The spiritual journey of Angela Caterina Borgia in the Roman monastery of "Santa Lucia in Selci"


An article written by Rigel Langella on the occasion of the presentation of the Biography of the Servant of God (my own translation)

The experience of Sister Angela Caterina Borgia, in her impervious journey towards Christian perfection, was revived within the walls of the same convent where she lived in the mid-eighteenth century, that is "Santa Lucia in Selci", a historical and architectural jewel in the heart of Rome.

Thanks to the sensitivity of the superior, Mother Sofia, and the sisters of the community, the story of "Angeluccia" could be known after almost three centuries. In fact, the biography of her short intense life was published by "Velar" publishing house, with the title "Suor Angela Caterina Borgia. Mistica agostiniana nella Roma del '700" (Sister Angela Caterina Borgia: an Augustinian Mystic in Rome in the eighteenth century).

The presentation of the biography took place with the presence of the author, Daniele Bolognini. This book is the result of careful archival research and it removes the veil of the unjust oblivion in which the figure of the Servant of God Angela Caterina had fallen. The writer examined carefully  over a thousand pages about the canonical process, which was opened at her death in the concept of holiness in 1743.

Father Josef Sciberras, general postulator of the Order of St. Augustine, began the conference, as "master of the house".  He told to the large and attentive audience, about some other figures of holiness in the Order. Also those Augustinians lived in the eighteenth century, which appears as a "difficult" and not fertile century for the Order. Those other Servants of God represented an example for many confreres and sisters, but also for the Christians of their generation and those to come, thanks to their gift of Grace.

In particular they are:

  1. Ange Le Proust, a French Augustinian nun;
  2. Catalina Maura of St. Thomas, a Spanish Augustinian nun;
  3. Tommaso Antonio Arbuatti, an Italian Augustinian monk from the province of Piceno.

Also those three Servants of God belong to the Order of St. Augustine and they were all inspired by the figure of St. Thomas of Villanova, and their canonical processes were opened, at about the same time as Sister Angela Caterina Borgia.

The presentation of the text was held by prof. Claudio Canonici, dean of the High Institute of Religious Sciences "Alberto Trocchi" in Civita Castellana. The expert speaker, with great competence of the subject, has outlined the historical, social, cultural and spiritual framework in which Angela Caterina grew up.

The family context has not been neglected. The speaker mentioned her brothers Alessandro, archbishop of Fermo, and Fabrizio, bishop of Ferentino. At the death of his sister Angela Caterina, Alessandro worked so hard in order to open the canonical process, as can be seen from the papers studied with passion and accuracy by Daniele Bolognini. That noble family from Velletri gave many sons and daughters to the Church. However the most famous exponent of them is certainly the Cardinal Stefano, prefect of Propaganda Fide, a humanist of international fame.

This famous character has likewise fallen into oblivion for centuries, due to a strange twist of fate. However, in recent times, the CISB (International Centre of Studies about the Borgias) has proposed to know the figure and the work of this man. The Centre started this work with the publication of unpublished archival documents about that "man with new ideas", as he was defined by J. Metzler, who considered him as a precursor of the second Vatican Council.

This branch of the Borgia family is probably not related to the Roderic Llançol de Borja, who was pope Alexander VI.

The scholar and historian of the Church has talked about the institution of so-called "family monasteries" where the cadets of noble families used to become nuns, according to a certain law of the majority.

The ancient Augustinian monastery of St. Lucy extended on a much wider surface than the current one, but was expropriated at the time of the suppression of the religious Orders, after the Unification of Italy.

Beside Sister Angela Caterina, we find in the same monastery her sister Constance, who was superior, and her granddaughter, who took the same religious name of her. The Prof. Claudio Canonici emphasized the salient stages of her life, her fraternal service, her constant attention to the poor, her the emblematic history, the last period of her life, when she experienced the spiritual stigmatization in the Sequela Christi (discipleship of Christ), a path towards union with the crucified Christ.

After Angela's death, her family obtained from the Vicar of Rome to make a posthumous portrait and also to perform the autopsy. A detailed report about it is kept in the archives and it is an essential part of the aforementioned canonical process, which subsequently came to a halt due to the adverse historical conditions, which were the consequences of the French Revolution and the occupation of Rome by Napoleon's armies at the end of the century.

The author explained the genesis of the book, which was born almost "by chance", even if nothing really comes "by chance". In fact, while he was trying to gather some information about the monastery of St. Lucy in Selci, he saw that the oral memory about the sanctity of Sister Angela Caterina had been handed down, but there was neither a biography nor written autographs. In fact, her memory it is still preserved in the Monastery, thanks to the veneration that the nuns have handed down orally for centuries, from generation to generation.

In particular, we can find there:

  1. the tomb of the Servant of God is placed in the sacristy and the light of a candle burns perennially on it.
  2. her oil portrait, executed posthumously by the artist Domenico Giovanni Sorbi, which is placed in the choir.
  3. the so-called "cave", which is a secluded little room beside the choir, where the mystic used to retire to pray and meditate.

This biography is only the first step of a path and it is a way to re-weave some threads of history that were traumatically broken.

The reopening of the canonical process is wished by everyone but it is not simple. This high example of holiness must be recovered and re-proposed also to the generations of the third millennium. This is the task that the sisters intend to take with joy and enthusiasm. The feel supported by the unexpected interest  that this little-great story has been able to raise in the hearts and minds of many people, because the Search for God is not a matter of yesterday, but of today and ever.

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