Mankind at Risk of Living Without God, Says Pope

Offers Medieval Mystic as Guide to Growing Closer to Him

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2010 ( In a world where mankind is in peril of living «as if God did not exist,» Benedict XVI is offering medieval mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno as a guide on how to grow closer to him.

The Pope spoke today of the 13th century mystic during his weekly general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square, where he lamented that «we are all in danger of living as if God did not exist.»

«He seems too far away from today’s life,» the Pontiff continued. «But God has a thousand ways, for each one, of making himself present in the soul, of showing that he exists and that he knows and loves me.»
«Blessed Angela,» he said, «began with a worldly existence, quite far from God. But then the encounter with the figure of St. Francis and, finally, the encounter with Christ Crucified awakened the soul by the presence of God, by the fact that only with God does life become true life, because it becomes, in the sorrow for sin, love and joy. And thus Blessed Angela speaks to us.»

The Holy Father reflected at length on her life, her conversion, and her writings, through which she seeks to make one «attentive to these signs with which the Lord touches our soul, attentive to the presence of God, to thus learn the way with God and to God, in communion with Christ crucified.»
Blessed Angela was born to a wealthy family in 1248 in Foligno, and at age 20 she married and began to have several children. Her life was very «carefree,» but after several tragic events, and a vision of St. Francis of Assisi, Angela began to take steps toward conversion.

In 1285, she made a general confession, and three years later a final tragedy — the deaths of her mother, her husband and all her children — pushed her to sell everything she owned and join the Third Order of St. Francis. She died in 1309.


Benedict XVI recounted some of the «‘steps’ of the rich spiritual path of our blessed,» as documented in «Il Libro della beata Angela da Foligno» (The Book of Blessed Angela of Foligno). The first step was the «knowledge of sin,» which led Angela to weep for her sins and fear hell.

«Angela feels she must give God something in reparation for her sins,» the Holy Father continued, «but understands slowly that she has nothing to give him, in fact, of her ‘being nothing’ before him; she understands that it will not be her will that will give her love of God, because it can only give her ‘nothingness,’ ‘non-love.'»

The Pontiff explained that even after her fervent efforts at prayer and conversion, «Angela’s heart always bore the wound of sin; even after a well made confession, she found herself forgiven and still prostrated by sin, free and conditioned by the past, absolved but in need of penance. And even the thought of hell accompanied her because the more the soul progresses on the way of Christian perfection, all the more it will be convinced not only of being ‘unworthy’ but of deserving hell.»
The Pope continued: «Angela understood profoundly the central reality: What would save her from her ‘unworthiness’ and from ‘deserving hell’ will not be her ‘union with God’ and her possessing the ‘truth,’ but Jesus crucified, ‘his crucifixion for me,’ his love. […]

«Precisely because of this she contemplated by preference the crucified Christ, because in this vision she saw realized the perfect balance: On the cross is the man-God, in a supreme act of suffering, which is a supreme act of love.»

Benedict XVI said Angela’s conversion, which began with confession in 1285, «came to maturity only when God’s forgiveness appeared to her soul as the free gift of love of the Father, source of love.»
Secret of success

«In Angela’s spiritual itinerary the passage from conversion to mystical experience, from what can be expressed to the inexpressible, happens through the crucifix, and the ‘suffering God-man,’ who becomes her ‘teacher of perfection,'» the Pontiff said. «Hence, all her mystical experience tends to a perfect ‘likeness’ with him, through ever more profound and radical purifications and transformations.

«In such a stupendous enterprise Angela puts her whole self, soul and body, without sparing herself penances and tribulations from the beginning to the end, desiring to die with all the pains suffered by the God-man crucified to be transformed totally in him.»
And the «secret» of Blessed Angela, which carried her from «conversion to mystical union with Christ crucified, to the inexpressible,» is prayer, the Pontiff affirmed.

He quoted the blessed: «The more you pray, the more you will be illumined; the more you are illumined, the more profoundly and intensely you will see the Supreme Good, the supremely good Being; the more profoundly and intensely you see him, the more you will love him; the more you love him, the more he will delight you; and the more he delights you, the more you will understand him and become capable of understanding him. You will arrive successively to the fullness of light, because you will understand that you cannot understand.»
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