Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mother Angelica in Perspective

Mother Angelica in Perspective

Catholicism in USA -- The Catholic Church in the US lost the Poor Clare nun who changed the face of Catholicism around the world. Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), died on March 27, on Easter day of 2016 after struggling with a stroke. She was 92 years old. In 1981, Mother Angelica launched EWTN which today transmits 24-hour-a-day programs to some 264 million homes in 144 countries.

“Mother Angelica leaves behind a legacy of commitment to the New Evangelization that should inspire us all,” said Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus. “I was honored to be able to assist Mother Angelica in her EWTN work. She was fearless because she had God on her side,” Anderson added. “She saw what he needed her to do, and she did it! She transformed the world of Catholic broadcasting and brought the Gospel to far corners of our world.”

Early Life -- Born Rita Rizzo on April 20, 1923, few would have predicted that she would found the world’s largest religious media network. “My parents divorced when I was 6 years old and we moved from place to place, poor, hungry and barely surviving,” she said. The source of Mother’s vocation is traced to a healing in her stomach. Rhoda Wise, a miraculous healer, gave Rita a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. As a result, Rita was completely healed.

“That was the day I became aware of God’s love for me,” said Mother Angelica. “All I wanted to do then was to give myself to Jesus.” On August 15, 1944, at the age of 21, Rita entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Cleveland and took the name: Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation. “In 1946, I was chosen as one of the founding sisters of a new monastery [Sancta Clara] in Canton, Ohio. In the 1950s, my work was to scrub the floors in the monastery.”

A Promise to God --  “Unlike St. Thérèse, I used an electric scrubbing machine. The machine went out of control and I lost my footing on the soapy floor and was thrown against the wall, back first.” Two years later, the injury had worsened to the point Sister Mary Angelica could barely perform her duties. She was told there was a 50/50 chance she’d never walk again.  “I promise God if I walk again that I would build him a monastery in the South.

God kept his end, and through divine Providence, so did I.” On February 3, 1961, after various medical problems, Rome granted Sister Mary Angelica permission for the Alabama foundation, Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, Alabama. In 1969, she began recording spiritual talks on audio. To know more about Mother Angelica, we may read: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo, host of EWTN.

Media Apostolate  She recorded her first television programs years later — half-hour programs calledOur Hermitage. While utilizing a secular studio to produce programs for a Christian cable television network one day in 1978, Mother Angelica heard that the station owned by the studio planned to air a program she felt was blasphemous. In spite of her objection, the manager refused her request. As a result, she left his television station and started her own.

“That decision was the catalyst for EWTN,” said Arroyo. “It turned the garage into a television studio.” EWTN was launched on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, 1981. That garage became the first TV studio for EWTN’s global TV programming. The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, which began in Irondale, expanded in 1999 to a monastery at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.

Spiritual Legacy --  Mother Angelica was never fearful of failure, but only fearful of not following God’s will. The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, like EWTN, continues to draw thousands of visitors annually. She was always telling people, ‘Jesus loves you.’ Mother Angelica’s remarkable trust in divine Providence is evidenced by founding the network without counting the cost, as well as by how she prepared for her live television shows.

On an EWTN television special for her 90th birthday, Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa talked about Mother’s authenticity. “To me,” stated Father Pacwa, “one of the most important things about Mother Angelica is that what you saw on TV is what you knew off of the stage as well.“ The mass-media instrument she created has extended greatly her influence for the Gospel. All Catholics should thank God for Mother Angelica. She has been an inspiration to everyone.

Safeguarding the Church -- “Mother Angelica has two important legacies,” said Arroyo. “To the wider world, she’s the first woman in the history of broadcast to found and lead a network for over 20 years. And she was such a great support to Pope John Paul II and his successor,” added Arroyo. “Her active ministry ran parallel to Pope John Paul II’s, and she backed him when people undermined Church authority. She visibly normalized the truth of the faith.

On February 12, Pope Francis sent his greetings to Mother Angelica from aboard his papal plane to Cuba. “To Mother Angelica with my blessing, and I ask you to pray for me; I need it,” the Holy Father said. “God bless you, Mother Angelica.” Mother Angelica retired from leading EWTN in 2000. She suffered a stroke the following Christmas Eve. She then spent the last years of her life mostly without the capacity for speech, without weakening her effectiveness.

Retirement From Leadership -- “While she was unable to speak at length and sound off on the controversies of the day, what she did through prayer in her suffering was remarkable,” said Arroyo. “It’s certainly not our efforts that have kept EWTN on the air and allowed it to reach people in amazing ways. I attribute it all to the suffering of that one woman in Hanceville.” Mother Angelica’s life inspired people to join her in the work with dedication.  

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