St. Angela of the Cross
Beatified: 5 November 1982 by Pope John Paul II
Canonized: 4 May 2003 by Pope John Paul II
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Born on 30 January 1846 in Seville, Spain. Her father worked as a cook in the convent of the Trinitarian Fathers, where her mother also worked in the laundry. They had 14 children, with only six reaching adulthood.
Angela was greatly influenced by the teaching and example of her pious parents, and was taught from an early age how to pray the Rosary. She could often be found in the parish church praying. In their home, a simple altar was erected in honour of the Virgin Mary during the month of May, where the family would recite the Rosary and give special honour to Our Lady.
Angela had little formal education, beginning work as a young girl. Her boss and teacher of shoe repair, Antonia Maldonado, was a holy woman; every day the employees prayed the Rosary together and read the lives of the saints. Canon José Torres Padilla of Seville was Antonia's spiritual director and had a reputation of "forming saints". Angela was 16 years old when she met Fr Torres and was put under his direction.
At the age of 19, Angela asked to enter the Discalced Carmelites in Santa Cruz but was refused admission because of her bad health. Instead, following the advice of Fr Torres, she began caring for destitute cholera patients, which was quickly spreading amongst the poor.
In 1868, Angela tried to enter the Daughters of Charity of Seville. Although her health was still frail, she was admitted. The sisters tried to improve her health and sent her to Cuenca and Valencia, but to no avail. She left the Daughters of Charity during the novitiate and returned home to continue working in the shoeshop.
On November 1, 1871, Angela made a private pledge to live the evangelical counsels, and in 1873 she received the call from God that would mark the beginning of her "new mission". 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".
Angela continued to work in the shoeshop, but under obedience to Fr Torres she dedicated her free time to writing a detailed spiritual diary that revealed the style and ideals of life she was being called to live. On August 2, 1875 three other women joined Angela, beginning community life together in a room they rented in Seville. From that day on, they began their visits and gave assistance to the poor, day and night.
These Sisters of the Company of the Cross, under the guidance of Angela, named "Mother Angela of the Cross", lived an authentically recluse contemplative life when they were not among the poor. Once they returned to their home, they dedicated themselves to prayer and silence, but were always ready when needed to go out and serve the poor and dying. Mother Angela saw the sisters as "angels", called to help and love the poor and sick in their homes who otherwise would have been abandoned.
While Mother Angela was alive, another 23 convents were established, with the sisters edifying everyone they served by their example of charity, poverty and humility. In fact, Mother Angela herself was known by all as "Mother of the Poor".
Mother Angela of the Cross died on 2 March 1932 in Seville.
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