The Catholic Defender: Blessed Angela Salawa
9 September 1881 - 12 March 1922 was a Polish woman who served in hospitals in World War I. Angela served Christ and Christ’s little ones with all her strength.
In 1913, she became a Secular Order Franciscan. During World War I, she worked in hospitals, tending prisoners of war without regard for their nationality.
She was born in 1881 to Bartłomiej Salawa and Ewa Bochenek. There were twelve children in her family, with Salawa being the eleventh.
Angela Salawa was born on September 9, 1881 in Siepraw. Angela was the youngest of nine brothers, and grew up undernourished, weak and sickly. In her late teens, she went to work as a servant for a family in Cracow. For almost twenty years, Angela was in domestic service.
Born in Siepraw, near Kraków, Poland, she was the 11th child of Bartlomiej and Ewa Salawa. In 1897, she moved to Kraków where her older sister Therese lived. Angela immediately began to gather together and instruct young women domestic workers. During World War I, she helped prisoners of war without regard for their nationality or religion. The writings of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross were a great comfort to her.
Salawa was baptized four days after her birth. The family was poor, and because she was weak and sickly, Salawa was not as able help with chores as much as her more physically robust siblings. She was an obedient child who tried to do her best to help her family. From an early age she felt Christ's call on her heart.
In 1506, while praying in the fields of Brudazzo, Angela had a vision in which she was told that she would found a society of virgins at Brescia. The citizens of Brescia came to regard her as a prophet and a saint.
She became a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and worked in hospitals throughout World War I.
At the age of 16, Salawa left home to work as a maid in Kraków. While there, she became caught up in worldly pursuits and her religious fervor waned. She was much affected by the death of her sister Teresa, who had appealed to Salawa to reconsider her worldly values. While dancing at a wedding reception, Salawa perceived Christ standing nearby, asking her how she could prefer dancing to following him. The experience was a turning-point in her life. She immediately went to a church to pray and became devoted to adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Salawa remained in Kraków, nursing soldiers. Her own health was deteriorating, but no one noticed her suffering. In 1916 her employer accused her of stealing, and she lost her employment. She was homeless, in pain and ill, but she was discharged from the hospital because she appeared to be well. Eventually she was alone in the world, living in a basement room, abandoned by family, friends and neighbors.
Angela gave great service in caring for soldiers wounded in World War I. After 1918, her health did not permit her to exercise her customary apostolate. Addressing herself to Christ, she wrote in her diary, “I want you to be adored as much as you were destroyed.” In another place, she wrote, “Lord, I live by your will. I shall die when you desire; save me because you can.”
Angela was found in the sacristy kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament next to the statue of St. Joseph. She was so engrossed in prayer she seemed to be in ecstasy. In obedience to her spiritual director, Aniela herself recounts this incident in her own diary.
She had asked and prayed to her Guardian Angel to render her invisible so as to remain the entire night in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Through the intercession of her Guardian Angel, God granted her request.
In 1917, Angela became ill. After five years of suffering, she died on March 12, 1922, in extreme poverty, but with a reputation for sanctity.
At her 1991 beatification in Kraków, Pope John Paul II said: “It is in this city that she worked, that she suffered and that her holiness came to maturity. While connected to the spirituality of Saint Francis, she showed an extraordinary responsiveness to the action of the Holy Spirit” (L’Osservatore Romano, volume 34, number 4, 1991).
Angela is often attributed with a cloak and ladder. She is the patron saint of sickness, disabled and physically challenged people, and those grieving the loss of parents.
She is the patron of Secular Franciscans, those with multiple sclerosis, and people with terminal illnesses.
Inspired by the love of Christ, she offered Him her virginity. She began an active apostolate for the many of the other women who sought employment in homes by encouraging them and helping them to live an authentic Christian life.
She often said: “I love my work because it enables me to endure suffering, work harder and pray often; other than that I have no other desire in the world.” She prays and honors the Virgin Mary with a daughter’s love.
The cause of beatification was introduced on 30 March 1981 which bestowed upon her the title of Servant of God.
The Positio - documentation on her life of heroic virtue - was forwarded to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1987 which resulted in Pope John Paul II's declaration of her heroic virtue on 23 October 1987. This granted her the title of Venerable.
In 1990 in Nowy Targ in Poland there was a young boy who suffered a severe brain injury. The intercession of Angela Salawa was asked to help the boy, and he made a full recovery. This was investigated and was later validated on 12 April 1991. John Paul II approved the miracle on 6 July 1991 and beatified her on 13 August 1991