Have you ever felt sad and happy at the same time? It’s an odd feeling trying to reconcile two opposite emotions. Feelings can be strange bedfellows at times.
The past couple of days brought sadness at the passing of Mother Angelica but also abundant and deep joy for her to be called home on Easter Sunday. God is so amazingly faithful.
Mother was the fourth of my four heroes, now joining Bishop Fulton Sheen, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II at the heavenly banquet. One can only marvel. Bishop Sheen wished to go home on a Marian Feast and died in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the eve of the Immaculate Conception. John Paul II, the Mercy Pope, taken home on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday and Mother Teresa quietly whisked into eternity in the shadow of Princess Diana – probably the only time she could sneak away without the enormous attention she seemed to dread. All signs of God’s tender love for His saints.
I had the privilege of meeting Mother Angelica on two separate occasions. The first was in 1994 when EWTN hired me to be their floor reporter at the annual Bishop’s conference in DC. Before anyone gets the job, first you need to meet Mother. I flew down to Birmingham and was met by Deacon Bill Steltemeier, with rosary in hand and a gleam in his eye, and Michael Warsaw, now Chairman of the Board in Mother’s place. We had lunch and then on to meet Mother before the live show. I was introduced. She smiled, looked me over and then smiled again, looked up, and said “Oh, she’ll make a good one!” I got a little nervous and asked Deacon Bill if she knew what I was actually there for. I always knew I didn’t have a vocation but I feared in a head-to-head argument with Mother, I might not prevail.
Watching the live show gave me insight into the other saint sitting next to me, Deacon Bill. A successful attorney, he was drafted into Mother’s service and became her most stalwart supporter. He watched her closely and could see the Spirit moving as she spoke. He’d say, “Now watch her…” or “Wait… watch, she’s getting something,” with a love and admiration in his voice that I could never forget. She was the poor Clare and he was her Francis, joined in heart and soul by a profound friendship and a pure love rooted in Christ.
The second meeting was as a guest on her live show in 1995. I had done many shows before up here in New York but never live. I looked forward to the pre-show briefing where we would plan our topics and prepare. Well, that didn’t happen. A minute or two before the show Mother came out, greeted the audience, sat down, and we started. The rest is history.
The woman was truly amazing. Reading her life story is an experience in itself. To say she was a character understates it. She was filled with mirth and deep compassion for those who suffer, who have fallen, who have lost hope. You could say the Holy Spirit was her fuel and she just burned with God’s love…and laughter. I think that’s what attracted so many to her. She was funny. No, she was hilarious. You could see that Jesus wasn’t some abstract idea or distant God but truly her spouse…a spouse she not only loved but laughed with and enjoyed. Devoted to His passion, she shared it from her early years and in a most poignant way these last fifteen. But she also lived His resurrection, His joy. So fitting that He would bring her home on Easter Sunday!
I think if she is to become a patron saint, one of her titles will be the “Patron of the Ridiculous.” What she tried, and more importantly, what she accomplished was simply ridiculous. A girl from a broken family becomes a cloistered nun with a vow of poverty and starts a Catholic monastery in the Deep South, then a television network in her garage with no money -no experience and no business degree – and at 58 years old! That network becomes the largest religious broadcasting network in the world and the epicenter of Catholic Evangelization worldwide. The feminists can learn a lot about feminine genius from Mother. And with her prayers, I’m sure they will!
Rest in peace dear Mother and intercede for all of us! We love you.
“You see, God expects His people to do the ridiculous so He can do the miraculous.” – Mother Angelica
Make a donation to EWTN in Mother’s honor.
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