Vatican Archbishop: Mother Angelica ‘Consecrated Her Whole Life to Christ’
Mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the one-year anniversary of the passing of EWTN foundress.
VATICAN CITY — Archbishop Rino Fisichella celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the one-year anniversary of the passing of Mother Angelica, saying the nun changed the face of the New Evangelization by riding the digital wave and using it to communicate the Gospel in a fresh and appealing way.
“Before John Paul II spoke of the New Evangelization, (Mother Angelica) was able to do it concretely with television, the new way of communicating the word of God,” Archbishop Fisichella told CNA March 27.
Because of this, he said Mother “was a ‘New Evangelist’; she concretely did the New Evangelization” alongside another major saintly personality in the U.S. at the time: Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whose cause for canonization has been opened.
“Fulton Sheen and Mother Angelica — for the whole Church — are the image, the icon of what the New Evangelization through the new media of communications means,” he said.
Head of the Vatican’s Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Archbishop Fisichella celebrated Mass March 27 at the altar of St. Joseph inside St. Peter’s.
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation founded EWTN in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She died March 27, 2016 — Easter Sunday — after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.
In his homily for the Mass, which was concelebrated by former Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi and attended by journalists from various media outlets, as well as Hungarian ambassador to the Holy See Eduard Habsburg, Archbishop Fisichella praised Mother Angelica as someone whose legacy would continue to last.
A year after her death, “we try to remember her words, her preaching — because it was (a type of) preaching: her witness and the work she did for the Church,” he said.
“The mystery of death raises questions in all of us, but it’s still a mystery,” he said. “We live and we are in front of a death to give sense to our lives.”
He pointed to the words of the prophet Isaiah in the day’s first reading, who said that “no longer shall there be an old man who does not round out his full lifetime.”
“I think this word of the prophet can also be applied to Mother Angelica,” he said, explaining that “the sense of our lives, the sense of her life was determined by an encounter. She encountered Jesus Christ in her life, and for this reason, she consecrated her whole life to Christ.”
Because of this, Mother Angelica was above all “a woman of faith,” he said, and recalled an expression she frequently recited: “My dear friends, faith is what gets you started; hope is what keeps you going; love is what brings you to the end.”
Mother Angelica, he said, “was sustained by faith, she was a witness of hope, but love moved her entire life.”
Pointing to a passage from the day’s Gospel from John, in which a nobleman, after learning that Jesus healed his son, “believed through the word what Jesus had spoken to him, and he went his way.”
“I think that is beautiful: to reflect on Mother Angelica’s life with this expression,” Archbishop Fisichella said. “She believed through the word that Jesus spoke to her; she believed, and there is no other reason.”
“She believed, and all that she created was a consequence of this faith, of this encounter of faith. And then she went her way — and her way is what today millions of people can watch, can listen to, can reflect on.”
EWTN, he said, is not just a television network, but “a work and consequence of this vocation, of this encounter of Mother Angelica with Christ.”
“This was her vocation; this she understood as the gift that Jesus himself gave to her. And she did it in a very strong way,” he said, noting how she was able to communicate the Gospel on TV sine glossa, meaning “without adding” or interpreting.
At times, Mother Angelica even caused some people to become upset with her, he said, explaining that “every time we announce the Gospel, we give trouble to someone.” But what Mother did was offer “a challenge.”
It was, above all, a challenge “to find the sense of your life, especially in a culture in which indifference and atheism is, it seems to be, in first place for many people,” he said.
Referencing another passage from Isaiah that says, “They shall live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of the vineyard they plant,” the archbishop said Mother Angelica continues to live through EWTN’s witness.
“Mother Angelica’s vocation continues to give witness to the world of today, with your ability, capacity, will, to announce the Gospel of the Lord,” he told employees of the organization attending the Mass.
Archbishop Fisichella closed his homily with another quote from Mother, who said that “everything starts with one person. I don’t care if you are 5 or 105: God, from all eternity, chose you to be where you are at this time in history, and he chose you to change the world.”
“We keep these words in our hearts and in our minds, like a new challenge one year after her death, to remember the task that everybody should have in this service to the Church,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are five or 105, what is important is that God, from all eternity, chose you.”
After the Mass, veteran Vatican journalist Joan Lewis, Rome bureau chief for EWTN and former employee of the Holy See Press Office’s Vatican Information Service, recalled the moment when she was “commissioned” by Mother Angelica after accepting the job as bureau chief.
While Mother Angelica was already speechless after suffering a debilitating stroke, Lewis told CNA that she approached Mother, who was in a wheelchair, and knelt down, so the two could look each other in the face.
“It was very moving for me, because, although she couldn’t talk, she blessed my ears, my mouth, my hands and my eyes, so that I would use all of those to do what she had done for so many years, which was to bring the word of the Lord, the teachings of the Church, to the world,” Lewis said.
“So it was her example, even when she couldn’t speak, that really infused in me the desire to go ahead and do her work,” she said, explaining that Mother Angelica was particularly inspiring for what she did as a woman.
“What a wonderful woman of courage she was, of vision, of foresight, a person who just didn’t let obstacles get in her way,” Lewis said, noting that, at the time, women in the United States often still hit “a glass ceiling.”
“If you were a woman, you couldn’t go any higher — you would hit this glass, but unseen, ceiling,” she said, but recalled that, with Mother Angelica, “she never sensed that. There was never a barrier to whom or how she could tell the truth, and I try and remember that when I write.”
Referring to Archbishop Fisichella’s homily, Lewis said his decision to quote Mother’s phrase that “faith sets you out on the path, hope keeps you going, and love brings you to the end” was particularly moving. “It just doesn’t get any better.”