The Counsels of St Angela Merici were addressed to the leaders of the Company, that is those who had responsibility for encouraging the members of the Company in the life they had undertaken. The writings of St Angela Merici are imbued with Scripture. Her whole style of writing echoes the Letters of the New Testament and her spirituality and teaching is firmly grounded in the Gospels. If not directly echoing Scripture, the resonance of thought will immediately call to mind scriptural passages that unfold her teaching. We begin with the Prologue to her Counsels.
Prologue: Know who it is that you serve
First Counsel: Humility and Service
Scripture: Phil.2:1-11, Rom.12:3-10, Jn.13:12-17, 1Pet.5:6, James 4:10, LK.14:11, Lk.17:9-10, Lk.18:14, Mt.23:10-12
One cannot read the First Counsel without also reading Phil.2:1-11. The First Counsel is a re-iteration of the humble service, and service done in love, that stands at the heart of this scripture.
Second Counsel: Gentleness and Compassion
Scripture: Mt 11:29, Titus 3:2, James 3:17, 2 Tim.2:24, Col.3:12-15, Rom. 12:15, 1 Th.5:14-18.
Having encouraged the leaders of the Company of St Ursula to know who it is that they serve in the Prologue and then to be humble in their leadership, St Angela now adds compassion as essential so that their leadership will be marked by gentleness and kindness. She begins:
Third Counsel: Obedience and Authority
Scripture: Phil.2:2-5; Eph.6:1-9; Heb.13:17; 1Th.5:12-13; Rom.13:1-2; Mt.5:46-48; Mt.8:8-9; Mt.18:20; Jn.4:50; Jn.5:30; Jn.6:38; Jn.14:26; Jn.19:10-11
In this Counsel, Angela addresses the place of obedience and the nature of authority. These Counsels are addressed to the Colonelli, that is the "spiritual" leaders of the Company of St Ursula. Another group of writings are addressed to the "Principal Mothers". Part of their responsibility was to attend to the material needs of the members of the Company. Within these relationships, no one was exempt from the demands of obedience, for the free response of obedience is critical in overcoming the blindness of self-will. Angela begins