Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Tuesday afternoon in Hanceville, under a bright sun and a cloudless blue sky like the color of the Blessed Mother’s mantle, people gathered on the piazza of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament for the reception of the body of Mother Angelica into the shrine.
People across the age spectrum, from old to young, grandparents to early teens, were there for the solemn occasion. Even the few very small children there who would normally be laughing and playing were quiet, somewhat in wonder at what was going on.
A young teenage girl standing near my wife and me carefully put on a white lace mantilla as the white hearse was arriving. A few older women were wearing black mantillas.
With no need for any invitation, everyone spontaneously joined the procession through the piazza to escort Mother’s body to the shrine after Father Miguel concluded the opening prayers.
What stood out was the prayerful silence of everyone, right down to the smallest children who sensed and knew they were taking part in some moment in which heaven was touching earth in a very special remembrance.
The only sound was a muffled sniffle or two for a moment, nothing more. And the sound of the shrine’s bells tolling when the body of Mother Angelica stopped for three minutes before the statue of Divino Niño at the upper piazza.
Silence, except for the sounds of a few muffled footsteps across the stone pavement, until that also faded. In that reverential moment, you could hear in your mind as you looked at the statue and the coffin of Mother below it, Divino Niño, the Divine Child, saying, “Enter, Mother, into the house of my Father.”
Inside, the shrine filled with those who loved Mother Angelica and all she stood for, and who now kneeled to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for her. Again, the image of Divino Niño, standing high on the right side shrine, was so present.
When Father Miguel began to solemnly sing the concluding, “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One,” everyone joined him as one voice — yes, it seemed so many were joined in that one single voice filling the shrine in this prayer for a nun who filled so many lives through her example and through love for everyone.
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(All photos by Jeffrey Bruno/CNA)