On the evening of Easter Sunday, I tuned into EWTN to watch the Pope’s message. Shortly after it was over, it was announced that Mother Angelica had died. I was stunned to hear the news. Mother Angelica played a crucial role in my life. I am deeply indebted to her for teaching me to love Jesus Christ and his Church. Everything I am today, spiritually speaking, is in some way or another, a result of Mother’s cooperation with the grace of God.
Back in the early 1990s my family got cable, in large part because Mother Angelica’s network was on it. As an adolescent, I wasn’t all that interested in watching EWTN. My mother would always leave it on until it became like background noise, which caused me to complain that the electricity was being wasted. At the same time however, I took in bits and pieces of teachings, more than I would have cared to admit. Once, I heard Mother Angelica speak about the dangers of the occult and playing with Ouija boards. That Christmas, someone gave a Ouija board to my sister and me as a present. Due to my insistence, we threw it out that very evening—I remembered what Mother said.
Now that I that I reflect on it, my having muscular dystrophy and being in a wheelchair led to quite a bit of involuntary exposure to EWTN. During World Youth Day 1993, I watched and followed the Pope’s visit to Denver. I was impressed by Mother’s commentary highlighting obedience to the Vicar of Christ, and I remember the time she announced that her sisters would be going back to wearing traditional habits. She had guts for sure.
About a year before that, when I needed surgery on my spine and had to be hospitalized for the 1st time in my life, my parents wrote to Mother Angelica. She sent a letter along with a package of her mini books and assured us of her prayers. I never forgot her kindness to me.
In my teenage years, I became depressed because I didn’t really know how to deal with my physical disability. After school, I would watch my own shows and music videos, hogging up the TV in the living room in addition to the one in my bedroom. But suddenly, before 2000 I decided to watch EWTN and nothing else, as a Lenten penance! That literally changed my life. I learned much more than I had ever known. It was like I discovered the treasure in the field, and the pearl of great price that Jesus mentions in his parables. Pretty soon, my Catholic faith came alive and I was hooked on watching the network because I actually wanted to. From that point on, I looked forward to watching Mother Angelica Live every week.
Mother Angelica taught me so much about Jesus Christ, his Mother, and devotion to the Holy Eucharist. From listening to her, I learned that I could offer my suffering in union with the sufferings of Christ on the Cross on behalf and for the good of others. This teaching (which I’m sure Mother practiced til the end of her life) was reinforced when my family I went to Lourdes, where I received the grace of acceptance.
I really enjoyed watching Mother Angelica and I always looked forward to seeing her every week. She was so entertaining and engaging. I especially loved the humor with which she read the Gospels and added her own colorful dialogue. Her down-to-earth spontaneity and comedic timing made her a delight to listen to.
Before her stroke, my family and I had the tremendous blessing of meeting Mother in person. That was in the Great Jubilee Year 2000, the year we had gone to Lourdes. And it so happened, according to Divine Providence, to be on my birthday. It was one of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received. She gave a talk at the Basilica of the National Shrine here in Washington DC. Just as my family and I arrived, Mother Angelica and one of her sisters were making their way from the parking lot! We got to take a picture with her, which I still have. After her talk, which was a lot more fun than a standup comic’s routine, she redirected the applause to Jesus by pointing to him in the monstrance on the altar.
In 2001, Mother Angelica appeared on her show one night with her mouth contorted and wearing an eye patch. I was in awe over the fact that she had a stroke but decided to make at television appearance nevertheless.When she could no longer host her live program, I missed her greatly.
Her words touched me; they are indelibly etched on my heart and soul. Whenever I find myself worrying about the future, Mother Angelica’s quotes about trusting in Divine Providence and living in the present moment give me a sense of peace and hope. Sometimes I think about how God always came through for her, how she founded a television network with hardly any skill, knowledge, or money. She trusted in God, like Abraham (who Mother enjoyed teasing) or Our Lady, always willing to take another leap of faith. I love her definition of faith: “one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”
After reading Raymond Arroyo’s biography of Mother Angelica, I got a new appreciation of everything that Mother went through. If a movie is ever produced on her life, I hope and pray they stick to the script. I also bought Raymond’s other books on Mother’s prayer life––I bought one for one of my home health nurses, a Pentecostal who was fascinated by Mother Angelica.
There is a lot more that I could say about Mother, but for the sake of brevity I will conclude by saying that I will never forget Mother’s practical, childlike approach to holiness. As she reminds us, “We’re all called to be great saints. Don’t miss the opportunity.” A wise Franciscan priest once told me, “[Listen to Mother Angelica,] she will take you to heaven.”
Fittingly, Mother left this earth in the Jubilee Year of Mercy: EWTN personality, Father Charles Connor pointed out that just as Mother Teresa will be remembered for the corporal works of mercy, Mother Angelica will be remembered for the spiritual works of mercy. Thank you for everything Mother Angelica, especially for constantly reminding us that God loves us and you do too.