Mother Angelica and the Eucharistic Revival
In this time of the Eucharistic Revival in the United States, we should be thankful for the legacy that Mother Angelica and Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration have left to us
On Jan. 21, 1985, having left a blustery Iowa snowstorm the day before, I arrived in warm sunny Irondale, Alabama, to begin my new job as an engineer for EWTN, which had been launched just three and a half years before. There was a small crew of 25 (many of us in our 20s) and 12 nuns at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. The garage studio was still in use and the network aired programs for four hours every evening, sharing transponder time on a satellite with a secular news service.
In those early days, the nuns helped with everything from answering Live Show calls to processing the mail, but the heart of their lives, as was evident to us who worked there, was their spousal love for Jesus. The nuns spoke of him quite naturally and freely — of knowing him personally, something that came about through their daily encounter with him in the Blessed Sacrament.
I began attending Mass daily that Lent and never stopped. Mother Angelica’s former novice mistress, Sister Veronica, was in her 90s and, before Mass in the morning, one of the nuns would push her in a wheelchair into the chapel. Upon entering the chapel, we would all be charmed to hear her sing “O my Jesus, I love you so much! Ooo my Jesus, I love you, so much!” (This was sung to the melody of the conclusion of Silent Night — “Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”)
The music the nuns provided for the Mass was from the heart and Mother Angelica’s vicar, Sister Raphael, would sometimes sing a solo of such classics as Panis Angelicus and Ave Maria. Mother Angelica would herself sing a solo verse at Christmas and Easter, and we all looked forward to those celebrations.
Perhaps the greatest gift the nuns gave to me and so many others — both by word and example — was the gift of helping us come to discover and love Jesus’ Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. This daily encounter with our Eucharistic Lord eventually led me to religious life and the priesthood in our community devoted to the Blessed Sacrament.
In 1958, as television was becoming more and more influential, Pope Pius XII realized that it needed a heavenly patron. He chose St. Clare. In his Apostolic Letter, he wrote:
Television — as everyone knows and as we ourselves have already said — can be the source of great good, but, at the same time great evil, in view of the singular power it exercises over the very soul of the family. It behooves us, therefore, to give to this invention, a heavenly safeguard, who prevents its evil and allows its good. We wish to appoint, for this patronage, St. Clare. It is said that in Assisi, one Christmas night, Clare, confined to her convent by sickness, heard the fervent hymns that attended the sacred ceremonies and saw, as if she were present in the Franciscan church, the manger of the Divine Child. In her splendor, her innocence, and her light which she throws on our darkness, may St. Clare protect this instrument, and may she give to its translucence the lights of truth and virtue — the pillars of our society. (My emphasis, AAS, vol. L, p. 512-513).
St. Clare is most often depicted holding a monstrance since her prayer before our Eucharistic Lord protected the nuns from the invading Saracens. I often like to picture a daughter of St. Clare, Mother Angelica, holding up a monstrance, inviting the whole world to discover and love him in his Real Presence there. Exposition and adoration of our Eucharistic Lord was and remains the beating heart of EWTN. Every day throughout the year, he is adored in the center of the EWTN campus.
Pilgrims visiting Alabama repeatedly say to us, “The EWTN Mass got us through COVID.” Indeed, there were no sports or other diversions on television and many people became regular viewers of EWTN because of our daily televised Mass. Thankfully, we were able to stay on the air with no major setbacks because of God’s Providence and the prudent leadership of Michael Warsaw and the team here. We also began to livestream adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from our chapel and have continued to feature this in our television transmissions throughout the world.
Mother Angelica was first and foremost a consecrated religious in the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a community founded Dec. 8, 1854, in Troyes, France, to offer thanksgiving for the Eucharist in reparation for those who never do, and in reparation for sacrileges. Their foundress, Mother Marie of St. Clare, was inspired by the Gospel account of the 10 lepers of whom only one returned to give thanks.
As we continue in this time of the Eucharistic Revival in the United States, we should be thankful for the legacy that Mother Angelica and the nuns have left to us — which has helped so many to find hope, healing, direction, consolation, conversion and joy in the discovery of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, the PCPA’s fixed gaze on the monstrance has drawn many of us to gaze upon him, too.
But that is not the end of the story regarding Mother Angelica and the Eucharistic Revival. Arguably the most beautiful shrine dedicated to the Most Blessed Sacrament in the world is found in the middle of Alabama, just outside the small town of Hanceville. The “Temple” is full of light and there is no doubt where the center of attention is. It is Jesus — truly, really, substantially and profoundly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. From the 8-foot monstrance with adoring angels, to the stained-glass windows of the angels looking toward the monstrance, as well as the beauty of the liturgy celebrated there, all eyes are instinctively drawn to him, who is the Beloved of our souls.
I was delighted to see that the Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in 2024 will be preceded by a National Eucharistic Pilgrimage coming from North and South, East and West across the United States. The southern arm of the pilgrimage will depart from Brownsville, Texas, and will stop at various sites along the way, including the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville.
In this centenary year of the birth of Mother Angelica, it is fitting that this pilgrimage would stop at the place built by Mother Angelica who did so much to revive devotion to the Eucharist in the hearts of so many throughout the world.
Sister Veronica, after a life of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was impelled to sing when coming into his Real Presence: “O my Jesus, I love you so much! Ooo my Jesus, I love you, so much!” Thank you, Mother Angelica and dear Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration for helping so many to discover a heart that burns with love for us!
Join Father Joseph Mary Wolfe for an EWTN Online Learning Series, based on Mother Angelica’s book In His Sandals. Sign up for free at EWTN.com/inhissandals.
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