Blessed Angelo Paoli

In the next paragraph there is a brief overview of Angelo’s life, something which you can easily find online. But I urge you to stay with me because I would like to share with you a little insight into what I have discovered about Angelo’s spirituality and ministry. I would like to inspire you to follow his footsteps and to become the saint God calls you to be. 

Bl. Angelo Paoli was an Italian Carmelite priest who lived from 1642 to 1720. Angelo was a remarkable person who dedicated his life to helping others in need. He was born in a poor family and experienced many hardships and challenges. He did not let his circumstances define him, but rather used them as an opportunity to grow in faith and compassion. He served in various roles as a Carmelite Friar, such as novice-master, sacristan, organist, and director of a girls’ conservatory. He was known for his prayerful and austere life, as well as his charity towards the poor and the sick. 

Angelo moved to Rome in 1687 and spent the rest of his life there, visiting hospitals and establishing a convalescent home for the destitute. He was called “Father Charity” by the people of Rome and was praised by popes and cardinals for his work. He refused the offer of becoming a cardinal himself, preferring to remain humble and faithful to his vocation. He died on January 20, 1720, and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

So, what can we say about Angelo? From the testimony of those who knew him, Angelo was a simple friar who loved God and embraced the virtue of Christian poverty. He did not seek material wealth or comfort, but rather trusted in God’s care and guidance. He saw the world not as something to be renounced, but as a gift from God to be used for God’s glory. Angelo’s poverty was not a source of sadness or hardship, but as a joyful and hopeful attitude that reflected his faith in the Father’s love for all of creation.

Angelo shared the same insight as John of the Cross, Thereasa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux, who realized that loving God is not a matter of feeling, but a matter of choosing and committing to live in God’s presence. Through prayer, Angelo discovered the same deep truth that John of the Cross had discovered, that God’s love for us is beyond our understanding, incomprehensible, even scandalous. God’s love for us goes against our human logic of exchange and reciprocity. It challenges our pride, our self-reliance. It calls us to repentance, faith, and gratitude. God’s love invites us to live in a new way, a way of grace, a way of saying yes to God as God has said yes to us. 

No matter what we have done or failed to do, no matter how far we have fallen or how much we have rebelled, no matter how unworthy or guilty we feel, God says yes to us in Christ. He says yes to us by loving us with an everlasting love beyond all knowing. He says yes to us by giving us his Son. He says yes to us by sending us his Spirit the Comforter. As such God invites us to experience His love in every moment of our lives, to trust His love in every situation we face. God’s love is the greatest gift we can ever receive, and the greatest gift we can ever share. 

Angelo’s faith led him to a profound realization of God’s love, which transcends human understanding and embraces everyone without distinction. This love moved him to dedicate his life to serving the poor and marginalized, who are often neglected and forgotten by society. He saw in them the image of God and his own brothers and sisters. He believed that solidarity with the poor was more than just feeling sorry or understanding them. He saw it as a commitment to justice and action. Angelo was compassionate and empathetic towards the oppressed, exploited, and forgotten people of society and acted in love to defend them. He did this not only by providing them with their basic needs, but also by participating in their joys and sorrows, hopes and challenges, dreams and goals.

Angelo saw caring for the poor as a core part of being a Christian, not a choice rather a maxim of the Gospel. He believed that showing compassion to the poor was a way of living out God’s love in action, a way of imitating Jesus Christ, who came as a servant and not a master, who associated himself with the lowest of his brothers and sisters, who announced glad tidings to the poor and freedom to the oppressed. By standing with the poor and the outcast, Angelo was not only obeying God’s will, but also finding God’s presence in and among them.

Angelo’s secret was prayer. He prayed to align his heart with God’s heart and to understand God’s purposes and plans for his people. He knew that prayer was not only a way of asking for God’s help, but also a way of hearing God’s voice. Prayer was vital for his ministry, as it enabled him to discern God’s will and to cooperate with him in GOD’S work in the world. Prayer was also a source of strength, peace, and guidance for Angelo and for those he served.

As I shared in the introduction, As a novice at Aylesford I felt somewhat discouraged by the Carmelite saints who seemed to be cloistered nuns. Angelo Paoli taught me that we can always be loyal servants of the Lord – the one who came to serve – no matter where we are or what our situation is. We learn who we are meant to serve through prayer. This is how we connect with our contemplative cloistered nuns’ saints. As Angelo experienced and lived, we cannot do anything without the Lord. Our lives must be rooted in prayer first and foremost. 

Prayer is the way God communicate with us. It is the means we align ourselves with his purposes. Through prayer, we grow in our relationship with God and one another. In prayer, we discover more about God’s vision and mission for his people. It is through listening in prayer; we align ourselves with God’s values and priorities for our world. Prayer is the way we receive God’s guidance, wisdom, and strength for our lives and our ministry. When we pray, we seek God’s will and his ways for us. When we pray, we acknowledge our dependency on God’s Spirit, and we recognise the resources he has given to us to do his work.

To paraphrase St Paul through the spirituality of Angelo Paoli: lived prayer goes beyond mere words or thoughts. It is a lifestyle that demonstrates our faith and love for God in the service of others. Prayer in action is not lazy or resigned, but energetic and brave. It is not self-centred or uncaring, but kind and merciful. Lived prayer is not ignorant or gullible, but prudent and smart. It is not scared or shy but assured and daring. Prayer in action is a way of changing ourselves and the world around us. It is a way of imitating Christ, who prayed always and acted faithfully. It is a way of testifying to God’s reality in our midst. It is our way of honouring God and serving his kingdom. 

Paul Jenkins O.Carm

Weekly Reflections

Steps on the Journey - weekly Reflections from Carmel
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