Mother Angelica Still Changing Lives
Mother Angelica, the founder of the world-ranging media operation, EWTN, has been dead for a year. But she’s still changing lives. Her biographer, Raymond Arroyo, can testify to it.
Mother Angelica was a trailblazing nun who had no business starting a television network in Birmingham, Alabama, save for being convinced that God was telling her to do so. A native Ohioan, she felt called to go South and work for racial healing.
Today, the cable network she founded still plays reruns of her old live show, which, whenever I catch it, is as relevant as ever. The first search result I found on the Internet took me to a Youtube clip in which she talks about the lack of hope seemingly everywhere — in the world, in the home, in the workplace. Tell people they’re beautiful, she says. Don’t knock people down, give them hope. People need it. Not false hope, but trust in the love with which we were created.
“It was her prayer, it was her sacrifice, that was almost magnifying the power of her message despite time, space and disability.” Raymond Arroyo on Mother Angelica
Shortly after she died, Arroyo’s book Mother Angelica Her Grand Silence: The Last Years and Living Legacy was published. Technically, he had previously written her biography, Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles, in 2005. But the media network was not her whole life. And, while strokes had confined her to a convent bed for the better part of a decade before she died, these hidden years may have been her most powerful.
The Silent Years
During those “silent years” — between 2004 and 2016 — Arroyo received “literally thousands of letters from people all over the world,” who told him their stories of being inspired by Mother Angelica. As he read them, he became convinced he had to convey these experiences, to tell about the impact Mother Angelica was continuing to make.
“They didn’t meet her in the ’80s and ’90s, when she was freewheeling and laughing and telling jokes. They met her through reruns and books, and they are meeting her now,” Arroyo tells me. “It was her prayer, it was her sacrifice, that was almost magnifying the power of her message despite time, space and disability. Who would have thought this disabled woman, who couldn’t really speak, would have a louder voice in her silence?”
Arroyo’s Own Inspiration
Talking contemplation can seem ridiculous in our busy world, but it’s the stuff of creativity, a crucial ingredient of a thriving society. And the fruits of it can be seen in Arroyo’s life. Host of EWTN’s long-running news program The World Over, he’s very much on top of politics and culture.
A husband and father, he also slaved away in a labor of love — burning the modern-day equivalent of midnight oil creating a character named Will Wilder in a town called Perilous Falls for a best-selling children’s book series. The Lost Staff of Wonders, the second Will Wilder adventure, was just released. Arroyo is traveling to schools and bookstores throughout the country to introduce the excitement — and privilege — of reading to many young ones, giving away books to children who might not otherwise be reading.
Check his Twitter feed, @RaymondArroyo, for some windows into the joy an encounter with the author and his creation can be. Will Wilder helps children by thinking and dreaming, by emphasizing and celebrating community, hope and adventure.
And as he gets talking to me about the correlation between illiteracy and incarceration rates, the free copies of his books that Random House has been giving way in some poor school districts and some of the segregation he sees in those districts when he visits them, I can’t help but think of what brought Mother Angelica to Birmingham in the first place — a call to help where she saw a need (The principal of a Catholic school in New Orleans has testified to the boys she’d never seen with books before who can’t get enough of Will Wilder.)
Mother Angelica’s legacy continues in a healing of individual and cultural imaginations. Her work continues. Mother Angelica was a success in the world in the most unlikely ways. So it is, when a soul is dedicated to the work of hope and eternity.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at [email protected].
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