St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline Sisters, was a leader and model for the people of her time and, hopefully, the values she lived are helpful for us today. I will share some thoughts on four of the most prominent.
First, we see a strong thread of respect for individuals. Angela tells us to “Love all your daughters equally; (Every time she speaks of her daughters you can substitute those with whom you come in contact.) do not have any preference for one rather than another because they are all children of God…So hold them in your love and bear with them equally.” Respecting the potential that is present within every individual sets a tone in all of our interactions with others, that says we care for you, we care for each and every one of you. We want to be treated with respect and so do all the people we come in contact with.
Her second value that was core to her very being was a deep spirituality with a particular focus on the contemplative aspect that should flow into every aspect of our lives. We must nurture the interior in order for our external actions to have meaning. What we do in our own image and likeness will never have lasting value. Only that which flows from our deep, intimate relationship with God will be of real value. Angela tells us that “… by prayer, we implore from God the true grace of the spiritual life; therefore, we must pray unceasingly with our minds and hearts because of the continual need we have of God’s help.”
Another value of Angela was her concern for women and the poor. Slightly more than half the human race is comprised of women. It is obvious from Angela’s life that women were of primary concern. Her company was founded to preserve and protect young women in a decadent society. It is a matter of justice and compassionate concern that women are treated equally and fairly in all situations. How do you promote the growth potential of women…from the youngest to the oldest?
Another value of Angela is the practice of compassionate leadership. Angela tells us in her own words, “…I beg you to take care of all your daughters, having each and every one engraved on your mind and heart, not only their names but also their situation and character and every detail about them. This will not be difficult for you if you enfold them with heartfelt charity.”
It was with this attitude of heartfelt charity that Angela was a compassionate and maternal leader, not only among her daughters of the company, but also in her relationships with the multitude of citizens of Brescia who sought her influence in their lives.
We are all called to be leaders in some way so every person in your lives should experience this attitude of love and concern. Every colleague in your professional life should experience this compassionate charity from you. Every person you meet in your social life should experience this loving atmosphere. Is this merely idealism? I don’t think so. I think all of us, with conscious effort, can be loving in most situations.
If every person in your life, beginning with yourself, focused on respect for individuals, provided an atmosphere of deep spirituality, especially the contemplative reality, were conscious of and advocates on behalf of the needs of women and the poor, and tried to model a compassionate leadership for those with whom you interact, the world around you could be changed for the better.
God knows, we have not always been successful at this in the past, but some heroic individuals have managed to live, model and teach these values to others. May all those to whom and with whom you come in contact say that their experience with you was personal, positive, loving and compassionate.
Which of Angela’s values do you find most challenging?
How and where can you make these values real and practical in your life?