Pope Benedict XVI said the penitential path of a little-known medieval mystic offers modern men and women a lesson on discovering the presence of God in their lives. He made the remarks at his general audience Oct. 13 in St. Peter's Square, where tens of thousands of pilgrims joined him on an unusually warm fall morning.
The pope spoke at length about Blessed Angela of Foligno, Italy, who experienced a conversion in the late 13th century. A worldly woman who looked down on those who observed strict poverty in religious life, she experienced a series of tragic events and suffering that changed her way of thinking, he said. After the deaths of her mother, her husband and her children, she sold all she had and joined the Third Order of St. Francis. The pope said her conversion began with a good confession and was aided by penance, humility and tribulations, as well as a fear of eternal punishment.
Part of her difficulty was that outsiders found her hard to understand, he said. But she persevered, and came to identify her own sufferings with those of Jesus -- a key phase of spiritual growth, he said. "The life of Blessed Angela began with a worldly life rather far from God," the pope said. "Today we're all in danger of living as if God does not exist, because he seems so distant from our daily lives." Her feast day is considered January 4.