HANCEVILLE, Ala. — When Spanish university professor Maria Luisa Rodriguez Lee of Morris, Minn., began praying for Mother Angelica in January, she certainly didn't expect her quick recovery.
Lee is one of thousands of people around the world that have offered their prayers in the form of a “spiritual bouquet” for Mother Angelica, the 78-year-old founder of the Eternal Word Television Network, who had suffered two strokes toward the end of last year.
And the nun is making what some are describing as a remarkable recovery. She has been “at home” at her monastery for nearly a month.
“Mother is constantly improving,” said Mother Vicar, Sister Mary Catherine. “She is now walking with the aid of a walker and is talking more and more.”
“The news is very encouraging,” added Scott Hults, director of communication with EWTN. “She has made tremendous progress in her speech. In addition, she no longer needs her eye patch and her mouth, which had been turned down following the first stroke, is back to normal.”
While Hults said he did not want people speculating about miracles as regards Mother's recovery, he did say that the prayers of many are being answered.
Mother Angelica was first admitted to St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham following a mild stroke last September. That stroke affected her left eye and the nerves on the left side of her face. Just before Christmas she fell, breaking her arm and elbow. She was again hospitalized following a second stroke on Christmas Eve, and underwent a two-hour surgical procedure to remove a blood clot from her brain. The second stroke left Mother partially paralyzed on the right side of her body and affected her speech.
Moved out of intensive care in mid-January, she returned late in the month to have a filter device inserted into her lower leg to screen and prevent the movement of a blood clot that had formed there. Finally, on Jan. 25, she was released from the hospital and greeted with a mixture of laughter and tears of joy by her fellow sisters at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery where she continues to receive physical and speech therapy.
Sister Mary Catherine said that Mother has responded very positively to therapy.
“One therapist is using music and is having Mother sing in order to improve her speech,” she said. “She has five 30-minute sessions with her physical therapist, three 30 minute sessions with her speech therapist, and ... sessions with an occupational therapist weekly. In addition, Mother Angelica has regained the use of her right arm and is using both hands to drink her tea.
“Mother is handling all of this with good humor and determination,” said Sister Mary Catherine.
Life of Pain and Healing
The events mark a life filled with painful ailments and seemingly miraculous healings.
Born Rita Rizzo, in 1923, in Canton, Ohio, her father abandoned her and her mother when she was an infant. By the age of 11, Rita was taking care of both her mother and herself. Eventually she entered a Poor Clare convent in August 1944, founded an order, and was joined by her mother, Sister Mary David, in 1961. Mother Angelica founded EWTN in 1981.
Her recent turnaround would not be the first time that she has experienced a dramatic recovery. On Jan. 17, 1943, at the age of 20, Mother Angelica was cured of severe stomach pain as the result of a nine-day novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. “That was the day I became aware of God's love for me and began to thirst for him. My life was changed,” Mother Angelica told the Register last year.
In 1946, she was paralyzed in an accident with a scrubbing machine while cleaning the floors of the convent in Canton, Ohio. Lying in a hospital bed, she prayed to God and promised that if she ever walked again, she would build him a monastery in the South. Soon she was walking, but with the aid of crutches and a back brace.
Then on Jan. 28, 1998, after 40 years of pain and difficulty in walking, Mother Angelica was healed during the recitation of the rosary in her office with a woman from Italy.
With her pain gone, she stood up and walked unaided, appearing on EWTN's live program, Life on the Rock, to dance with the show's host Jeff Cavins.
Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos
Sister Mary Catherine said that the nuns at Our Lady of the Angels requested that prayers for Mother's “spiritual bouquet” be directed particularly through the intercession of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos — a 19th century Redemptorist priest who worked in New Orleans.
“One of the priests from New Orleans was in the Birmingham area,” said Hults. “He unexpectedly wound up at the hospital and visited Mother. Remarkably, he had relics of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos with him.”
“Mother's progress is due totally to the prayers, rosaries and Mass intentions offered for her recovery from people around the world,” said Sister Mary Catherine.
In early January EWTN initiated a “spiritual bouquet” for Mother Angelica on its Web site www.ewtn.com allowing visitors to offer their prayers, Masses, and rosaries for Mother's full recovery. According to the network, more than 113,000 Masses, 206,000 rosaries and 382,000 individual prayers have been offered to date.
Lee, who has watched EWTN almost daily since first obtaining a satellite dish a year ago, said that she began to pray for Mother Angelica, through the intercession of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, as recommended by the nuns. In addition, Lee offered Mother Angelica a “spiritual bouquet” by offering her daily Mass for Mother's recovery.
“I include Mother Angelica in my daily Mass, my rosary, and my Divine Mercy chaplet,” said Lee. “I also placed her name on the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe Web page for prayers.”
Lee said that she recalls Mother Angelica telling viewers after her first stroke that, “Our Lord told her that she would be cured, but she would first face other handicaps.” “If she is cured,” said Lee, “it wouldn't be something that happens only behind the cloister walls. It will be a beautiful thing for the whole world to see, especially the incredulous.”
Tim Drake writes from
St. Cloud, Minnesota.