‘The Shenanigans’ at Mother Angelica’s First Vows
Mother Angelica's first profession of vows was anything but peaceful, but it was memorable.
IRONDALE, Ala. — If you picture a nun’s first profession of vows, you probably picture a serene, peaceful affair with the sisters singing harmoniously and everything running joyfully and smoothly.
But the day of Mother Angelica’s first vows was anything but.
Outside, a blizzard spit snow and ice, snarling roads and delaying the guests and the presiding Bishop James McFadden.
Inside, different storms were brewing.
As then-Sister Angelica knelt behind the grille, trying to pray before taking her vows, the organist sister and the choir director, Sister Mary of the Cross (with whom Sister Angelica had sparred in the past), began arguing about musical technique, within earshot of the already-arrived guests.
As the incident is recalled in her biography:
"Voices slowly escalated. Suddenly the two nuns were at each other: the organist refusing to play, Mary of the Cross threatening to throw her into the snow if she didn’t.
"'And I’m sitting there trying to re-collect myself for my vows,' Mother Angelica recalled. 'The people must have thought we were nuts.'”
Then came the bug, scampering across the wooden floor in front of the sisters.
Mary of the Cross rose up, lifted the kneeler with both hands, and pounded it on the ground, attempting to annihilate the insect. Like a madwoman with a jackhammer, she repeatedly wielded the prie dieu (kneeler), hurling it and herself at the crawler. The organist, thinking the display an underhanded critique of her playing, pounded the keys all the harder. Sister Angelica could not believe what she termed “the shenanigans.” Then the bishop walked in.
Wet and cold from walking several blocks where he had to leave his stalled car, Bishop McFadden requested a fresh pair of socks, which Sister Mary of the Cross sent Sister Angelica to get.
When it came time to place the profession ring on Sister Angelica’s fingers, the bishop couldn’t fit it past her knuckle — her hand was swollen from a shower handle in the convent that had crumbled and cut her hand several days prior.
“With everything going on there, I’m thinking, Oh Jesus doesn’t love me. You know? ... I mean, it was a real spiritual experience!” Mother Angelica said. “But that’s the way God works with me. As I look back, before anything big that was coming, something happened to me.”
Despite “the shenanigans” of the day, Sister Angelica took her vows seriously, writing in a letter to her mother that “the espoused” and “royal couple” (herself and Jesus) “wished to express their gratitude to their friend and member of their personal court. ...The spouse has asked the Bridegroom to fill you with his peace and consolation.”
She signed the letter: “Jesus and Angelica.”
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), died on March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.