October 11, 2013

Saint Angela di Foligno and Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity

One of the influences on the thought and spirituality of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity is a Third Order Franciscan widow from the beginning of the 14th Century, Angela di Foligno.  Pope Francis has just included this Master of Theology in the Calendar of the Saints and her feast will be January 4.   Saint Angela's Instructions #36 contains a description of some of her last experiences and words. Drawing from a translation of this work, Blessed Elisabeth quotes these tender words the dying Angela heard from the lips of Jesus, "It is "I" who come, and I bring you unknown joy... I will enter into the depths of your being."

It seems that the Word incarnate spoke to her in this way just before He entered into her in a remarkably beautiful way.  She describes that He touched her and embraced her whole being.  Even as the disintegration of death was consuming her life, she was enveloped by the love of the Word spoken by the Father into humanity for her, personally, intimately, and truly.

For the Mystic of Foligno, the coming of the Word into her was also a very personal event - like the coming of a Bridegroom for his Bride.  What a wondrous grace!  Even in the face of death, the Word of the Father - the source of all meaning and purpose in creation - enters and embraces the life of the saint so that the meaninglessness of death is not the last word.  Instead, at death, she witnesses to being raised into a love that will have no end.  It is in this current of love that the Christian takes his stand - because this love gives a life that nothing can take away.

Blessed Elisabeth understood how important this encounter with the Word of the Father is.  The fact that she would zero in on this passage suggests that something in Jesus's words to Saint Angela also resonated in her own life too.  In fact, when she copied these words in a personal letter to her prioress, Blessed Elisabeth was in the physical agony of her own final illness. What a blessing that today Saint Angela's beautiful witness to Christ's personal presence is recognized by the Universal Church.  Now, with Saint Angela and Blessed Elisabeth we can marvel at a love that is stronger than death.