1All quotations and references to Angela's writings are from the new critical edition: Ludget Thier, o.f.m. and Abele Calufetti, o.f.m., Il Libro della Beata Angela da Foligno (Grottoferrata-Rome, Editiones Collegii S. Bonaventuræ ad Claras Aquas, 1985). Translations of her writings as well as from other foreign texts are my own. See my recent Angela of Foligno: Complete Works, translated with an introduction by Paul Lachance, o.f.m., The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1993)
2 For an introduction and step-by-step commentary of Angela's writings, see my thesis: The Spiritual Journey of the Blessed Angela of Foligno according to the Memorial of Frater A. (Rome: Pontificium Athenaeum Antonianum, 1984).
3 During the seventh step, Angela's mother, her husband and sons all died one after the other. Their death, she reported, “was a great consolation.” Nonetheless, when she later recalled this moment, she was also to confess that it had caused her “great anguish.”
4 Jerome Poulenc, o.f.m., in his article “Saint Francois dans le vitrail de l'église supérieure de la basilique d'Assise,” in Archivum franciscanum historicum, 76 (1983): 701-713, describes this stained glass window which can be seen in the upper church of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi as follows: “Underneath the three angels of the bay on the left, the glorified Christ, sumptuously dressed, is represented standing on a pedestal. In front of him, St. Francis, about a third smaller than Christ, does not touch the ground and seems suspended in air. The Lord holds him closely to Himself by placing his left hand on his shoulder and by sustaining him with the other hand at the level of his right elbow. The founder of the Friars Minor is dressed in the habit of his Order, and carries a book and a small cross. The stigmata on his hands and feet are echoes of the wounds of the Passion of the Lord and emphasise the theme of his union to Christ and his sufferings. The spatial vertical correspondence between the crossed nimbus of Christ and the cross of Francis further visually accentuates this participation (p. 702). Poulenc finds the theological basis for this window in James of Milan's Stimulus amoris, a vade mecum of Franciscan mediæval piety. As a result, he interprets it as depicting the spiritual motherhood of Christ, a theme current at the time (p. 713).
5 Concerning his experience with the lepers, St. Francis wrote in his testament: “While I was in sin, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them, and I had mercy upon them. And when I left them, that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body; and afterward I lingered a little and left the world”; trans. Regis Armstrong, o.f.m. cap. and Ignatius Brady, O.F.M. in Francis and Clare, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), p. 128.
6 For example, “I saw a fullness, a brightness of which I felt myself so filled that I cannot tell you that I saw something with a bodily form, but He was as He is in heaven, namely of such an indescribable beauty that I do not know how to describe it to you except as the Beauty and the All Good.”
7 It is evident that what we have before us is a somewhat artificial construct. It seems that Arnaldo decided to insert the experiences in which Angela felt most abandoned by God in one step - the sixth - and to climax his effort by placing those in which she soared to the highest peaks of mystical union in the seventh step. According to the new critical edition, there are two redactions entailed in the final step, which further complicates the problem of determining precisely what is directly from Angela and what is theological elaboration by Arnaldo.
8 John of the Cross in his description of the dark night of the spirit (with references to Jonas, Job, Jeremiah, and the Psalms) uses an image quite similar to Angela's: “He [i.e., the one undergoing the dark night] resembles one who is imprisoned in a dark dungeon, bound hands and feet, and able neither to move nor see, nor feel any favour on heaven or earth”. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, II, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh, o.c.d. and Otilio Rodriguez, o.c.d., (Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), Chapter 7, p. 342.
9 See the words of Christ on the Cross: Mt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34. It would appear that in her identification with Christ's abandonment on the cross, Angela is an unknown forerunner of the Rhineland mystics. Von Balthasar summarises a thesis by G. Jouassard on this theme as follows: “The author shows that, since Origen two interpretations of Jesus' abandonment on the Cross predominate: Jesus' spiritual sadness because of sinners (not direct abandonment by the Father) and the suffering of the head in his ecclesial members. A relationship between the mystical experience of abandonment by God and the cry on the cross would only have been established by the Rhineland mystics”. Hans Urs Von Balthasar, PÃ¢ques: Le mystère, trans. R. Givord (Paris: Cerf, 1981), p. 119, n. 70, referring to G. Jouassard, L'abandon du Christ par son père durant sa passion d'après la tradition patristique et les docteurs du xiii siècle (Unpublished thesis, Fac. Cath. de Lyon, 1923). Aside from Angela, von Balthasar names the following as having experienced mystical abandonment: Bernard of Clairvaux, Mechtilde of Magdeburg, Suso, Tauler, Marguerite Ebner, Catherine of Siena, Hilton, Mary of the Valleys, Magdalene of Pazzi, Catherine of Lima, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Sales, Luther, Surin, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Theresa of Lisieux (Ibid, pp. 76-77).
10 Ibid., p. 76
11 In Instruction 2, Angela had dictated: “The soul can also be given a vision of the Uncreated. This vision deposits in the soul an uncreated love. In this uncreated love the soul cannot operate, it is without works, but love itself operates. ... When the soul has this vision of the Uncreated, it can do nothing because it is completely absorbed in this vision. ... Indeed, it is the Uncreated Himself who operates in the soul and inspires it to withdraw from all created things in order to be more united to Him.”
12 On the Franciscan thesis of the primacy of Christ, see Alan B. Wolter, o.f.m., “John Duns Scotus on the Primacy and Personality of Christ,” in Franciscan Christology, ed. Damian McElrath (St. Bonaventure, New York: 1980): pp. 130-182.
13 M.J. Ferré raises the hypothesis that Teresa of Avila was familiar with the writings of Angela, either through the writings of Francisco Ossuna, Bernardino of Laredo, and Alonso of Madrid, or through the Spanish translation which appeared in 1510 by order of Cardinal Ximenes. He even affirms: “It is morally certain that St. Angela was one of St. Teresa's teachers of divine love and that she is the one inspired her canticle with its well-known verse: 'I die because I do not die'”. La spiritualité de Ste. Angèle de Foligno (Paris, 1927), p. 61.
14 Cf. Marguerite Porete: “This soul, says love, swims in the sea of joy: that is, in the sea of delights, the stream of divine influence”. Translated from Il miroir des simples Ã¢mes di Margherita Porete, ed. by Romana Guarnieri in Archivo italiano per la storia della pietà, 4 (Rome: 1965) p. 541. Marguerite Porete was a French Beguine who, along with her work, was burned as a heretic in Paris, in 1310. See the translation by Ellen L. Babinsky, Marguerite Porete: The Mirror of Simple Souls, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1993).
15 For the scriptural background of the “measure of God's love” see Jn. 3:34; Rom. 12:3, Wis. 11:30. The theme is developed, among others, by the Pseudo-Dionysius, Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Bonaventure. Jacopone da Todi, Angela's twin soul, writes: “O love so far beyond imagining or telling! / Your very absence of a sense of measure / Makes Measure complain and lament: / Such love, she argues, is torment. / Measurelessness intervenes and restrains Measure, / Afraid that love might be smothered, / Stripped of its wildness, / And placed beyond the experience of man” Jacopone da Todi, trans. Serge and Elizabeth Hughes, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), pp. 244-245.
16 With this discovery of the “chamber” in her soul, Angela is in continuity with mystics of all ages who have tried to find some term to describe the deepest, the most inward part, the still point where God dwells in the soul. Bernard of Clairvaux, a “cubicle,”; Bonaventure, the “summit of the mind”; Catherine of Siena, the “interior home of the heart”; Eckhart, the “little castle”; Tauler, the “ground of the soul”; Francis de Sales,” the highest point of the soul”; Teresa of Avila, the “inner castle”; John of the Cross, the “substance or deepest centre of the soul.” For a thorough study of this theme, see Leonce Reypens, “Ame (structure d'après les mystiques)” in Dictionnaire de spiritualité, I (1937), cols. 433-467. According to Bonaventure what is highest (supremum) in the soul is likewise what is deepest (intimum). See 2 Sent., dist. 8 (Opera omnia, Quarachi, 1902) vol. 2, 226b.
17 Very rare are the mystics who claim to have attained a partial vision of the beatific state at the apex of their ascent. Dom Cuthbert Butler asserts that Angela's experience of it is “the most arresting one” to his acquaintance, Western Mysticism, 3d ed. (London: Constable, 1967), p. lxvi. Cf. Hadewijch: “And He [Christ] took me out of the spirit in that highest fruition of wonder beyond reason; there I had fruition of Him as I shall eternally” Hadewijch: The Complete Works, trans. and introd. by Mother Columba Hart, o.s.b. (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), p. 277.