The description of Ursuline Conference 2017 App
“LOVE IS STRONG AS DEATH; THE FLASH OF IT IS A FLASH OF FIRE, A FLAME OF THE LORD HIMSELF”
Song of Songs
Each time that Angela Merici visited the church of San Francesco in her hometown of Brescia, Italy, she would pause before the great masterpiece depicting St Ursula and her companions, virgins and martyrs, which hung in the church. It had been painted by Morello, a contemporary of Angela.
“Great St Ursula, pray for me that the Lord may show me what I must do for his love”
From the “Testament of St Angela”. This she would pray repeatedly.
When Angela founded her group of dedicated women in 1535, she chose Ursula for their patron saint – Ursula, a young woman whose love for God was stronger than death was placed by Angela before her sisters as a model and a challenge of unstinting and faithful service of God and his people. And so the “Company of St Ursula” later “The Ursulines” set out on their long pilgrimage of love through history.
Who was this young woman who so inspired Angela and whose name has been made so widely known throughout the world by thousands upon thousands of Ursulines, their collaborators and their pupils?
The full historical facts about Ursula have been lost in the mists of time and history. However, the legend of Princess Ursula and her eleven thousand companions, thought to be a product of popular devotion and lively imagination, contains a kernel of truth. Archaeologists and historians are satisfied that a group of virgins as far back as the third century were indeed martyred at Cologne, Germany, thus offering their radiant witness of faith in and love of Christ. A basilica was certainly built in their honour at an early date on the very spot where the church of St Ursula stands today.
According to the legend, Ursula, a beautiful Christian British princess, who was betrothed to a pagan Frankish prince, Aetherius, resolved to make a pilgrimage to Rome before her marriage. She arrived in Rome with her attendants where she met the Pope who decided to accompany her on part of her journey. Sailing down the Rhine, Ursula’s boats stopped at the city of Mainz where she was met by Aetherius who was forthwith baptised by the Bishop of Mainz. Arriving at Cologne, Ursula and her companions were killed by the Huns, a tribe of fierce warriors who had invaded that region.
In all the various forms of the legend, Ursula is said to have had an astonishing number of 11 000 virgin companions, all of whom where martyred with her. Historians now say that this number was probably due to an early misreading of a fifth century stone found in the church of St Ursula and inscribed in Latin with the words “eleven virgin martyrs”.
However, looking back from our standpoint at the beginning of the third millennium, it is not difficult to see in the “11 000 companions” the countless host of Ursuline sisters, their collaborators and the children they have educated who, down through the centuries since St Angela Merici founded her Company, have claimed St Ursula of Cologne as their model and helper.
St Ursula, protect our future.