Ongoing Formation Session 1

Saint Angela’s Fifth Counsel

Opening prayer: O God, give me the courage to listen deeply and obey the counsels of the Holy Spirit who never fails to speak to us. We pray always in the name of Jesus. Amen

Leader: Our ongoing formation in 2020-21 will relate the words of Saint Angela’s Fifth Counsel to how each of us can more closely follow Jesus and the mission of the Ursuline Sisters. Angela’s Counsels were directed to the Colonelle – the women who would teach and guide the members of Angela’s Company. It is where Angela said, “tell them that now I am more alive than I was when they saw me in the flesh,” certainly her way of telling us that her words can still guide each of us today. So, let’s allow her to guide us.

Reader 1: “Please go often, as you have time and opportunity, especially on feast days, and visit your dear daughters and sisters, and greet them; see how they are, comfort them; encourage them to stand firm in the life begun.” – Saint Angela Merici

Reader 2: Although we think of Angela’s original company as living in close proximity, Brescia was a big city. Angela knew the importance of staying in touch with her daughters, of visiting them and letting them know they were important. She urged the leaders to see how the members were doing, to encourage them and give them the courage to continue on their journey with Christ.

Reader 3: In these days of quarantine, we all find it challenging to visit Sisters, Associates and loved ones. That doesn’t make it less important. We need to “check in” through whatever means are available – a phone call, an email, a Facebook message, a letter or postcard. It isn’t always obvious what so much isolation does to us, but we know we all benefit when someone reaches out to offer a greeting.

Leader: Discuss these questions that pertain to staying in touch with others.

  1. Describe an effort you made to reach out to someone this year. Was it difficult to do? Why or why not?
  2. Describe a time when someone reached out to you to offer comfort or encouragement. What affect did that have on you?

Reader 4: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” – John 14:27

Reader 5: “Abandon totally all love for this miserable and treacherous world, where there is never either rest or any true contentment, but only empty dreams, or bitter hardships, and every kind of misery and wretchedness. … That they should do honor to Jesus Christ. … That they should place their hope and love in God alone, and not in any living person.” – Saint Angela Merici

Reader 6: During Angela’s time, Brescia was a war-torn, bleak city without leadership. It’s no wonder she paints the world as such a wretched place of empty dreams. Perhaps you have had the same thoughts about our country today? Divisions over politics, race, sexual orientation and country of origin pervade our daily lives whether we seek them or not. The coronavirus robs us of companionship and loved ones. Angela calls us to focus less on finding our peace in the world and more on following how Jesus calls us to serve. Following Jesus brings us back to the good in the world.

Leader: Discuss these questions concerning putting our trust in Jesus, not the world.

  1. Have you faced a tough decision in which you were encouraged to take one path, but deep down felt that God had a different place for you? How did you make your decision?
  2. Do you have an example of someone who stays positive even when all around us there is disarray? How do you stay positive and follow Jesus these days?

Reader 7: “Tell them that they should want to be united and in concord together, all being of one will … for this is everything.” – Saint Angela Merici

Reader 8: “Concord” means an agreement in attitude and feelings between people – a harmony. In the same Counsel in which she spoke so harshly about the surrounding world, Angela expected her daughters to live their lives united in a common good. There is no reason to think it was easier in Angela’s time than it is today. Angela continues to hold us to a higher standard – be better than the pettiness and divisiveness of the world today. Jesus offers us all the guidance that we need.

Reader 9: “I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.” – John 14:30-31

Leader: Discuss these questions concerning living in harmony.

  1. Do you have an example of when you successfully united two factions? How were you able to succeed?
  2. At times people divide into differing “camps” because neither side feels listened to and heard. What are some ways we could become better at truly listening to others? How would that help us find “common ground?”

Closing prayer: O God, give me a listening heart that I may truly hear what the other has to say. May my actions, as well as my words, affirm the person who is speaking. May I never bring conflict but seek to spread peace as our mother, Saint Angela, directed. Amen