+ Mk 4: 26-34
He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
The New American Bible
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”. For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.
Angela Merici, or Angela de Merici (Italian: [ˈandʒela (de) meˈriːtʃi]; 21 March 1474 – 27 January 1540), was an Italian religious educator, who is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church. She founded the Company of St. Ursula in 1535 in Brescia, in which women dedicated their lives to the service of the Church through the education of girls. From this organization later sprang the monastic Order of Ursulines, whose nuns established places of prayer and learning throughout Europe and, later, worldwide, most notably in North America.
Merici was born in 1474 at Desenzano del Garda, a small town on the southwestern shore of Lake Garda in Lombardy. She and her older sister, Giana Maria, were left orphans when she was fifteen years old. They went to live with their uncle in the town of Salò. Young Angela was very distressed when her sister suddenly died without receiving the Last Rites of the Church and prayed that her sister’s soul rest in peace. It is said that in a vision she received a response that her sister was in heaven in the company of the saints. She joined the Third Order of St. Francis around that time. People began to notice Angela’s beauty and particularly to admire her hair. As she had promised herself to God, and wanted to avoid the worldly attention, she dyed her hair in soot.
Merici’s uncle died when she was twenty years old and she returned to her home in Desenzano, and lived with her brothers, on her own property, given to her in lieu of the dowry that would otherwise have been hers had she married. She later had another vision that revealed to her that she was to found an association of virgins who were to devote their lives to the religious training of young girls. This association was a success and she was invited to start another school in the neighboring city, Brescia.
According to legend, in 1524, while traveling to the Holy Land, Merici became suddenly blind when she was on the island of Crete. Despite this, she continued her journey to the Holy Land and was ostensibly cured of her blindness on her return, while praying before a crucifix, at the same place where she was struck with blindness a few weeks before. In 1525 she journeyed to Rome in order to gain the indulgences of the Jubilee Year then being celebrated. Pope Clement VII, who had heard of her virtue and success with her school, invited her to remain in Rome. Merici disliked notoriety, however, and soon returned to Brescia.
On 25 November 1535, Merici gathered with 12 young women who had joined in her work in a small house in Brescia near the Church of St Afra, where together they committed themselves in the founding of the Company of St Ursula, placed under the protection of the patroness of medieval universities. Her goal was to elevate family life through the Christian education of future wives and mothers. Four years later the group had grown to 28. Merici taught her companions to be consecrated to God and dedicated to the service of their neighbor, but to remain in the world, teaching the girls of their own neighborhood, and to practice a religious form of life in their own homes. The members wore no special habit and took no formal religious vows. Merici wrote a Rule of Life for the group, which specified the practice of celibacy, poverty and obedience in their own homes. The Ursulines opened orphanages and schools. On 18 March 1537, she was elected “Mother and Mistress” of the group. The Rule she had written was approved in 1544 by Pope Paul III.
When Merici died in Brescia on 27 January 1540, there were 24 communities of the Company of St. Ursula serving the Church through the region. Her body was clothed in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary and was interred in the Church of St. Afra.
The traditional view is that Merici believed that better Christian education was needed for girls and young women, to which end she dedicated her life. Querciolo Mazzonis argues that the Company of St. Ursula was not originally intended as a charitable group specifically focused on the education of poor girls, but that this direction developed after her death in 1540, sometime after it received formal recognition in 1546.