Had our cherished Mother Angelica lived, she would have celebrated her 93rd birthday today. I put forward that a birthday present we could give Mother would be to do our best to use her life story and great achievements to counteract what St John Paul II called the culture of death.
This may seem lofty, and could remain just a nice thought, but I think we need not be afraid to discuss Mother Angelica when we are having pro-life discussions, and to help others who think it’s “for the best” if an unwanted unborn child meets their end in an abortion clinic.
For starters, we can retell the story of Mother’s humble beginnings to refute the dire predictions that we hear about “unwanted” children, namely that their being unwanted by one or both of their parents leaves them with emotional scars that keep them from achieving anything in life. The culture of death tars all “unwanted” kids with the same brush.
Mother Angelica’s father John, on finding out that his wife Mae was carrying his child, tore out Mae’s hair and was incandescent with anger. According to court records, he was physically and verbally abusive to her and they had severe financial constraints that caused them to fight constantly.
93 years ago, Mother Angelica’s mother Mae was having a very difficult labour, bringing the 12-pound baby Rita into the world. Mae never flinched from telling little Rita the gory details of her birth. After her parents split, Rita’s father reneged on giving them any financial support and Rita and her mother often had only scraps of bread and a bit of bologna for a meagre dinner.
Her mother learned the dry-cleaning business and the customers collected their clothes, promised to pay, but often did not. On seeing her ex-husband John date other women, Mae would become suicidal and would say to Rita that she wanted to die by her own hand. Mother Angelica later recalled that “when I came home from school, I never knew if I would find her dead or alive”.
Yes, Rita was from an extremely emotionally and materially deprived background, but she became Mother Angelica, the only woman to found and run her own TV network for over 20 years. For an “unwanted” child, that ain’t half bad. A child who had to cope all alone with a mother who had untreated mental health problems would establish a TV network that currently reaches 264 million homes worldwide.
Telling Mother Angelica’s story can edify and encourage our peers as to the fact that an “unwanted” child from a poor family can go onto great things.