On this day we celebrate the feast of Blessed Angela of Foligno, a laywoman, a widow, who achieved sanctity as a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis.
In October, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address during the general audience in St. Peter's Square. In English, he said: "Our catechesis today recalls the medieval mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno, born in 1248. A carefree wife and mother, Angela at one time looked down on the mendicants and observers of strict poverty in religious life. However, tragic events and suffering in her personal life gave her cause to become aware of her own sins, leading her to a decisive moment of conversion in the year 1285. Invoking the aid of Saint Francis, who appeared to her in a vision, she made her confession at San Feliciano. Upon the death of her mother, husband and children, she sold all she had and joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. She died in 1309."
Just seventeen years earlier, Pope John Paul II delivered a homily about Blessed Angelo in the Church of St. Francis at Foligno, in which he said: "Inizia così il cammino della vera conversione, di cui specialmente la Beata Angela da Foligno ha offerto esemplare testimonianza e straordinario insegnamento, tanto da ricevere il titolo di 'Maestra dei teologi'."
To understand why "Angela of Foligno has been raised from relative obscurity to rank as an outstanding representative of the Franciscan and Christian mystical tradition," see the Introduction to Angela of Foligno: The Passionate Mystic of the Double Abyss, edited by Paul Lachance, O.F.M.
This would be a good day for members of third orders and lay associates of religious congregations to review and renew their commitments. More and more lay Catholics are becoming associates of religious congregations, and more and more religious congregations are inviting laywomen and -men to join them. If you are not a member of a third order or an associate of a religious community, why not consider joining one? Look at the web sites of some congregations you like to see if they have lay associates. Below are a few examples:
Dominican Associates of Sinsinawa.
Oblates of St. Benedict.
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Associates.
Associates of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters.
Associates of the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Sisters of St. Casimir Associates.
Felician Sisters Associates.
Sisters of Providence Associates.
Sisters of Bon Secours Associates.
Sisters of Charity of the BVM Associates.