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St Angela of the Cross Guerrero
Foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross (entered heaven this day in 1932)
I can picture your disappointment. All these years you have had your sights fixed on the coveted prize: a Rhodes Scholarship. Whether or not you should have been coveting it is a question I’ll leave alone for the time being (it would depend on WHY you wanted it). And now you find out that you didn’t even make it past the first round of interviews.
I can see you there, nursing your double cappuccino at the campus coffee house, textbooks open on the table in front of you, your mind wandering far away in a melancholy frolic… To be completely honest, I empathize. I think we all know what disappointment feels like, and it ain’t pleasant. But it ain’t the end either, at least it shouldn’t be the end. Did you do everything you could to succeed? You did. Were you irresponsible or neglectful in any way? You weren’t. Ok. So you can be sure that if you didn’t win the scholarship, the reason is simple: God has something better in store for you. It’s a bittersweet lesson, I know, but one worth learning. Maybe the example of today’s saint can help you taste the sweet part more easily.
Angela was one of 14 children born to poor but pious parents. They were employed in a convent in Seville, Spain, and taught their children the value of hard work and prayer. (They used to set up a special altar to the Blessed Virgin in their house during the month of May, where they would pray the rosary together.)
Angela showed a deep and quick religious sensitivity even as a girl, though she had to start working in a cobbler’s shop at a very young age in order to help support the family. When she was old enough, she asked to enter the Discalced Carmelites. She was denied, then admitted, then sent home because of poor health. She recovered, and following the advice of her spiritual director began to put her love for Christ to work by serving the victims of a cholera epidemic in the area. But her desire to give herself totally to Christ persisted. She tried to enter another convent, the Daughters of Charity. She was admitted, but once again she fell ill and had to be sent back home – and back to the shoe shop.
Two times she had tried to offer herself wholly to the Lord, and two times her holy desires had been frustrated. Did she become discouraged? Did she give up? She persevered in prayer and in works of charity, trusting that what her spiritual director told her was true: God had a special plan for her, but he was waiting to tell her what it was.
When she turned 27 he told her. During prayer, Angela saw an empty cross standing directly in front of the one upon which Jesus was hanging. She understood immediately that God was asking her to hang from the empty cross, to be “poor with the poor in order to bring them to Christ.” So she took private vows, consecrating her life to Christ, living at home and spending her days serving those in need. Little by little, she began drawing up a rule of life, to give her consecration more structure, and she attracted other young women who felt called to follow the same path.
Finally, she founded a religious order, the Institute of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross. Mother Angela saw the sisters as “angels”, called to help and love the poor and sick, who otherwise would have been abandoned. By the time she died, 23 convents were up and running.
Get the picture? I know you always dreamed of being a Rhodes Scholar, just as St Angela always dreamed of being a Carmelite (though I have to admit, her dream, objectively speaking, was a much nobler one). Now you see that God may have other plans for you. Trust him, my talented young nephew, and seek his will; he created you, and he knows why.
Your devoted uncle,