By Sister Michele Morek
During Lent I have been sitting in church thinking about purple. The color purple. Not the book, “The Color Purple” (though that book is certainly worth thinking about!). I have always liked purple, though I’ll admit that when I taught eighth grade for one year, I was really surprised when one girl used lots of purple in every art work. This was a normal, healthy girl who said it was just her favorite color.
I reflected on how you can combine two very different colors, and get something completely new – a third reality from two other realities. Yellow and blue, green. Who knew? But given the present hot-potato political significance in the U.S. of blue and red – as in blue and red states – purple seemed of particular significance. I know – not an original thought – it’s already been used to describe the purple states that should have voted one way and did another.
I have been so disturbed by the discord today, that people are increasingly unable to even talk with each other, and it seemed to me that maybe what we need is more purple. Could we put the red and blue together and achieve a new reality? As a scientist I was always fascinated by reflecting that if you take an atom of sodium (a soft white metal that explodes on contact with water) and combine it with chlorine (a poisonous yellow gas), you get – table salt. The salt of the earth.
And that led me to thoughts of Angela and the milieu in which she lived. Brescia was always in middle of war and strife – with invasions by the Huns and Visigoths, claimed by the kingdom of Venice, occupied by the Romans and the French and later the Austrians, with the Italian city-states always battling with each other.
When Angela got to Brescia, she found herself in a very violent time, with warfare, neglect of human rights (especially that of women), with families and neighbors torn between competing loyalties to French, German, Spanish and Venetian causes. She found herself exercising a ministry of peace-making between warring families and cities. She must have had plenty to keep her busy. She reconciled neighbors and families, husbands and wives, heads of state, servants and masters.
How did she manage, this tiny little elderly lady? Her friend Antonio Gallo said she did it by first listening, then consoling, then counseling. And prayer, always prayer.
And that, my friends, is how you get a new reality when you combine two very different things. You take two people who are not speaking to each other, and make them into friends. We who follow Angela enjoy thinking about the “third way” she envisioned for her community – something in-between the lay vocation and traditional religious life of the time. Maybe something like the color purple! Or green. Or the salt of the earth.