Rodriguez: Remembering Mother Angelica
“Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not negotiable, sweetheart. It’s a requirement.”
How is that for feisty faith? For spirituality with spunk?
These are the words of Mother Angelica, as she was known by millions of people across the globe, the trademark personality of EWTN, the largest religious media organization on the planet according to Raymond Arroyo, news director for EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network).
I was heart-struck when I heard Mother Angelica, 92, died. I believe Mother Angelica’s passing away on Easter Sunday was a testament to the life of faith she lived, bringing millions of people closer to God through the 24-hour television network she founded with only $200 in 1981 in the garage of an Alabama monastery. Today, EWTN is broadcast to more than 100 million homes in the United States, South America, Africa and Europe.
For me, Mother Angelica was the face of faith that brought rekindled hope to me during a time when people were saying that the Catholic faith that I was born into was dying. Mother Angelica did nothing short of launching an evangelical era across the airwaves. As The New York Times wrote, she “founded the largest Roman Catholic network and used it unstintingly to criticize liberalizing trends in the Catholic Church.”
In doing so, I believe Mother Angelica broke down denominational barriers, too.
Mother Angelica is one of the people I wanted to meet and now it is too late. Nevertheless, she was always welcome in my living room and made me feel at home when I was away from home. Even my grandson Giovanni, 5, knew her familiar face.
Before I met Mother Angelica’s giddy glow across the airwaves, though, I was already fascinated with faces behind the habit.
I became fascinated with nuns when I was a teen and thought that I wanted to become a nun myself. This scared my parents. Some people see nuns as rigid women who have no fun.
My nun friend, Sister Margaret McTaggart, who was assigned in the 1980s and 1990s to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Clovis and then later to St. Helena’s Catholic Church in Hobbs, where I met her in 1995, seems to have more fun than I do. She has about a two decade plus lead over me in life, but can easily outrun me. I call her “The Electric Nun.” Sister Margaret calls me almost every Sunday because I am a prayer partner with her convent, The Sisters of St. Casimir in Chicago.
It was Sister Margaret who helped me take that first huge leap of faith. Now, every time I see a nun, whether in an airport, visiting my parish, or on TV, as I so often saw Mother Angelica, I feel a magnetic pull, a yearning to get to know, learn from and be taken under the folding wings of their habits.
Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: [email protected]