RIP Mother Angelica

Mother AngelicaMother Angelica, the feisty Franciscan nun who founded Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and was a co-founder of Adoremus: The Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, passed away on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016. The reception of her body will be on Tuesday, with public prayers and devotions until the vigil on Thursday evening and the Mass of Christian Burial on Friday. She will be interred in the crypt chapel of her monastery in Irondale, Alabama.

Mother Angelica had an outsized influence on the Catholic Church in the U.S. and abroad. John Allen lauds her at Crux: 

With the death of Mother Angelica on Easter Sunday, the Church has lost the most charismatic American Catholic media personality of her time, as well as someone who proved beyond any doubt that a determined and savvy woman can, after all, wield real power… For much of the 1980s and 1990s, she was simply the most riveting Catholic figure on the airwaves.

Aleteia offers tributes to Mother Angelica from Fr. Thomas Rosica of Salt and Light, Bishop Cristopher Coyne, Fr. Francis Hoffman of Relevant Radio, Fr. Robert Reed of the Catholic TV Network, Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, philosopher Alice von Hildebrand, and theologian Janet Smith. Smith said:

She was a simple nun, with a profound faith, and one courageously dependent upon God’s grace to supply what was needed. Her life and deeds were miraculous. I have great confidence that some day she will be declared to be a saint.

Pray Tell readers will be interested especially in Mother Angelica’s views on liturgical renewal and the renewal of the Church more broadly since the Second Vatican Council.

Adoremus Society

Mother Angelica was on the board of advisors of Adoremus: The Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy from its founding in 1995. The board also included well-known figures such as Fr. Joseph Fessio, James and Helen Hull Hitchcock, Phil Lawler, Ralph McInerny, and Msgr. Richard Schuler.

Christopher Zealley described the organization in the introduction to the 200o book Beyond the Prosaic: Renewing the Liturgical Movement as follows:

Adoremus, to judge from a letter issued by Fr. Fessio to invite support (Feast of SS Peter and Paul, 1995), expresses no particular loyalty to the novus ordo [the Mass of Paul VI reformed after the Second Vatican Council – ed.] and aims to ‘help the bishops and the Holy See move toward the renewal that should have been.’ This will involve ‘a complete rethinking and authentic renewal of the reform of the liturgy, using both Sacrosanctum Concilium and an evaluation of the experience of the post-conciliar years.’ Though many liturgical changes since the Council have been pastorally beneficial, ‘too many changes have actually distorted the Church’s liturgical tradition.’ ‘Mere insistence more careful observance of the changes approved since the Council’ is explicitly stated not to be a sufficient solution to the current problem.

The Adoremus Bulletin was long edited by Helen Hull Hitchcock until her passing away in 2014. The current editor and publisher is Christopher Carsens. Among the bishops who have written for it are James Conley, George Pell, Arthur Serratelli, Augustine Di Noia, Raymond Burke, and Peter Elliot.

Cardinal Mahoney’s Mass Guide

The Adoremus Society made news when it sharply criticized the document on liturgy “Gather Faithfully Together” issued in 1997 by Cardinal Mahoney, then archbishop of Los Angeles. The document sought to enliven the active participation of the assembly with best liturgical practices. But Adoremus and Mother Angelica questioned the cardinal’s authority to issue such a document, and even called into question the document’s belief in the Real Presence, claiming that it reflected “a strikingly truncated theology of the Eucharist.”

The document “Gather Faithfully Together” sought to bring together solemnity and festivity, reverence and community, stating that “the vertical and the horizontal dimensions of liturgy must be held together to work for us.” It advised the “presider” (a term some object to) to look at the assembly when he greets them, and also advised Communion ministers to look the recipient in the eye when distributing Communion. It admonished that the choice of the Eucharistic prayer  reflect the entire community and not be chosen solely at the discretion of the presider. It suggested that the assembly gather around the altar if possible. It invited the people to raise their hands for the Our Father. It advised congregational singing during the Communion procession. It advocated Communion under both forms at every Sunday Mass. It affirmed official directives that Communion be distributed from hosts consecrated at the same Mass. It said that in the liturgy, “some practices and attitudes from North American society that have no place: the hurried pace, the tyranny of the clock, the inattention to the arts, the casual tone of a presider, the ‘what can I get out of it?’ approach of the consumer, the ‘entertain me’ attitude of a nation of television watchers.”

The Los Angeles Times reported on Mother Angelica’s rejection of the cardinal’s letter:

“I’m afraid my obedience in that diocese would be absolutely zero,” she said on the program. “And I hope everybody else’s in that diocese is zero.”

Mahony responded sharply. “For you to call into question my own belief in the Real Presence is without precedence. To compound the matter, your call for my people to offer zero obedience to their Shepherd is unheard of and shocking,” he wrote in a Nov. 14 letter to the nun.

Mother Angelica later offered what John Allan calls a “muted apology” to the cardinal.

Stations of the Cross

Mother Angelica’s criticism of what she saw as liberal elements in the U.S. church reached a high point in her reaction to the celebration of the Stations of the Cross at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, held in conjunction with the visit of Pope John Paul II to the U.S. The mime troupe which performed the Stations had the part of Christ played by a female. Mother Angelica called the event an “abomination to the eternal Father” and “blasphemous.” She seemingly misunderstood the nature of mime, theater, and para-liturgical devotions, and made the performance an occasion for a wide-ranging attack on the U.S. Catholic Church.

As the Washington Post reported,

Trish Gessner, a World Youth Day spokeswoman, said the performance was not intended to comment on church controversies. “No, it’s a mime troupe, and mime has never been historically representative,” she said. “This was not a political statement.”

The Vatican soon distanced itself from Mother Angelica’s comments. The World Youth Day national office released a statement quoting papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls saying that the performance was “just a show. . . . A woman can represent humanity, and all humanity was represented by the death of Christ.”

Mother Angelica’s lengthy and free-wheeling commentary on the airwaves of EWTN after the event is legendary. She said to her fellow Catholics in the U.S. church:

I’m tired of your tricks, I’m tired of your deceits… I am so tired of you liberal church in America… from your witchcraft to your Enneagrams to your centering prayer, to all this earth spirituality, to replacing holy water with sand, to destroying churches…

You have really no God, you have no dogma, no doctrine, … You don’t believe in the Eucharist, … you do believe in forcing centering prayer and forcing inclusive language upon us… You’re sick. …

I don’t like your church. You have nothing to offer. You do nothing but destroy. … I speak for myself and my community. We’re not going to take your inclusive language. We’re not going to stand or lounge, we’re going to kneel before that wondrous Eucharist. …

America was built on God … and you’ve made it pagan. … You’ve been strong too long. You’ve put out with that garbage that you’ve been putting out for so many years, that has destroyed the fabric of the church in America. I for one have a right to be a Roman Catholic without your persecution.

After this broadcast, Mother Angelica’s community reverted from its modified habit to the full traditional habit, as she announced they would do.

Funeral Arrangements

The public events from now until the funeral Mass on Friday have, alongside liturgical celebrations properly speaking, a decided emphasis upon traditional Catholic devotions.

After the Rite of Reception on Tuesday, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy will be prayed, and the body will be transferred to the monastery cloister for private visitation with the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration.

On Wednesday there will be recitation of the Rosary in the morning and the evening, along with public visitation. The rosary will be prayed again on Thursday morning.

The liturgical celebrations begin on Thursday evening, with involvement of male religious communities. Solemn Vespers will be chanted by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the male religious community founded by Mother Angelica. Later Thursday evening there is a vigil service with rosary led by the local bishop, Robert Baker, with music performed by a schola of the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius in Chicago.

The funeral Mass is Friday at 11 am, with bishops and clergy from around the world, followed by the rite of committal and interment in the crypt chapel.

May she rest in peace.





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