As we approach her feast on Friday, here’s a good story about St. Angela, foundress of the Ursulines. In the 1520s, Angela would have been in her 50s. People made pilgrimages out of devotion, not just for adventure, so when a long-time friend told Angela of his desire to visit Jerusalem (leaving from Italy), she wanted to go along. To visit the Holy Land, see the very places Jesus had walked and pray at Calvary seemed like a dream.
From the start, there were many obstacles: severe flooding in Venice, fear of invading Turks, pirates prowling on the seas. Yet, they were able to make the journey—by horseback, over dangerous waters, by barge, and by ship. Angela prayed them through it all. Arriving at the island of Crete, Angela realized she could not see–she was blind. They wanted her to return, but she refused. In the Holy Land, she had to be led from place to place. A fellow traveler remarked, however, that “having been led from one to the other of these very holy places of devotion, Angela had seen them always with the eyes of her soul, as if she had seen them with her bodily eyes.” On the way home, they faced violent storms and an ambush by a Turkish flotilla, but the pilgrim ship escaped. And Angela’s blindness disappeared; she now could see again!
I love the story, because we, pilgrims in this journey of life, often also feel blind. It’s hard to know the way to proceed, to recognize the sacred in what seems like chaos. Angela shows us how to live by the inner light of faith, to see with the eyes of the soul that God is present in our reality, and to trust we will be led safely through every storm.