Thought regarding Merician spirituality grew from the historical soil of the sixteenth century, where Angela Merici (1474-1540) found nourishment for her spiritual experience. It was a time marked by the spread of spiritual movements for the reform of the Church and the birth of new religious institutes, brought about by lay people and clergymen in search of a new way of perfection for their time.
From girlhood, Angela was aware of being called by God to an “undertaking of such importance that there could be no greater”, but for forty years she would wonder about what God wanted her to do, until the foundation of the Company in 1535, a few years before her death. Starting from Angela’s “choice”, the thinking portrays the “new way”, that is, the particular features of Merician spirituality: awareness of changes in women’s consecrated life, in need of reforms and new suggestions more suitable to women’s dignity; love for “Mother Church”, threatened by worldliness but, in spite of that, a sacrament of salvation established by God; and, above all, the Christological dimension which expresses itself in following Christ and his Gospel in a radical way “sine glossa”. The model of the “new life” is the first Christian community, outlined in the Acts of the Apostles (2:42-44; 4:32) and compared with Angela’s life and her teachings in the Rule, the Counsels and the Testament.
Moreover, other innovative aspects of Merician spirituality are noted: the new way of living the evangelical counsels and of governing a spiritual family. Angela gives a brilliant and prophetic answer to the need for enhancing the freedom and the personal responsibility of women called to live their consecration in the world. One does not need many rules in the quest of evangelical perfection: the fundamental elements are docility to the Holy Spirit and care for one’s own interiority, so that, out of simple grace, one may correspond more and more to Christ “Spouse and Lover”, awaiting for the “joyful new Day in Heaven, that blessed eternal triumph”. Outlining the government of the Company, Angela provides abundant teachings for those who fill the role of “mothers” at different levels: the government is “spiritual”, it is a mark of God’s love for his children, it is a gift and a service, it is a form of motherhood which expresses itself in many and various daily relationships.
This analysis of Merician spirituality ends with a reference to a painting by Françoise Gilot, Custodians of the Door. Angela, too, has been a custodian of life, of women’s dignity and of the evangelical values which have the strength to renew the Church and the world in any time.