SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

St Angela di Foligno and St Elisabeth of the Trinity

October 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Anthony Lilles, Mysticism, Saints and Blesseds

Saint Angela di Foligno and St. Elisabeth of the Trinity


One of the influences on the thought and spirituality of Saint Elisabeth of the Trinity was a Third Order Franciscan widow from the beginning of the 14th Century, Angela di Foligno. Pope Francis has just included this master of theology in the Calendar of the Saints and her feast will be January 4. Saint Angela's Instructions #34 contains a description of some of her last experiences and words. Drawing from a translation of this work, Saint Elisabeth quotes these tender words the dying Angela heard from the lips of Jesus, “It is “I” who come, and I bring you unknown joy… I will enter into the depths of your being.”

It seems that the Word incarnate spoke to her in this way just before He entered into her in a remarkably beautiful way. She describes that He touched her and embraced her whole being. Even as the disintegration of death was consuming her life, she was enveloped by the love of the Word spoken by the Father into humanity for her, personally, intimately, and truly.

For the Mystic of Foligno, the coming of the Word into her was also a very personal event – like the coming of a Bridegroom for his Bride. What a wondrous grace! Even in the face of death, the Word of the Father – the source of all meaning and purpose in creation – enters and embraces the life of the saint so that the meaninglessness of death is not the last word. Instead, at death, she witnesses to being raised into a love that will have no end. It is in this current of love that the Christian takes his stand – because this love gives a life that nothing can take away.

Saint Elisabeth understood how important this encounter with the Word of the Father is. The fact that she would zero in on this passage suggests that something in Jesus' words to Saint Angela also resonated in her own life too. In fact, when she copied these words in a personal letter to her prioress, Saint Elisabeth was in the physical agony of her own final illness. What a blessing that today Saint Angela's beautiful witness to Christ's personal presence is recognized by the Universal Church. Now, with Saint Angela and Saint Elisabeth, we can marvel at a love that is stronger than death.


This post originally appeared on Dr. Lilles' blog “Beginning to Pray” here. Used with permission. For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.


Art for this post on St Angela di Foligno and St Elisabeth of the Trinity: Angela of Foligno, XVIIth century print, PD-US copyright expired; Portrait visage d'Elisabeth de la Trinité [Face portrait of Elisabeth of the Trinity], Willuconquer, CC; both Wikimedia Commons.

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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology, St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor for Queen of Angels House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years, Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry, as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years and Associate Professor of Theology. He is a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Saint Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students, and contemplatives about the spiritual life. He collaborated with Dan Burke on the books "30 Days with Teresa of Avila" and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Therese of Lisieux. And, his book "Fire from Above" was published in 2016. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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