early age. Early in her life she began praying, meditating, and practicing penance. Even as a child, she was contemplative and was striving to find God in her daily life. This did not go unnoticed. The parish priest invited Angela to receive her First Holy Communion at an earlier Continued on back
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age than was customary at that time. Then the seemingly happy family life of the Mericis was suddenly destroyed. At least one biographer says that first Angela’s elder sister died, then her mother, followed by her father. All within a year. After their parents died, Angela and her brother went to live with their maternal uncle. The children knew they were well loved and cared for, but the lifestyle was very different from that of their parents. Angela didn’t want to forget her practices of prayer and penance. Angela’s aunt and uncle were practical and good people and, like Angela’s parents, helped to bring balance to her prayer and penance. Living with her aunt and uncle trained Angela in grace and poise, which later distinguished her in encounters with great folk as well as
An Intentional Minute... We invite you to join together for an Intentional Minute of prayer for the needs of our world. We suggest that every day at noon, we pause momentarily, right where we are, to pray together for the intentions suggested in each issue of Update. We offer this suggestion because we realize the power of united prayer.
This issue’s intention is JUSTICE • JUSTICE for women and children • JUSTICE for the poor and vulnerable • JUSTICE for the underpaid and unemployed • JUSTICE for the exploited and defenseless
those considered insignificant. Grace of manner was a marked characteristic of Angela. It is clear that Angela, like most girls of her generation, never received any formal education. Later in life, she did learn to read but not to write. All Angela’s biographers name her adolescence as the time of the most important event of her inner journey, the vision which was to decide the form of her vocation. One day Angela and some friends were on their way to attend a harvest celebration. Angela went aside to pray. When she asked God, with great fervor, what had happened to her sister, she suddenly saw a troop of angels and in their midst was her sister, happy and triumphant. Angela heard these words: “Angela, if you continue in the way you have started, you will one day share our glory.” Angela carried this image with her throughout her life.
For Your Reflection... 1. What experiences in your childhood helped you to develop a relationship with God?
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