On Easter Sunday, March 27, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, known to the world as Mother Angelica, the foundress of the Catholic satellite TV/radio/Internet network EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) died at the age of 92, after long suffering with the aftereffects of strokes.
I’m a revert to the Catholic faith, meaning I fell away and then came back. To be clear, nothing bad happened to me. Nobody drove me out; nobody dragged me back. But a large part of why I came back was EWTN, its Franciscan friars (Francis was my confirmation saint, and he never lost his special place in my affections), its Masses, its shows (my favorite is still “The Journey Home,” featuring interviews with converts and reverts) and its orthodox teaching.
Between EWTN and a paperback copy of the 1992 Catechism, bought in a used-book store, I reasoned and read myself back into the Church.
But everything starts somewhere, and my journey with EWTN began with Mother Angelica. I was sitting at home in Saratoga Springs, New York, in the summer of 1993, flipping channels, when I landed on this.
I hadn’t been a practicing Catholic since I was a teenager, so I didn’t quite understand what she was talking about. What was World Youth Day? Why was Pope John Paul II in Denver? (Mind you, there was no Google back in the day.) What does she mean about a live Stations of the Cross?
Her fierceness, though, fascinated me. So, despite being confused, I hung in. I wound up watching the Eucharistic Adoration with now-Saint Pope John Paul II at Mile High Stadium, having no real idea what I was looking at. I could, though, see the fervor, ardor and love of the young people there. It was palpable and infectious, and when they all sunk to their knees in silence, all I knew is — I wanted to know more.
More than 10 years later, now living in L.A., I finished a Landings program for lapsed, now returning, Catholics, made my Confession and came home. Who knows if it would have happened if I hadn’t been flipping channels that day and landed on Mother Angelica?
And, to be honest, it wasn’t until 2006, while watching the coverage of the 25th anniversary of EWTN, that I realized the network was founded by this Poor Clare nun, on a shoestring, in the garage of her monastery in Alabama. A high-school graduate, she knew nothing about building a worldwide media empire, but bolstered by strong faith in Christ and His Church, she did the apparently impossible. When the secular world discusses great women pioneers in media, Mother Angelica is seldom mentioned.
She died loved by many, a source of irritation to some (including some in the Church hierarchy), largely unknown in the secular world — until now, when all the major news outlets are reporting her death, including People magazine — but a powerful force in the Christian world, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Mother Angelica was a lioness for the Faith. As she once observed, “Holiness is not for wimps.”
Image: EWTN screenshot