Back in the 1930s when Mother Angelica was Rita Rizzo, her mother took her out of a convent school because the nuns belittled her. After a priest cajoled and persuaded little Rita’s mother to send her back to the convent school, the same nuns singled Rita out for more of the same.
At the Christmas party, they gave shiny new toys to all the other kids, but reserved a broken yo-yo for Rita. Raymond Arroyo’s biography quotes Mother Angelica as remembering that the toy “was old and scratched, had knots in it, you couldn’t use the thing.” When Rita grew up to become Mother Angelica she would always say that she hated “those nuns” and was clear that they could and should have told her that Jesus loved her.
Perhaps it is a miracle in itself that Rita became a nun: it shows amazing strength of character on the part of Mother Angelica that she did not let fear that she would might become like the nuns from her childhood crush her vocation.
I know that I wouldn’t have had the determination. When I was 14, a nun who was teaching me spent some a lot of class-time shouting at me, “you’re a liar”, after catching me doing my homework in class. I wanted to become a lapsed Catholic and it was only positive encounters with nicer nuns who changed my mind.
Mother Angelica became a champion of the same institution that had produced the sadists in black veils who bullied her. One of the most unstoppable nuns to have ever lived in my view, Mother was the only woman to found and run a TV network for 20 years.
The reason that “those nuns” never spoiled her vocation was the same reason she founded EWTN: Jesus chose her to be His bride and she was willing to do anything for Him. When she was a newly minted nun, she wrote a letter to her mother, addressing her as the mother-in-law of Jesus.
Her apostolate in Catholic media, even from the early recordings explaining God’s love for each person, was a bold endeavour to give the masses what the nuns of her childhood had not given her: the empowering knowledge of Jesus’s love for us.
Mother Angelica’s life and works prove that her love for Our Lord was genuine: this is precisely why she is an inspiration to Catholic women. Angelica alone shows that a Catholic woman driven by love of Jesus can achieve great things; even in our times when many young women like me are told that being successful and being a Catholic are incompatible.
Mother Angelica could be vociferous in defending Our Lord, like a hyper-defensive and devoted wife, she would not broke the slightest undermining of Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. Yes, she sparred with important men of the cloth, but she could never be accused of clericalism.
Mother Angelica saw her role as bride of Christ as infinitely more important than following the party line. When she was investigated by the Vatican, and sent male interrogators, she was asked who had given her permission for this or that. Going rogue, she was frank that she had acted on inspirations from Our Lord and that He had supplied her with permission.
Mother Angelica, I hope you are united with your Beloved as I write this. Remember us, please pray that we can be together in Heaven one fine day.
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