St. Angela came from a wealthy family in Foligno, Italy, where her early life was given over to frivolity and pleasure seeking. She married a rich man and bore three sons. But her existence lacked a higher purpose. By the time she was thirty-seven, she found her life such a burden that she desperately prayed to St. Francis for some relief. The next day, while sitting in a church, she vowed to transform her life.
The opportunity for radical change came through tragic circumstances: the death of her entire family during an outbreak of plague. Yet, in her loss, Angela discerned the hand of God leading her to a life of penance and prayer. While standing before a crucifix she was moved, in a gesture reminiscent of Francis, to strip off all her fine clothing and to offer her life to Christ’s service. During a subsequent pilgrimage to Assisi she was overwhelmed by the love of God. After giving away all her property, she joined the Third Order of St. Francis and resolved the live on alms.
In time, Angela gathered around herself a family of Franciscan tertiaries, both men and women, for whom she served as spiritual mother. In her extensive writings, she described her intimacy with God and her vivid contemplation of Christ’s passion.
Her intense mystical experiences, however, did not distract her from concern for others. With her companions she nursed the sick and waited on the poor. “The world,” she said, “is great with God.”
One Holy Thursday she exhorted her companions, “Let us go and look for Christ our Lord. We will go to the hospital and perhaps among the sick and suffering we shall find Him.” She lead them beg for food, which they brought to the hospital: “And so we offered food to these poor sick people and then we washed the feet of the women and the men’s hands, as they lay lonely and forsaken on their wretched pallets…” Thus, she concluded, they had successfully fulfilled their quest to find Christ on that Holy Thursday.
Angela died on January 4, 1309. She was canonized by Pope Francis in 2013.