“Jesus had to hit me on the head and make me suffer,” declared Mother Angelica when she appeared on the Journey Home, where she told viewers, “it was good for me that my dad left my mother when I was six.” Mother Angelica explained, without a trace of self-pity, that her own pain taught her that there are two options when we suffer, we can bury ourselves in the world or turn to God.
Born Rita Rizzo, Mother Angelica’s parents divorced when she was 6, and she was ostracised by the other kids because she was the only one from a broken home who had to subsist in grinding poverty. Not naturally academic, Mother Angelic had an incident with a teacher who spent an entire lesson lecturing the class about, “one person who could do so much better”. After the lesson the teacher said to the then Rita, “that person was you, what are you going to do about it?” Defiantly, young Rita shot back, “Nothing. I don’t like you.”
As a young woman, she tried to get into various religious orders, but was refused because she had done so badly in school. She said this “crushed” her, but she kept looking until she found an order that would take her.
Who would have thought that she would become the founder of the most successful Catholic television network of all time? Currently, EWTN is available to over 150 million households and broadcast in more than 140 countries and territories. Who would have thought that this young woman who was not from a “good” background, was rejected by her father, was not considered bright, and had never been popular, would go on to become the most beloved Catholic nun in the history of television? Catholics all over the world have a great affection for Mother Angelica. Her upbringing gave her a very tough skin and a rapier wit which she used to charm Morley Safer when she appeared on 60 Minutes.
Personally, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mother Angelica. I appeared on a TV show entitled Extraordinary Faith, and after the first episode was broadcast on EWTN, I came to the attention of John Carmichael who asked me to edit his memoir, Drunks and Monks.
Those of us who love Mother Angelica find it a source of sorrow to learn this week that Mother Angelica’s health is reportedly in decline. She has been fitted with a feeding tube and the statement said that she has “suffered a great deal” recently.
Whenever I have felt like a Catholic and pro-life untouchable, it has buoyed my spirits to think that we have a friend in Mother Angelica because she has continuously stood up for Catholic values in an uncompromising, unapologetic way.
I feel it my duty to offer Mother Angelica’s intentions in the Rosary and as often as possible at Mass. I suggest as many of us as possible offer a novena to St Clare, the patroness of television expressly for the intention that Mother Angelica is able to make the most of her time left on earth and that she gets the strength to do what she needs to preserve her legacy.
Readers who are joining the novena might consider posting the novena on their Facebook pages, as well as other social networking sites to encourage others to pray for Mother Angelica. It would be a fitting gift to this saintly, feisty nun to offer a bouquet of prayers as she may be approaching her last agony.