Friday, April 1, 2016

Mother Angelica

I was hesitant to write anything about Mother Angelica because so many others had written such beautiful and insightful tributes already.  I fear that I will have very little to add to such acclaim.

One of the greatest things about Mother Angelica, besides her obvious holiness, was her complete sense of genuineness.  She never tried to be anything other than who she was.  You often get the sense from people on television that they are putting on a character or some exaggerated version of themselves.  You never got that impression of Mother Angelica.  She was who she was.  Sometimes she was angry, sometimes she was playful.  But she was always genuine.

The biggest takeaway I have from Mother Angelica's life and work, again besides her amazing and evident holiness, was how she engaged the popular culture and media.

I have a dear friend who constantly reminds me that the popular culture is a cesspool of immorality.  It is often very difficult to disagree.  Sometimes I flip stations and even the commercials on daytime television make me cringe.  Add to that the whole Game of Thrones-y aesthetic that has been creeping into not only cable television but the networks as well, it is understandable why some would throw up their hands and turn away from the whole medium.

Mother Angelica did not do that.

She looked at the television landscape and said that here was an opportunity for evangelization.

And her idea was insane.  Who would think that a 58-year-old cloistered nun could start a television network rooted in a dynamically orthodox Catholicism with no commercial revenue stream except donations and the selling of religious bookstore items?  Think about this: within a year of EWTN being founded, the Playboy Channel came into being.  If you were a betting man, which one would have thought had greater staying power on television.  Here we are more than 30 years later and EWTN is the largest religious network in the world and Playboy is an empire that is continuing to shrink and shrink until its inevitable collapse in the near future.

Mother Angelica rolled up her sleeves and said that she would labor in the popular media fields and bear fruit for the Lord.

And she never compromised her complete devotion to the Lord.  She was originally aired on a CBS affiliate.  When the station planned to air a movie about Jesus that Mother called "blasphemous," she said she would leave that station.  The station manager told her that she would never work in television in again.

Mother Angelica defied all the odds and critics.  Yes, she encountered failure at times.  But she looked at each failure not as a defeat, but as a learning opportunity.

The question is: how do we carry on Mother Angelica's legacy?

Look at the cesspool of new media like the internet and Twitter.  Of the latter how many of us have witnessed what some call "the Twitter Inquisition" when someone is lambasted for expressing an idea unpopular by the guardians of popular culture?  Are we simply going to "tsk-tsk" these things or are we going to behave like Mother Angelica and role up our sleeves and evangelized in this new media landscape?

Mother Angelcia, pray for us!

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