Yesterday we celebrated the life of Sr. Mary Patrick Levis, a wonderful faithful daughter of St. Angela who went home to God on Sunday. There were so many wonderful words spoken about her and it was a truly joyful celebration of a life well lived.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ursula for who the Ursuline Community was named. The story of St. Ursula is a legend and provides a portrait of a young girls love for God.
St Ursula was the daughter of a 5th Century Christian King in Britain. She was a beautiful, intelligent, outgoing and friendly girl. Ursula was a spiritual girl and at an early age had dedicated herself to God and had decided to remain a virgin because of her love of Christ.
At that time young girls did not choose their own husbands, their parents decided whom they would marry. A powerful pagan king requested of Ursula's father that she would marry his son Ethereus. Ursula, inspired by God agreed to the marriage but only on certain conditions. Each king should put at her disposal ten girls.
Each girl was to be accompanied by another thousand girls. The kings were to provide ships for a journey. Ursula was to be granted three years to dedicate herself to God. The young prince was to receive Christian instruction for baptism.
Ursula actually thought the proposal would be withdrawn on these conditions - but no, the king agreed and Ursula's demands were carried out immediately.
They moved on to Rome and Pope Cyriacus was delighted to see them since he himself came from Britain and he had many relations among Ursula's travelling companions. That night an angel told the Pope that he too along with Ursula and her companions would gain the crown of martyrdom. In the next few days Pope Cyriacus asked to join Ursula's group. He put another Pope in his place called Ametos. Pope Cyriacus, Ursula and her companions set out to return to Cologne.
The Huns were afraid that Christianity would become popular and that many people would become Christians. They gathered an army and plotted to kill Ursula and all her companions on their arrival back in Cologne.
When Ursula and her companions arrived in Cologne they met the Huns who were only interested in women for pleasure. Ursula and her young girls resisted this violation. Julius, leader of the Huns, instructed his army to kill them all, including Etherius and the ex-pope Cyriacus. Julius decided not to kill Ursula as he thought she was so beautiful he wanted to marry her. Ursula firmly refused his proposal because she wanted to keep the promise she had made to God to remain a virgin. Julius was so enraged he threw an arrow towards her, which pierced her heart and killed her. And so Ursula and her companions were martyred in Cologne.
Angela Merici founded the Ursulines in 1535 in Italy. At that time the story of Ursula was very popular and people would have heard it and prayed to Ursula. Angela was calling young women to live a life of virginity and to be of service to others. She choose Ursula as a role model for herself and her companions and so still today we are known as Ursulines. Just as God called Angela and her companions he still invites women of today to say yes to the call to dedicate their lives to Him in the spirit of St. Angela Merici.
Happy feast of St. Ursula to all!