By Sister Carol Curtis, OSU
Pax et Bonum – Peace and Good. This Franciscan blessing expresses at once both praise for God’s goodness in creation and a prayer for God’s peace in all the earth. The beauty of Desenzano, Angela’s birthplace, manifests this goodness, with heaven’s peace reflected in serene Lake Garda. From her early years, the harmony of her natural surroundings and the warmth of her family circle seem to have instilled Angela with gentle reverence and inner balance. Prayerfulness was a way of life for her, as much a part of engaging with the world, as of recollection. In this, she had the example and companionship of Jesus Christ who lived in this world for love of us. [Rule 5:12] — for Angela, too, walked the world with love.
In her lifetime, Angela was considered a santa viva, a living saint and spiritual mother, a woman of interior prayer and gifted discernment. She encourages us to discover this contemplative stance, and to dispose ourselves for it with frequent vocal prayer through which the bodily senses are awakened… [Rule 5:7] One’s own voice quickens the senses to integral attentiveness, such that vocal prayer becomes incarnational. Such mindfulness attunes us to the inscape of creation itself, the dearest freshness deep down things, as Gerard Manley Hopkins poetically calls it [“God’s Grandeur”], and to the deep, life-giving spring of the Spirit welling up within us.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who walked this earth for love of us, Angela’s impetus to pilgrimage expressed the internal dynamism of her prayer. She walks with God, goes with God, and is drawn by God. In times of crisis, she calls us to a place of stillness, gathered at the feet of Jesus Christ. Yet, times of discernment set her in motion, in the sacred displacement of pilgrimage. Again and again, walking the pilgrim way— body and soul – clarified the path for her ministry and for the Company. Even the mysterious physical blindness on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land initialized Angela’s inner vision, compelling her to see the holy places with the eyes of her soul, and to see a christened world.
The cobblestones of daily life pave our pilgrimage together—prayer marks its cadence. As we travel, let us not be desensitized, not dulled to the pax et bonum creation sings. In all life’s varied seasons and movements, let us strive to live in harmony. Angela exhorts us to this integrity: whether walking in liturgical procession or in protest for social justice, in our neighborhood or in the forest, to walk kindly, humbly, peaceably, reverently—for we walk together with the Lover of us all. May it be so. In our beautiful and broken world, may we each, gifted and wounded and beloved of God, walk in love. [Eph 5:1-2]