Since Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation passed to Eternal Life on Easter Sunday, there has been an outpouring of prayers, thoughts, and reflections regarding the life and impact of this remarkable woman of God. The following is a snippet of my own “Mother Angelica story.”
This isn’t a story about Mother Angelica’s life, although hers is an incredible – and true – story of the miraculous movement of God working within a soul.
Neither is this a story about the many amazing things Mother said or did, although they were many.
This story is about how a determined religious sister with a big mouth helped change my life.
In 1997, I was entrenched in a life of mostly self-constructed misery. It was only by the grace of God that, during a family trip, I encountered the risen Lord in an unexpectedly powerful way. I wish I could report that, from that moment on, I renounced my sinful ways and ran with all my might toward the Cross! But God knows, like Mother Angelica, I’m what Italians call testa dura – hard-headed – and, unlike Mother, I hadn’t yet learned how to channel that stubborn tenacity into the single-minded desire to follow God’s will.
Two years later, I moved up North to make my way in the Big City. I ended up working for a small company where I was surrounded by vocal fundamentalist Protestants. Although I was still living a fairly worldly life and didn’t attend Mass with great gratitude or fervor, I nonetheless self-identified as Catholic amongst my colleagues and found myself at the receiving end of various pointed questions about the Church:
“Why do you worship Mary and the saints?”
“Why do you have to confess your sins to a man?”
“Does God want us to suffer?”
“What’s up with this whole Pope business?”
Right off the bat, I realized that I was a pretty poor representative of my so-called Catholic “faith.” Although I had begun to believe in my heart that the Church’s teachings were true, my poorly-catechized brain couldn’t formulate articulate explanations. My co-workers’ inquiries spurred some defensiveness, but also deep self-reflection. I frequently wondered, “What do I believe?” and perhaps more importantly, “Why do I believe it?” In an effort to answer these and other burning questions, I did what any self-respecting Catholic girl would do – I called my mom.
At first, Mom patiently responded to my questions about Church teaching with Scriptural and tradition-based references. After the third or fourth phone call, however, she asked me why I didn’t just look things up in the Catechism. Well, perhaps it was because I had no idea what a Catechism was.
After Mom explained that I could look up the Church’s teachings in a book, I was off to the races. Yet because God knew simply reading about the faith wasn’t going to be enough for my hard head, He also put a friend in my life who asked me to be her RCIA sponsor and we attended classes together for a couple of months until she moved away. In hindsight, I probably needed the instruction more than she! Around this same time of research and discovery, I found our local Catholic radio station, and this is where Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation enters the story.
Our Catholic radio station broadcasted daily episodes of Catholic Answers Live with its engaging question and answer format. It also aired Food For the Journey with Sr. Ann Shields, the rosary and other prayers, praise and worship music, and the daily Mass, with its catechetical homilies proclaimed by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the order Mother Angelica founded. I couldn’t get enough of the EWTN and other Catholic radio programming. My radio dial rarely moved. I was soaking up the faith through my car radio as I drove. And the more I learned, the more I understood. And the more I understood, the more I believed. The more I believed, the more I loved.
To be sure, many other things influenced my full reversion to the Catholic faith, but I have no doubt that the programming on our Catholic radio station, greatly influenced by EWTN, the network Mother Angelica founded, had a deeply profound and lasting impact on my spiritual growth. I pray that I will be able to give Mother Angelica a big hug in heaven someday to thank her for helping to change the course of my destiny. I realize, of course, that I will probably need to get in line behind everyone else whose life she’s touched, but I’m okay with waiting. I can still be pretty testa dura when I need to be.
Dear Mother Angelica, although I never met you, like so many people, I feel like I actually knew you through the blessing of your evangelical ministry. Your words and programming made me think, laugh, and cry. You helped me to understand, in a deeper way, God’s unparalleled love for me. You helped me understand my faith. You helped me realize that a loud-mouth like me can actually be holy. You helped me realize that suffering is a beautiful, redemptive practice. I am so very, very grateful to you for your “yes” to our Lord and His call upon your life.
May Mother Mary Angelica’s soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. +
How about you? Do you have a Mother Angelica story or thought? We would love to hear about it! Please feel free to comment, below.