Homily: 'God was full of surprises when it came to Mother Angelica'


Ala. (CNS) — With Mother Angelica having been essentially bedridden for 15
years following a series of strokes in 2001, staff at the Eternal Word Television Network and
members of her order, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, had plenty of
time to plan and prepare for her funeral.

at EWTN had many plans for when this day would come,” said Father Joseph
Wolfe of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word in his homily at the
April 1 funeral Mass. “But God was full of surprises when it came to
Mother Angelica.”

surprise: Because Mother Angelica, 92, died March 27, Easter Sunday, some
revisions had to be made as church law prohibits reading from the Office of the
Dead during the Easter octave.

first reading for the funeral Mass, celebrated at the Shrine of the Most Blessed
Sacrament in Hanceville, also had to be changed. Selected to take its place was
a passage from the Book of Revelation, where St. John said he “saw a new
heaven and a new earth.”

Angelica “prepared as a bride for her husband, adorned for her husband,”
Father Wolfe said. “You cannot understand Mother Angelica without
reference for the one that she loved with a passion: Jesus, the eternal word,
who became man and dwelt among us.”

Wolfe also told of the time that a teenage Rita Rizzo suffered from a stomach
ailment that lasted nearly four years. He said that she had recalled of those
events, “When the Lord came in and healed me, through the Little Flower (St. Therese of Lisieux), I
had a whole different attitude. I knew there was a God. I knew that God loved
me and was interested in me. I didn’t know that before. … All I wanted to do after
my healing was give myself to Jesus.” In a letter, Mother Angelica had
said, “Before I was cured I was a lukewarm Catholic. … When I think of
all that he has done for me and how little I have done for him, I could cry.”

would argue that in her life, Mother Angelica did much: founding EWTN,
branching out into radio, shortwave and print, and establishing a monastery in
Alabama, which is thinly populated with Catholics.

Wolfe also told of Mother Angelica’s solemn profession as a religious: “The
bishop, I think, was late, he rushed through the ceremony, he put the ring on
her finger just about halfway. But there was something deeper going on inside
of her.” He added, “We’re trying to make up for that lack of ceremony
today” during the two-hour invitation-only Mass that had other mourners on
the piazza outside the church. The funeral was shown live on EWTN.

was a practical spirituality for the man in the pew,” Father Wolfe said. I
believe that deep down we all want holiness because it is the only thing that
is really satisfies us. The saints are those who reached their potential.”

priest also read a recollection from the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration’s
mother vicar, Sister Mary Michael. “Being a spiritual daughter of Mother Angelica
has been a unique privileged experience. Mother had a wealth of spiritual
knowledge,” she said.

Sister Mary Michael added, “she had to use ‘yelling theology.'” “Most
of us have experienced that, her yelling theology,” Father Wolfe said
before returning to Sister Mary Michael’s words: “She used it on me once
and later explained to me that she had to do it to get me to listen.”

and challenges did not discourage Mother,” Father Wolfe said. “No
pity parties allowed. If one door closes, go through another, following the
leading of Our Lord, and be one with it. What seemed to be setbacks often
turned out to be an opening for something bigger and better.”

added, “Mother was not afraid to do what seemed ridiculous. Her only fear
was not to do God’s work.”

Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, vice
chairman of the EWTN board and its longest-serving current member. Other
bishops present included Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican nuncio to
the United States; Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham and his predecessor, retired Bishop David E. Foley; and Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix.

the funeral, a private committal service took place at Our Lady of the Angels
Monastery, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration’s motherhouse. Mother
Angelica was to be interred in a crypt at the monastery.

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