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Mother Angelica: 1923-2016

Jimmy Akin

It was with great sadness that Catholic Answers learned of the passing of Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, popularly known as Mother Angelica. She was a Poor Clare nun and a Catholic media pioneer, founding the Eternal Word Television Network—EWTN—which grew to include not only television but also radio, print, and the Internet.

She passed away on Easter Sunday.

More information about her amazing life is available here.

After learning the news, Catholic Answers’ president, Christopher Check, said:

Mother Angelica was a lioness of the New Evangelization. Historians will one day place her alongside other great American Catholic heroes who devoted their lives to the spread of the faith on these shores. I think of such men as Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy of Santa Fe, Bishop Francis Kelley, Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, Fr. Pierre-Jean de Smet, Ven. Fulton Sheen, and our state’s own St. Junipero Serra.

At Catholic Answers we have a special debt to Mother and the network she founded, for it is on the EWTN radio network that most of the broadcasting of Catholic Answers Live is heard. The reach of our apostolate would not be nearly so wide were it not for Mother Angelica. The prayers of the Catholic Answers staff and the broader Catholic Answers family are with Mother and with the EWTN family she leaves behind.

Catholic Answers’ founder, Karl Keating, had this to say:

I met Mother Angelica only a few times, but each time I was in her presence I thought, “Here’s an American original and a winsome Catholic.” She always brought to mind Finley Peter Dunne’s quip about “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” That was Mother Angelica in spades.

On a personal note, I had the good fortune to meet Mother Angelica some years ago when I appeared on her TV program Mother Angelica Live to discuss my book Mass Confusion: The Do’s and Don’ts of Catholic Worship.

I found her a charming television host and a good interviewer.

Her use of humor was particularly striking. All through the program, she used quips and zingers, and the two of us quickly established a delightful banter. It was easy to see why her show was so popular with EWTN viewers!

One aspect of our interaction remained hidden from viewers though, because it happened off camera, and it made a lasting impression on me. At one point, she turned to me and asked whether the blue is an appropriate color for liturgical vestments.

The answer is that in some countries, it is. In Spain, for example, blue vestments are sometimes used on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. However, in other countries—including Latin rite celebrations in the United States—blue is not an approved liturgical color.

I told her, and her response was striking.

She said that she’d just returned from Spain, where she had spent a large sum on blue vestments for the priests at her monastery. Now she wouldn’t be able to use them.

What was striking was the way she instantly accepted this fact. There was no looking for wiggle room, no complaining, no resentment, and no grumbling. She instantly wrote off the investment upon learning that the vestments weren’t approved for use in the U.S.

The thing that struck me was the spirit of docility and obedience toward the Church that she so obviously had internalized.

I was impressed, and for me it became a treasured memory of Mother Angelica.

A few years afterward, Mother suffered the stroke that kept her sidelined and out of the public eye for the past fifteen years.

Though unseen, she remained a powerful presence and inspiring influence in the EWTN family .

We are fortunate to live in an age where, though she has now gone to her reward—and, providentially, on Easter Sunday—the fact Mother was an electronic media pioneer means that her countless shows are recorded and can be accessed online.

Unlike people who lived in prior ages, we can see her face or hear her voice at any time—even in that episode where she and I bantered about my book Mass Confusion.

May God bless Mother Angelica, as through her he blessed all of us.

Resquiescat in Pace et Oremus pro Invicem.

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