This evening we celebrated Holy Mass in my parish for the repose of Mother Angelica. For your information, here is the text of the homily I delivered at that Mass. A poor tribute indeed.
"I Will Be His Spouse"
Remembering Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation
In these days of the Easter Octave as the Church celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord, in the Holy Mass the readings are those of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances and the first proclamation of the Gospel in the early Church as preserved in the Acts of the Apostles. The Lord’s rising from the dead and the kerygma are united as one in these days of celebration. The Resurrection was no mere event that was to be left as another supernatural occurrence to be marveled at. No, it was one which shook the foundations of human history, of the world, and urged the Lord’s disciples to proclaim it from the rooftops. Everything has changed, death has been conquered, salvation has been won, now, disciples of Jesus Christ, go out to the whole world and proclaim this Good News. None of those who call themselves Christian are exempt from this, no matter what are circumstances are, our state in life, our poverty or poor health, we are called to be evangelisers. As the Resurrection touches our lives, we are to be witnesses so it will touch the lives of others.
If we wish to understand the life of Mother Angelica, who was taken from us yesterday afternoon, we need to understand this call to evangelisation. She was first and foremost a disciple of Jesus Christ and then, by necessity, an evangelist. From the moment of her conversion in 1944, when she experienced a physical healing but an even great spiritual one, she understood there was one thing necessary, the better way – to serve the Master. In her letter of farewell to her mother, as she entered the Poor Clares in Cleveland, the then Rita Rizzo said “I will be His Spouse” and in this she knew that his concerns would be hers, and at the heart of them, the salvation of souls. She fell “completely in love with Our Lord” and with his people. Throughout her long life, that love for Christ and souls intensified and she never lost sight of her responsibilities as a disciple and a bride of the Lord.
Though she had retired to a Poor Clare community to live a life of prayer, Mother was open to whatever God was calling her to do to save souls. As other nuns fruitfully win souls for Christ through prayer and sacrifice, Mother was to add a third means – broadcasting – evangelisation through the mass media. Heeding the call to found a monastery in Alabama she never thought that that work was the first step in the foundation of a global Catholic network that would proclaim the Easter message, the Gospel to millions throughout the world. A slot in a local broadcaster in Alabama would give way to a makeshift studio in a garage which became what some in the media in the last day or so have been calling “a media empire”. Lest we be led astray by such terms, Mother would prefer to call it a means of proclaiming the Gospel, of teaching the faith and leading souls to Christ their Saviour. It was faith, determination, zeal and much suffering which bore fruit not just in building EWTN, but in touching the lives and hearts of millions and converting many to Christianity and Catholicism.
Mother suffered for all this, no good work is ever accomplished without suffering, and she was not afraid to carry the cross. No cross was too heavy to carry, no sacrifice too great if it led to the proclamation of the Gospel and the reiteration of the truth. She detested the lie, the dissemination of falsehoods which undermined the Gospel, and so she found herself in many battles, some of them with pastors of the Church as she called them to fidelity to Church teaching. She was one with Peter, supporting St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in their pontificates, putting the Network entirely at the service of the Church.
But in all her troubles, Mother never lost her sense of humour. Grace builds on nature, St Paul tells us, and in Angelica a positive view of life and a mischievous sense of humour were enhanced by her progress in virtue. She saw that a life steeped in Christ could be joyful, happy, even hilarious because this life was one rooted in the Resurrection and the victory of the Lord over sin and death. Holiness was the goal, and though the struggle for holiness was real, that struggle was, in her own words, beautiful.
Mother Angelica was one of the great evangelisers of the Church in the modern age, and I have no doubt that she will continue to carry out the mission the Lord gave her when he called her; recalling the sentiments of St Thérèse, I believe that mother’s work is just beginning. But for all that, if I were to encourage you to reflect on one aspect of Mother’s life and legacy, I would have to give precedence to her love and service of the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. In this most wonderful Sacrament we will find the mystery of Mother’s life and the object of her love and service. Here was her strength, her joy, her peace, her holiness. Here was the source of Mother’s zeal, wisdom and confidence: the root of her apostolate. Here Angelica found her Lord and shared with him the most intimate moments. Let this be her greatest lesson to all of us: to seek the Lord in the Holy Eucharist; to adore him most profoundly; to serve him; to spend time with him; to entrust our entire lives to him who has given his life for us.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen.
Though officially we cannot say it, my heart already is: Mother Angelica, pray for us!