And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me: Write, for these words are most faithful and true. – Rev. 21:3-5
During our time back at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery following the death of our beloved Mother Angelica, the daily Mass readings used were from the Masses for the dead. Providentially, the above reading for the dead fit perfectly with the Easter octave, as we look forward to the eternal life with God which Jesus opened up for us through His passion, death and resurrection. Two lines from the first reading at Mass that Wednesday of Easter struck me as being so connected to each other, and so fitting as we look back on the tremendous gift that was Mother Angelica’s life. I had written down my thoughts about it at the time, but never managed to post it after we returned home to San Antonio. Since today is Mother’s birthday, it seemed like a perfect day to publish my thoughts about her life.
Behold, God’s dwelling is with men. (Rev: 21-3) This line from Revelations, where we look to the consummation of all time, when the elect will be united with God eternally, also reminds us of the Holy Eucharist, that God Himself has been dwelling with men ever since the Incarnation. And after His passion and death, after His Resurrection and ascension, He still remained with us, ever since the institution of the Holy Eucharist. As a soul consecrated particularly to adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, Mother Angelica spent the last 72 years of her life dwelling with God, adoring His Real Presence. And it is this love of the Holy Eucharist that transformed her – or rather, which opened her heart to be transformed by God’s grace and love.
Behold, I make all things new. (Rev 21:5) This is one of my favorite verses from all of sacred scripture because of the hope it offers. The Creator of all things, from the Milky Way and Jupiter down to the tiniest diatom and quark, wants to make of us a new creation as well. He has the power, if we do not resist Him, to make each one of us a new creature, a beautiful reflection of His sacrificial self-gift, a holy temple where He longs to dwell – and not just dwell, but reign. Mother Angelica could touch so many lives around the globe because she let God touch the deepest recesses of her soul, because she allowed Him to do His work of healing and restoration and transformation. Holiness doesn’t make for a person with whom we always agree, with whom we always get along, who always behaves as we think they should – holiness makes for a person whose virtue is heroic, a soul who holds nothing of themselves back from God, a soul who pours themselves out like a libation for others out of love for God – down to the very last drop. This, I have no doubt, is what Mother Angelica possessed: heroic virtue, fierce love for God, especially for her Eucharistic Spouse, a desire to suffer so that she could be more closely conformed to Jesus, and so that she could win many, many souls for heaven. I pray that I may have a share of that same love and courage in my own heart. To defend her vulnerable and humble God, so helpless in the consecrated Host, was something that was second nature to Mother. She wouldn’t think twice about defending Our Lord’s Real Presence, no matter to whom she was speaking, no matter how important or unimportant their position. Jesus always came first, and it’s this grace for which I pray: “My Eucharistic Lord, grant me a double portion of Mother Angelica’s love for You!”
On the special live show Tuesday evening (March 29) one of the friars, I can’t remember who it was, compared St. Clare to Mother Angelica. When St. Clare went before the Blessed Sacrament to beseech His protection for the city of Assisi and their monastery, which was under attack from Muslim invaders, Our Lord, speaking from the Sacred Host, said to St. Clare “I will always defend you.” This, one of the friars pointed out, is exactly what Mother Angelica always said to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, “I will always defend You.” And this she did, no matter what the situation. If only we had more souls whose love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was as fierce – what a different world this would be. To the most vulnerable, most humble, most loving Jesus in the Sacred Host Mother gave every last drop of herself. Her love and suffering, united to His Love and Suffering, changed the world. And that’s the call for every Catholic – we are called to love and to suffer, to unite ourselves fully with God in a sacrificial outpouring. May all Mothers’ spiritual children embrace this difficult call – difficult, yet the only way to become holy, the only path that brings real, lasting joy, in this world and in the next. There’s a reason the saints called it the royal road of the Cross: it was Our Lord’s true throne. He reigned from the Cross, and if we are to reign with Him eternally, we must also ascend to the same throne now, not bending to fear, but trusting God’s plan and His goodness, no matter which direction our own royal road winds, no matter the cross with which He chooses to bless us.
Mother’s most poignant lesson to us is her teaching on suffering. She suffered physically all her life, and especially at the end of her life, when she seemed to be so closely united to Our Lord in His passion. I have no doubt that she fully embraced every suffering He asked of her as she drew nearer and nearer the end of her life, which, as God’s Providence ordained, meant she was walking in step with Our Lord during His agony and passion and resurrection. It was through His suffering and death that He made all things new; it was through suffering and dying united to Jesus that Mother Angelica was made new, as well. And this re-creation is what God longs to do with each one of us, if we love Him and allow Him to lead us. It seems impossible to think of oneself as embracing the cross wholeheartedly. I usually prefer to run from it until there’s no place left to go. Mother’s example shows that love of God, trust in His love and goodness, can transform our weakness and fear into courage, trust and holy boldness.
I recently listened to a fascinating radio interview on lay piety in the Middle Ages (James Griffin, Radio Maria), and the last thought he left us with is something I can’t stop thinking about: for the lay person in the middle ages, when the regular practice for receiving Holy Communion was only perhaps 3 or 4 times a year, to be able to look upon the Consecrated Host during the elevation at Mass was the climax of their worship of God – for Catholics in the Middle Ages, to look upon God in the Eucharist was heaven on earth. He referred to another talk by Fr. John Hunwicke, in which he said that sometimes people in the congregation would shout to the priest during Mass “Higher, Sir Priest, raise It higher.” They knew their Lord was truly present, and they wanted nothing more than to gaze upon Him.
Mother Angelica was more than just devoted to the Blessed Sacrament – like all her sisters and daughters in the order, she was consecrated to adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. He was the reason for her vocation; He was the focus of all she did; He was the source of all her accomplishments. For more than seven decades she adored Him, hidden beneath the humble veil of bread. But at 4:23pm on Easter Sunday, the veil was finally drawn back; she closed her eyes on this world, stepping from time into eternity. And when she opened her eyes again, it was to finally look upon her Lord Face to face.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.