JANUARY 27. ANGELA, for whom the sky opened
Patron saint of bodily ills, disabled people, handicapped people, illness, loss of parents, physically challenged people, sick people, and sickness
Lived 1474 to 1540
As a young child, Angela survived "the untimely death of her entire family." Her physical and "spiritual sister" passed before she was able to receive the last sacraments. Angela became a tertiary of Saint Francis and increased her mortifications in hopes it would hasten the repose of her sister's soul. Nothing eased the heartache Angela felt, her young heart bleeding out of fear, wondering where in the heavens her dead sister was. Like Saint Francis, she wished to own nothing, not even a bed. Most of her waking hours were spent in prayer. She sometimes ate only bread, water, and vegetables one time per week. Other times, holy Communion was her lone meal for days.
A CIRCLET OF MAIDENS AND ANGELS
One day during harvest, Angela experienced a life-changing vision while alone in the fields. The heavens opened, and angels and young women approached Angela: singing and surrounded in light. Her sister spoke, revealing that God wanted Angela to establish the Sisters of Ursuline: a company of consecrated virgins. Angela, who'd been praying to know her deceased sister's condition, was assured to find her in heaven.
By another account, she had a vision of maidens ascending to heaven on a ladder of light. An angel escorted each virgin up and down the ladder, playing golden harps and crowned in jewels. After a time, the music stopped and the Savior Himself called her by name to create a society of women.
A third account reports that Angela, while praying in seclusion, had a vision of a friend who'd recently died. Her friend prophesied that Angela would become a foundress.
The Ursuline Order was innovative because, rather than cutting themselves off from society in a cloister, they continued to live with their families and worked within the community. According to one academic, her order was an intentional community that allowed women to resist "marriage or the wall" (aka society's scripted roles) and live a "counter-cultural lifestyle."
While making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Angela was suddenly blinded. She opted to continue her pilgrimage, and visited shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she were sighted. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored in the same place it had been lost.