27 January 2006

St. Angela Merici

Today's feast of St. Angela Merici is technically an optional memorial for most people. It is, however, no mere commemoration for those who teach -- and teach girls, at that. One homilist, a number of years ago, gave us a lengthy description of St. Angela's life and ministry and at the end, he leaned into the microphone and said, "...and truly, she is the patron of all who teach little girls."

St. Angela was a woman ahead of her time. She had a vision which was unprecedented and untested. In 1535, when she founded the "Company of St. Ursula" (the patron saint of learning in Europe at the time), she sent these women back into the world, into their families, into society, to change the world from the inside out. The "company" which she founded on 25 November 1535 became formally incorporated as a religious order known today as the Ursulines. Click here to read more about the Ursulines

Today, in addition to the Ursuline sisters who live out her legacy in the world today, we have many men and women who live lives similar to what St. Angela originally envisioned, changing the world from the inside out. Some of these men and women live as members of secular institutes. In her day there was no such canonical distinction. She was a visionary well ahead of her time.

Her message to those of us to teach -- and all who work with the young -- is as applicable today as when she wrote it, over 400 years ago. Speaking of the young charges entrusted to her early sisters she writes, " . . . it will be impossible for you not to have each and every one engraved upon your memory and in your mind. I beg you, strive to draw them by love, modesty, charity and not by pride and harshness." A timeless message for all messengers of God's word to the young!

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