The Nun that Changed the World

Father Anthony, me and Father Leonard
EWTN Chapel

This past week has brought me across three states, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Mike had business in Atlanta so I joined him. While Mike was in meetings I drove to Irondale, Alabama, to visit my dear friend in Christ, Father Leonard.  Driving to Irondale from Atlanta was a good 2-1/2 hour drive, the roads were open, and once I got out of Atlanta it was pretty much a straight stretch, mostly with two lanes. I left early to allow time just in case I got lost, and you can’t get lost going straight. I texted Father Leonard to let him know that I had arrived. I visited the gift store and met Pat, a kind sales clerk. From there I walked over to the Chapel, and with the exception of a few people, it was pretty much empty. Much to my excitement, as I walked in, I noticed the Exposition of the Holy Eucharist (to Catholics this represents the presence of Christ). I prayed and found myself in such peace, a different type of peace, one with no thought or care, just quiet fulfillment. Father Leonard walked in and greeted me, and told me that he would concelebrate  the noon Mass. As it got closer to 12 o’clock the pews quickly filled, making standing room only. This was odd, and I rubbernecked to see many people standing.

After Mass, Father Leonard and Father Anthony and I went to lunch at a local eatery. I was double blessed to be in the company of such fun holy men. Once we returned to EWTN, Father Leonard took me on a private tour of the Global network. As we were going through the tour I kept seeing the same people that attended Mass earlier that day. It is not a requirement for the employees of EWTN to attend Mass, but many of the 300 employees were there.

Mother Angelica April 20 1923 – March 27, 2016

This year has been a crazy year with politics and the women’s movement, but to me there is distinct difference in how a woman driven by the Holy Spirit can change the world for the better compared with those who are doing it for self gain.

In 1962 Mother Angelica started a monastery in Irondale, Alabama. This area is Baptist country with only 2% Catholics. Mother Angelica never got caught up in the demographics of this movement, but  just continued to move as God led her. Soon many Protestant  churches were inviting her to speak because her ecumenical gifts touched many.  Mother Angelica started writing small booklets that were printed by the nuns and distributed then for free. Mother Angelica made series programs at the CBS affiliate studio for CBC and PTL. She was at the station when she discovered that CBS was about to air a heretical story on the life of Jesus. This did not sit well with Mother Angelica and she complained to the station managers, telling them that if they were going to air this program,  she would no longer be part of the station. She went as far as telling the executives that she would start her own station. The executives laughed at her and told her she would never succeed. Mother Angelica transformed the garage of Our Lady of Angels Monastery into a television station. On August 15, 1981, the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the station was up and running. At first it was just 4 hours per day, until 1985, when it grew to 8 hours, and by 1987 the broadcast was 24 hours per day of domestic air time. Nothing could stop this God-driven lady from completing what she started, and she never took no for an answer, being tuned to the voice of God. Her steadfast way of thinking was all in conjunction with instruction from God, and no man could stop this force.

In 1987 Mother Angelica founded the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, a holy order of Franciscan Priests and Brothers. Both Father Leonard and Father Anthony belong to this order. They wear the brown habits with a long white cord with three knots. These knots are a visual reminder of the vows that they took for their order. The knots represent poverty, chastity, and obedience, and they share in the mission of living the Gospel and serving the poor. Every Catholic Church in the Holy Land is controlled by the Franciscans.

One of the many control rooms at EWTN

God has called many people to come along Mother’s side, including Father Joseph, who was an engineer for General Electric. Father Joseph wanted to volunteer, but Mother Angelica would not hear of this because she believed that a paid employee would be more dedicated. Before long Father Joseph answered the calling to become a priest, and has been with that order since it first started. Today, because of Mother Angelica’s perseverance, over 500 radio affiliates in 145 countries air programs all over the world. Eight years ago EWTN acquired the National Catholic Register, a news agency that operates in the old fashioned way of telling the facts and reporting real news. EWTN is the largest and most viewed Christian station in the world; this was never Mother’s goal but it was a gift from God for all her dedication.

In 2001 Mother Angelica suffered two strokes and no longer had an active role with EWTN. It was during these years that EWTN grew to what it is today. Mother Angelica never stopped praying; even in her declining  state of health she prayed, her intercession being a testament of what a full life should be. EWTN’s growth is largely due to her constant prayers. Mother Angelica offered all of her suffering for the spread of the Gospel through EWTN, calling her suffering purification. I always tell my children please do not end my life if I become disabled or incapacitated because if I have breath, I am praying.

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