“I talked to the Lord recently,” she confided in a hush, “and I said I would like to stay until the worst is over — for the Church, for the community.”
Raymond Arroyo, host and news director at EWTN and biographer of Mother Angelica, shares a conversation he had with Mother, the founder of EWTN, the worldwide Catholic media network, in June 2001.
Perhaps that’s why I was so stunned when she died last Easter Sunday. Right now can feel like the worst. And she leaves us now?
I actually had to squirm with some shame recently when I happened upon an old issue of Crisis magazine. I had written the cover story on Mother Angelica. It described her as a “media mogul.” Fine, true enough; she founded a media network. But that doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
“They could feel her faith and were warmed by it,” said Arroyo.
It’s a sentence that leaves my headline out in the cold. This is why God gave us the great gift of her. And this is why I miss her so. And I know I’m not alone.
Arroyo, who wrote her biography as a beautiful devotional, inviting readers deeper into her life of prayer, recently released the story of her final years in “Mother Angelica: Her Grand Silence” (Image, $23).
Not all that long after I interviewed her for that Crisis piece, Mother Angelica suffered a stroke on Christmas Eve in 2001, “precipitated by a cerebral hemorrhage” that nearly killed her, “depriving her of the speech that had built her broadcast empire.” Arroyo’s book, released this summer, is about those powerful years.
He writes: “Our society has a tendency to ignore or diminish the value of the infirm and the frail elderly. Their suffering and physical debilitations are reminders of our own mortality and the last act that awaits us all. But as the lives of [St.] Mother Teresa and St. Pope John Paul II teach us, the end can be the most efficacious part of life. It is a time of weakness and physical hardship, but it can also be one of spiritual union with God.”
Arroyo writes about “the last bittersweet years of a faithful woman who, in her grand silence and through great pain, transformed more lives and did more good than anyone could have imagined.”
Pope Francis talks so often about memory and grandparents.
Looking at the post-election scenes of protest and cry-ins on campuses, as well as some of the identity issues that have been leading the news in recent years, it’s so very clear we’ve lost any real sense of who we are as a people — individuals tied to family and community, as a nation, even as a Church.
I can’t help but think Mother Angelica went home to the Lord this year exactly when the Lord wanted her for himself, and to be our intercessor. I have no doubt her work isn’t through. And perhaps he inspired her to confide to Arroyo her prayer to God for exactly this moment. And to remind us that our greatest work may not be on TV giving our opinions and even teaching, but in prayer and suffering and intercession.
Also, perhaps, too, there’s a message about keeping our understanding of “the worst” in check and to always look to the cross.
“It’s the mystery of God,” Arroyo tells me. To “take a contemplative and turn her into an international television personality. That is who she became, but that was not who she was.”
She was detached from the things she built and created, knowing they were never hers but God’s.
“They will leave us, and we will leave them.”
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).