I recently finished reading Mother Angelica – The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles
by Raymond Arroyo. I started watching EWTN in the summer of 1997 when I first moved to a location that had EWTN available.
I first ran across their website in 1996 which I learned from this book was launched the same year. When I first saw a picture of Mother Angelica on their site I thought she looked like the stereotypical nun who didn’t look all too friendly to me. Channel searching the new channels for the cable system I saw Bishop David E. Foley of Birmingham, Alabama doing his weekly catechism class.
Considering that I had pretty much decided by that time that it was the Catholic Church is would be joining this was pretty thrilling to me. It also made me pause for a second that a bishop on a television show could illicit something out of me besides the desire to change the channel.
I quite remember the first time watching Mother Angelica’s live show and I was hooked. She was quite different than what I had expected
and that was for the good.
The book itself is an excellent read which takes you from here childhood with many trials up through the present day and with many more trails along the way. I was aware of bits and pieces of her story from watching her network, but the book filled in many pieces of information that I had wondered about and giving the background story of what was going on behind the scenes. There were also many surprises for me in the book considering the changes she had made in her order during the council and in it’s aftermath. Raymond Arroyo describes their habit at one point resembling a costume from Star Trek. I had heard her before allude to an event that caused her to change the habits to the more traditional ones they use today. I always wondered what the event was the precipitated the change and the book had the answer. I won’t give any spoilers considering that I really recommend the reading of this book.
This book is in no way pious hagiography, but really displays Mother Angelica warts and all. The book also details some of the battles with the bishop’s conference considering that the bishops had started up their own network around the same time as EWTN. Of course the fact that the bishop’s network is not around today and that it had a relatively short life is no surprise to anyone who follows the bishop’s conference. They in fact scrambled their signal (an apt metaphor for the teachings of some bishops) and it was used only for diocesan offices instead of being available for any cable stations to use. I found the history of the conflicts between the bishop’s conference and EWTN to be interesting and the politicking that was going on to curtail or possibly event take control of EWTN. The usual suspects were some of the fiercest critics. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Bishop Thomas O’Brien, etc. It is no surprise that these disgraced bishops were critical of the orthodoxy of EWTN’s programs. From this book and from what I have read before the bishops network was not exactly a bastion of orthodox Catholic programming.
Of course her most famous run in was with Cardinal Mahony. I remember watching the program where she had a very short critiqued his pastoral letter on the Eucharist and went a step too far in an off hand comment saying if she lived in his diocese she would give him zero-submission. Besides being against canon law this statement of course was a major mistake and just plain inappropriate. The Cardinal who will gladly accept almost any dissent from the magisterium would not do the same for Mother Angelica in regards to himself and went to considerable effort over the period of a year to get a public apology. Of course Mother Angelica’s style was that after the initial complaint from Cardinal Mahony she apologized for her previous comments and then did an in depth verbal fisking of his pastoral letter the following week It was great television and she confined itself to the actual contents on this very poor pastoral letter which basically relativized the various presences of Christ by downplaying Christ in the Eucharist.
Mother Angelica reminds me a lot of St Teresa of Avila. They had very different childhoods but later addressed similar situations. They both were brilliant organizers who could get things done. They both had an acute business acumen and great common sense that enabled them to work well with others in getting things done. They both were heavily involved in the various building projects involved in expansion and were very keen on not only was involved but were able to suggest better ways to do things. They both suffered physically throughout their lives but never let that slow them down. St. Teresa set her eyes on reforming her order in light of both laxity and the effects of the reformation and ended up founding not only a new order and affecting the Church up to the present day. Mother Angelica sites were a little broader since her eventual aim was more at reform of the universal Church in light of rampant heterodoxy. Though modern media helped Mother Angelica to have the broader aim and I can easily imagine St. Teresa availing herself of modern media in the same way. Of course they both also had run ins with some in the Church’s hierarchy who disapproved of what they were doing, but again they also both had protectors higher up to help to keep them out of trouble.
St. Teresa left us a legacy of prayer concerning the mystical life that stands the test of time and time will tell what Mother Angelica’s legacy of a world wide Catholic media network will turn out to be. It can be of no doubt that in the short term that EWTN has had a major effect on both education Catholics, bringing back fallen away Catholics, and attracting converts. I am deeply thankful for many of the programs they have aired. Fr. Dubay’s wonderful series on St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila informed me and attracted me to Carmelite spirituality. There series on G.K. Chesterton is one of my favorites as with anything with Fr. Rutler in it. There are literally thousands of testimonial of people of which EWTN has touched.
So if your want to read an intriguing history of a very colorful nun who with 200 dollars started a monastery in the South and became not only a cable pioneer but spawned a network that literally reaches world wide, then I would highly recommend this book. Raymond Arroyo for the most part tries to lay out the history without inserting personal opinions and really works to be fair in reporting some of the more controversial episodes.
I’m in the midst of reading this! It was my Christmas gift to myself. Thanks for not writing aany spoilers.
I read the book one early morning when I woke up too early, trying to get back to sleep – big mistake because I got so intrigued that I was soon wide awake and had to read it to the end! She had such a rough childhood but I suspect that it was through such experiences she ended up having all her guts and courage she needed in doing what she accomplished. Amazing how God can turn even our negative experiences into something valuable and useful if we are willing to do His will!
I’m reading it now too, but I’m only about 10% of the way into it.
I have been waiting for months to hit this book and just started reading it too. I’m anxious to get to the bishop wars. 😉
I love Mother Angelica and can’t wait to read this book. I hope Raymond Arroyo comes to Wichita soon so he can sign my copy.
By the way, you are tagged for the 5 weird habits meme. Rules: “The first player of this game starts with the topic “five weird habits of yourself,” and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don’t forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says “You are tagged” (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.”
I wonder. . .
. . .if I ever go to Los Angeles I wonder would Cardinal Mahony kindly autograph my copy???
I was at the first book signing.
I was second in line. Mahony was first. 🙂
I loved the book. Having just gone through a long period of physical problems, I was struck how, at every turn, Mother paid her dues up front. It was almost uncanny that, whenever a period of suffering came upon her, it was just before a great accomplishment or a great battle. What an example of redemptive suffering, reading it especially after witnessing the long struggle of our Holy Father John Paul II. I am reminded again of how counter-cultural the Faith is and how opposed to the world are the demands of the Faith. At almost 73 and having lived through the ’60s, I never thought I would be living a counter-cultural life. 🙂
I expected a “Was this review helpful to you?” at the end. You really must go and place this review at Amazon.com. Well done! We live in heroic times — amidst great souls. Something to tell our grandchildren some day.
I LOVED this book! I never cared too much for her show before I read it, but I adored Raymond Arroyo and his broadcast. I thought after I read it that she was a super spunky, sassy, crazy lady whom I grew to LOVE! Her spiritual journey closly followed my own even though we are generations apart and had very different vocations. I wish I had her strength and faith in the face of adversity! I started a novena for her mission and it’s turning out to be a perpetual one because I can’t stop praying for her and her mission in life. I recommend this book to everyone I know!
I haven’t gotten the book yet, but I will. I’m reading Peggy Noonan’s “John Paul the Great” right now.
I started watching Mother Angelica a few years ago. My sons were laughing over some show, I went to investigate (I confess, I was afraid it was some vulgar comedy skit that I would have to change). It was a nun in a brown habit! She was preaching on the Sacrament of Confession and said it was like dusting off the table of your soul. Some folks go regularly, so the dust doesn’t build up, while others have a thick coating and others still have a dead cat on the table.
Mother is a wonderful woman, God bless her and her health
Thanks for the wonderful review. I got this book just before a family vacation with my husband’s mother, and I tore through it. By the end, I was in tears. Her suffering amazed me! I only started watching after she’d had her stroke and retired to the cloister full-time, though. My husband lovingly calls EWTN “Pope TV” for short. It’s on a lot at our house.
EWTN has a wonderful archive of TV and radio shows. I’ve got to go looking for archives of her show.
What a great woman!
I got a copy of this book at a Fr. Corapi conference where Raymond Arroyo also spoke (it was right after Hurricane Katrina and Raymond and his family were living with the OLAM nuns in Hanceville). Raymond does a very funny vocal impersonation of Mother A. and he tells a riveting story of how Mother secured funds for the new cable transmitter. Read the book for the full story. Just amazing. “I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me.” I could not put this book down. It’s now making its way through my Bible study group and everyone agrees – this book is great. God bless, Mother Angelica.
I love Mother Angelica and think she will be a saint. Almost single-handedly she put the people on her network that would become–in this recovery period–our teachers and authors. She has guts and she trusts God.
First Roundup of ‘06
Overheard in NY:
Toddler boy: Look, Daddy! The airport!
Dad: That’s the moon, Milo.
–86th & 3rd
The moon is where I feel like I’ve been! If I ever tell me kids they can have all their friends over, and that everyone can sleep …
Absolutely an excellent read and a unique look into the politics of the church (small c).
Mother Angelica, even in her now ‘quiet moments’ remains the Voice of those who love the Church and have some appreciation of all that the Bishops have allowed the Liturgists to toss out. A salute to her friars, to Bill and the V.P.s who continue to cherish the faith. Thanks Raymond. Where is Volume II?
While visiting the station a few years ago, I was told a couple of hilarious stories about Mother Angelica’s faith in God’s providence by our friar guide.
It seems that she would buy what the station needed, knowing in her soul that the money would come through. It just about drove the friars nuts because God has this way of making the phone ring 15 minutes before the bill comes due……heh.
There is a story about the time she ordered a large piece of equipment costing $5000 to keep the station running—-and on the morning the bill was due she was cool as a cucumber while everyone else was nervous as a room full of cats. Some man called her in the middle of the day–out of nowhere–and gave her $5000 just like that. She accepted the call and they routed the money to the equipment seller…all like it was just in a day’s work. Hah.
This is just one example. What’s really funny is that I heard this story from a friar and he had the funniest look on his face–amused but shaking his head, still. =)
MichiganCatholic, that’s the story I was referring to, also. But I think the amount was more like $500,000. Raymond tells how Mother was in front of the Blessed Sacrament, begging Jesus for help while the delivery man sat outside waiting for payment. And then one of the sisters comes in with a very urgent call. Mother, in her typical flustered way says “can’t you see I’m a little busy here?” Anyway, as MC notes, a man was on the other end of the line stating how some tracts Mother A. had authored years ago saved his family. He wanted a way to show his appreciation and she asked “can you send the money today?”
Sounds like the same story, but it sounds like you remember the details better than I. I was amused by the friar’s demeanor while telling the story…….
There’s also an audio version of the book that features Raymond Arroyo reading and doing all sorts of impersonations. Now that would be a hoot.
I didn’t know about that audio version, Nancy. Maybe I’ll check it out. I really liked the book, especially since I’ve struggled with my temper and Mother seemed to have a problem with that, too! The book had sold out at some of the smaller chains, but I reserved one of the next shipment (about a week after publication). I read it in a day – and a really late night.
I totally enjoyed reading Raymond’s book about Mother Angelica. She is an inspiration in faith and fiestiness and keeping a sense of humor about life and the people that surround her! I’ve passed this book along to my family members to enjoy. God bless Mother and her Sisters and all the EWTN staff.
I too have read the book and found it most interesting and have just gotten the audio book too and raymond does a great just in reading and he does impressions for the other characters and it’s really good.
Real Audio Archives of Mother Angelica Live
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