Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, a Catholic nun and the only woman in the history of television to found and a lead a cable network for twenty years, died yesterday, Easter Sunday, at age ninety-two.
After entering the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan religious order, in 1944, Mother Angelica (as she came to be known) went on to find a new house for the order in 1962 in Irondale, Alabama. In 1996 she initiated the building of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels monastery in Hanceville, Alabama.
It was in 1981 that Mother Angelica, with only $200 in hand, started broadcasting religious programs out of a converted garage in Birmingham. Over the next twenty years, this media network, which became the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN), developed to include radio, TV, and internet channels. She appeared on the network regularly, hosting “Mother Angelica Live,” a show on which she led religious discussions with TV viewers. EWTN is now the world’s largest religious media network, with eleven TV networks that broadcast Catholic programming to more than 258 million households in over 145 counties and territories. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI awarded one of the Vatican’s top honors to Mother Angelica and to the network’s former chairman.
She was often outspoken on controversial social issues. In the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, after which she suffered one of several strokes which left her with slurred speech and some unresponsive facial muscles, Mother Angelica made a statement expressing empathy for the victims, and went on to identify “pornography, abortion, child prostitution, the spread of drugs, the destruction of youth by an immoral media and the suppression of religious expression in public places as ‘other’ terrorism that must be addressed.” She stated that abortion had “deprived the nation of millions of people who would otherwise be there to defend the nation.”
She will be remembered for her work, of course, but perhaps even more for her attitude as she went about her mission—for her dogged perseverance, joy, and a lively (sometimes wicked) good humor in the face of obstacles. EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw remarks:
“Mother has always, and will always, personify EWTN, the Network which she founded. In the face of sickness and long-suffering trials, Mother’s example of joy and prayerful perseverance exemplified the Franciscan spirit she held so dear.”
You can find some of her beautiful writings here, on the EWTN website. But for now, let us leave you with a few of her memorable words:
“If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy.”
“Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not negotiable, sweetheart, it’s a requirement.”
“There will be hard times when your faith will be attacked and when your doubts will be increased. What will you do? Persevere in prayer now.”
“Those who tell the Truth love you. Those who tell you what you want to hear love themselves.”
“We cannot put off a change of life for tomorrow or old age, for there may be no tomorrow.”
“Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”
“Only in eternity shall we see the beauty of the soul, and only then shall we realize what great things were accomplished by interior suffering.”
“God is not a slot machine. We don’t go to God to get something; we go to give something.”
May this resilient, punchy, determined, and pious servant of God rest in peace.
Bianca Czaderna is assistant editor at First Things.