Blessed Angelina of Marsciano
Feast: 13 July (previously 21 July)
The Blessed Angelina of Marsciano, T.O.R., (or Angelina of Montegiove was an
Italian Religious Sister and foundress, and is a beata of the Roman Catholic
Church. She founded a congregation of Religious Sisters of the Franciscan Third
Order Regular, known today as the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Angelina. She is
generally credited with the founding of the Third Order Regular for women, as
her religious congregation marked the establishment of the first Franciscan
community of women living under the Rule of the Third Order Regular authorized
by Pope Nicholas V.
Unlike the Second Order of the Franciscan movement, the Poor Clare nuns, they
were not an enclosed religious order, but have been active in serving the poor
around them for much of their history.
In 1357, Angelina was born in her ancestral Castle of Montegiove, some 40
kilometers from Orvieto, in Umbria, then part of the Papal States. She was the
daughter of Jacopo Angioballi, the Count of Marsciano, and of Anna, the daughter
of the Count of Corbara, which is why sometimes she is also referred to as
Angelina of Corbara.
Left orphaned and alone, except for one sister, by the age of six, Angelina got
married at age 15 to Giovanni da Terni, the Count of Civitella del Tronto, in
the Abruzzo region, within the Kingdom of Naples, but he died only two years
later, leaving her a childless widow. His death left Angelina in charge of his
castle and estate.
It was then that Angelina made the decision to dedicate her life to God (it
would appear that she had considered being a nun before she was married). She
was clothed as a Franciscan tertiary and, with several companions, began an
apostolic mission around the countryside of the kingdom, preaching the values of
repentance and virginity, as well as service to those in need.
Angelina's progress was arrested by the disturbance she caused in the
communities where she called for young women to adopt religious life. She was
doubly charged with sorcery, the imagined origin of her sway over women, and
heresy, because of her allegedly Manichean opposition to marriage. Angelina
defended herself before Ladislas, the King of Naples, who dismissed the charges,
but expelled her and her companions from the kingdom, in order to avoid further
Angelina then went to Assisi, where she stopped to rest and to pray at the
Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the cradle of the Franciscan Order. There
she experienced a vision, wherein God instructed her to found a cloistered
monastery under the Rule of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Foligno. The
local bishop approved the plans with little hesitation, as they meant an end to
her troublesome active ministry.
Angelina settled in Foligno about 1394. She soon joined the Monastery of St.
Anna, a small community of women Franciscan tertiaries, which had been founed in
1388 by the Blessed Paoluccio Trinci, (died 1390) a Franciscan friar who had
been related to her sister through marriage. Known as the "Monastery of the
Countesses"—due to the social standing of most of its members, he had
established it out of his vision of having these noble women of the city serve
as an evangelizing force in their society. The women lived ascetic lives in the
monastery, and, not being nuns, followed a very informal structure, free to come
and go as they wished, that they might be able to serve the poor and sick of the
Angelina took a leadership role in the small group and began to organize their
lives into a more regular form. By 1397 she was considered the leader of the
twelve founding members. In 1403 she was able to obtain a papal bull from Pope
Boniface IX which formally recognized the status of the house as a monastery.
The reputation of the community in Foligno was so successful that quickly
communities of Franciscan tertiary women (called bizocche locally) throughout
the region sought to affiliate with them. Communities under her authority were
soon established in Florence, Spoleto, Assisi, and Viterbo, along with eleven
others, before Angelina's death in 1435.
The diverse communities were recognized as a congregation by Pope Martin V in
1428. This decree also allowed them to elect a Minister General (a title since
reserved for the head of the friars) who would have the right of canonical
visitation of the other communities. The congregation held its first general
elections in 1430, in which Angela was elected their first Minister General. In
this office, she developed the Statutes for the congregation, to be followed by
all its houses.
This degree of independence was not welcomed by the Friars Minor, who had been
granted complete authority over the tertiaries that same year. The Minister
General of the friars, Guglielmo da Casala, demanded that the Third Order
Sisters of the congregation be confirmed under obedience to him. Angelina had to
submit and, in a public ceremony held in the friars' church in Foligno on 5
November 1430, vowed obedience to the local Minister Provincial.
This act of obedience, however, was repudiated by the chapter of the community
at Santa Anna, saying that it was invalid due to having been forced under duress
and without their approval. The Holy See confirmed their autonomy the following
year. To avoid the potential for future repetition of this conflict, the
congregation put themselves under the obedience of their local bishops, with
their spiritual direction to come from the friars of the Third Order Regular of
St. Francis of Penance.
Legacy and veneration
Blessed Angelina was interred in the Church of St. Francis in Foligno upon her
death. Her remains were removed to a grander shrine in 1492. Her cultus was finally approved
Due to the requirement of keeping their communities small and simple, Angelina's
congregation gained greatest popularity in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1428,
they had been put briefly by Pope Martin V under the jurisdiction of the Friars
Minor, with a specific mandate for the education and instruction of young girls.
Even so, their work was fairly apostolic until they were required to become an
enclosed religious order in 1617, having taken solemn vows with a strict
separation from the affairs of the external world, limited to the education of
girls within the cloister. With a 1903 lift of papal enclosure, a wider
apostolate was again permitted, and the congregation became known as the
Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Angelina. As of 1750, they consisted of 11 houses
and 80 members.
As of the year A.D. 2000, they have houses in Brazil, Madagascar and
Switzerland, as well as in Italy.
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