There are many ways to follow God’s baptismal call to holiness: single life, married life, consecrated life, and the ordained life. Of these, consecrated life has the most variations, including religious orders as well as hermits, consecrated virgins and widows, secular institutes, and societies of apostolic life. Today’s saint was one of the women who pioneered a new form of consecrated life, akin to modern-day secular institutes.
St. Angela Merici founded the Company of St. Ursula in 1535 in Brescia, Italy. They were meant to be in the world, but not of it. Their members consecrated themselves to God and promised celibacy, but they lived at home with their own families and served in their communities, primarily as teachers of girls in order to re-Christianize family life through being holy wives and mothers. Later they gathered in communities with one another and served throughout the world.
St. Angela started early in life as a Third Order Franciscan, maintaining a life in the secular world with a holy intent. She converted her home into a school where she taught the girls of the town in the basics of Christianity. Later, she started a school in Brescia, where, with her companions, they established the first women’s teaching order. She died in 1540 and was canonized in 1807.
Most of us are called to be in the world, not of it. That means we are called to transform the world, to help bring about the Kingdom of Heaven. We are all called to holiness through single life or married life or consecrated life or ordained life. We are called to listen to how God wants us to respond. Are we called to teach, serve, love, pray, and live as disciples? Absolutely! We are freed by our calling! St. Angela Merici, pray for us.
*Image: Benedetto Pietrogrande, “Angèle Merici”; Peter Kostner, sculptor, 1990. Church of St. Angela, Desenzano https://www.osucentral.org/who-we-are/