NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Friday, July 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - July 2016: Blessed Angelina of Marsciano

Bl. Angelina of Marsciano
A Woman on Fire with Divine Love ~ Memorial: July 14th

This month, I'd like to introduce readers to a remarkable, but little-known miracle-worker from Italy.  Her name was Bl. Angelina of Marsciano and, in her lifetime, she fulfilled the roles of wealthy socialite; wife; widow; and founder of a religious congregation. Born in Marsciano, Italy, circa 1357, her father was Giacomo, a duke, and her mother was Alessandra, a highly pious noblewoman.  Through her mother's worthy influence, early on Angelina was exposed to a home environment of exceptional faith and her very first words were said to have been the holy names of "Jesus" and "Mary"; a prophetic indication of the life of devotion that she was destined for.

Despite the loving atmosphere that she was surrounded with during her early years, there was also sadness present. Her father died from the plague a year after her birth, and at about age 6, her mother was also taken from her.  In the years that followed, her three older brothers also died, leaving behind Angelina and her married older sister, Francesca, in their immediate family. Losing her earthy support, Angelina turned directly to Our Lady and our Lord for spiritual guidance and also vowed her virginity to Christ.  At 15 her family began making plans for an advantageous marriage for her with another duke, which the young maiden protested. Despite her resistance, the wedding arrangement proceeded, prompting the young duchess to again address her concerns to the Blessed Virgin. In response, she received a revelation directing her to go through with the marriage as all would go in her favor.

On the night of the wedding, Angelina confided her situation concerning her private vow to her now-husband - Giovanni di Terni, the Duke of Civitella - who, as it turned out, was also a highly devout man. Moved by grace, he agreed to live with his bride as brother and sister. This, they did, until the duke unexpectedly passed away two years later, leaving Angelina a young widow with no earthly obligations.  She therefore dedicated herself to prayer and good works, caring for the sick and the poor of Marsciano; funding her charitable endeavors with her inheritance.

Bl. Angelina's miracle of the coals
In due time, the efforts of the charismatic duchess attracted a number of followers to her cause and surprisingly, many were young women from other distinguished families.  Angelina loosely organized her group into a pious association, which put her in direct conflict with the noble families whose daughters had left to follow Angelina. They accused the budding founder before the King of Naples, as encouraging their daughters to spurn marriage in favor of religious life... and worse yet, as having the power to bewitch other women so as to gain followers for her movement. As a result of all the misinformation, the King summoned Angelina to his court with the intent of having her tried as a heretic or witch, then burned at the stake.

Angelina, in the meantime, was forewarned by God about the King's secretive plan for her... so she presented herself at his court in dramatic fashion - hand-carrying within the folds of her mantle, a small pile of burning coals, as a not-so-subtle rebuke to the King's plan to get rid of her with fire (illustrated to the right). Seeing the maiden and her clothing miraculously unharmed by the flames, the dumbfounded King dismissed Angelina without incident, as well as with a newfound respect for her.

To add to her increasing spiritual clout, a few days later the Blessed reportedly raised a dead man to life a youth from one of the noble families - through her fervent prayer. As a result, there was an influx of women wanting to join her and, along with it, more uproar from the families affected. To assuage them, the King of Naples banished Angelina and her followers, who took up residence in Foligno, where they were welcomed.  There, in collaboration with the Franciscans, Angelina was able to establish a monastery for her group, which quickly grew into a new congregation - the Franciscan Sisters of the Third Order Regular, which was comprised of vowed tertiaries living in community, but uncloistered, so as to be able to actively minister to the sick and the poor within the local area. The innovative spiritual concept spread and soon the young founder was establishing other monasteries of her congregation throughout Italy. Pope Martin V officially approved Angelina's group in 1428 and from that year, until her death, she served as the congregation's general superior.

The urn of Bl. Angelina of Marsciano, as seen in the church of St. Francis
in Foligno, Italy.  A wax mask covers the face of the Blessed's incorrupt body.

For most of her life, Angelina served in Foligno and traveled throughout Italy in support of her work until she died on July 14, 1435; she was 61. Reportedly, shortly before her death, she summoned her spiritual daughters to her bedside to encourage them in their vocation and ministry. She then slipped into a profound ecstasy before peacefully passing away. In 1492, the founder's body was found completely intact, inspiring greater devotion to her memory among the Franciscans and the citizens of Foligno, who already referred to her as "Blessed". Angelina's cultus was eventually confirmed by the Church in March 1825, which made the title and public devotion to her official. Her incorrupt body now lies in the Church of St. Francis in Foligno not too far from the remains of another great mystic - St. Angela of Foligno.

A Reflection
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love."  ~ Galatians 5:13

A Short Prayer
Father in Heaven, not our will but Yours, be accomplished in our lives.  May we serve You by lovingly serving others, as Blessed Angelina exemplified.  Amen.

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