This past Friday we celebrated the Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, also known by her Carmelite religious name of Saint Teresa of Jesus. Because of the salute to our Holy Father on the 21st anniversary of his pontificate, we didn't spend much time on St. Teresa, though Sister Mary Lucy Astuto did devote two columns to this great saint and first female Doctor of the Church over the past two weekends. St. Teresa is best known for "cleaning up" the Carmelite Order and bringing back reverence and respect for the rule and the state of religious life. Though she was loved by many, she was despised by many because she would not put up with nonsense; she told it like it was but exhibited a tremendous sense of humor and wit. She was feisty and often clashed with the hierarchy. It wasn't easy for she had to buck the establishment which included bishops and priests who threw every obstacle they could at this Spanish nun who was determined to preserve what God intended despite the laxity of the clergy and religious of her time. She accomplished all this even though she was crippled as an invalid for quite some time. She was bolstered by having a great and holy Sovereign Pontiff during her crusade to reform the Carmelites and establish the Discalced Carmelites. This was in the sixteenth century.
Now fast forward four hundred plus years to today. We have in our midst another St. Teresa. One who has had to buck the establishment which includes bishops and priests who have thrown every obstacle they could at this nun
of Italian descent. Like Teresa, she is feisty and her clashes with some hierarchy have become legendary. She, too, has sought to reform a group of nuns, reinstalling the accomplished wonders of essence of the Poor Clares by founding the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration which is a Pontifical Contemplative Order of Cloistered Nuns with the privilege of Solemn Vows, Papal Enclosure and Solemn Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament. She, also was crippled like Teresa for a great deal of her life. Like the Doctor of the Church from Avila, this nun of the twentieth century has imparted wondrous writings that bespeak brilliance and wisdom with common sense. Like Teresa, she has brought the faith to others. Over the centuries Teresa has reached millions through her writings and the accomplishment of her life's story. Over the past eighteen plus years this modern nun has used the means of modern technology to reach millions with the truths of the Catholic Faith. Teresa was not afraid to stand up to bishops when it came to doctrine and the teachings of the Church. So also this nun is not afraid to stand up to prelates who veer from Church teaching.
By now, of course, you realize we are talking about Mother Angelica, the spunky, determined nun who, like the Holy Father, continues despite age and unstable health. When it comes to this feisty, but reverent nun of Italian descent, you either love her or hate her. We happen to be in that first group who admire Mother tremendously. Modernists, liberals and those who would seek to usurp the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church with the American Catholic Church despise her because she exposes their self-will agendas before they can take root. She is the thorn in the side of the liberal bishops who have sought on more than one occasion to shut her down. When Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles released his controversial pastoral on the Eucharist in 1997 Mother went over it with a fine-tooth comb and found flaws that bordered on heresy. She was not afraid to challenge the bishop on her popular national cable show "Mother Angelica Live" reaching over fifty million. The cardinal didn't take kindly to being called on the carpet by a nun, let alone one who was orthodox and totally loyal to Rome and whom the National Conference of Catholic Bishops had no control over. He sought an immediate apology which Mother produced at the beginning of her show on November 18, 1997; then spent the remaining hour exposing the flaws in his pastoral. Mahony was livid and threatened to get an interdict against Mother, perhaps even wrest control of EWTN from her. Some bishops during St. Teresa's time tried to wrest control of her monasteries from her, but God prevailed. So also with Mother.
Cardinal Mahony inferred that Mother was in violation of Canon Law 753 which obliges Catholics to respect the teaching office of the diocesan bishop and specifies that only the Pope may correct a bishop's teaching. However, that article of the Code of Canon Law also says "the faithful must adhere to the authentic teaching of their own bishops with a sense of religious respect." It was with religious respect for the august responsibility of a cardinal in charge of millions in his see that she took him on for it was not authentic teaching Cardinal Mahony was imparting, veiling much of his document with new age feel-good phrases that diminished the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. For Mother's stubbornness and devotion to the essence of the Blessed Sacrament, the cardinal was going to have her head. He headed to Rome to meet with Pope John Paul II to quiet this Franciscan nun who has been a faithful guardian of the Faith in the face of many atrocities perpetrated on the American faithful by the liberal bishops of America. The result of Mahony's threats: Nothing! Nada! Nil! Absolute silence ever since.
Why? Because we suspect, had we been a fly on the wall, that the good cardinal got a dressing down from His Holiness for his pastoral. We say this because the pastoral demands Cardinal Mahony had made have been placed on the back shelf and the reforms he had insisted be enforced have not been. Thank God. We also say this because the cardinal has been strangely silent since his trip to Rome, as if the conflict never happened. Add to this God's intervention of a miracle in which Mother was miraculously healed of her crippling maladies that had confined her activities for decades because she wore uncomfortable but necessary leg braces. This healing happened shortly after she had spoken out in defense of Catholic doctrine. In His Mercy, God also healed Cardinal Mahony from prostate cancer through surgery. We would hope and pray He will heal the cardinal of his bent toward liberal, Protestant notions that water down the true tenets of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
But this editorial today is not about Cardinal Mahony but about Mother Angelica. Just as Pope Saint Pius V gave approval to St. Teresa to reform the Carmelites and papal enclosure for her monasteries, so also Pope John Paul II has done the same for Mother Angelica and her Order. She has met often with the Holy Father who has given his heartfelt blessings to all of Mother's endeavors with her Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, her Monastery of Our Lady of Angels in Irondale, Alabama and to her evangelization efforts first on the Eternal Word Television Network, then on WEWN Radio, expanding to the Spanish market and recently Europe. In addition Mother established www.ewtn.com as a well-rounded resource for the great Deposit of Faith. The Pope also gave approval for Mother to found the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, an Order of Priests and Brothers who live a Franciscan, Eucharistic life dedicated to bringing souls back into the good graces of the Church. In keeping with the Vicar of Christ's request for increased lay evangelization, Mother also founded the Lay Missionaries of the Eternal Word, a group of lay people placing an emphasis on the importance of prayer and spirituality in their lives.
And so today we have living in our midst, one who exemplifies the same traits as St. Teresa. Few have as keen a sense of humor as Mother Angelica who is not afraid to poke fun at herself and the way she brings to life the people of scripture and the saints as humans who had to make choices for God are classic. Right now as we write this we are listening to Mother on the streaming audio at EWTN's web site. Since we cannot get EWTN on cable being able to listen to Mother on the internet truly inspires us. Even though it breaks up at times, her words move us to tears, to laughter, to a deeper love for God and our Faith.
While the liberals rail at this independent nun we suspect God is smiling down on her as are the countless souls who have died over the past eighteen years who were converted to the Faith thanks to Mother's evangelization efforts. We presently have three women Doctors of the Church, but sometime in the future we may have four and that could very well someday be Mother Angelica. As far fetched as that may seem - for it takes veneration, beatification and canonization first - anything is possible with God. Mother would be the first to deny any traces of sanctity, but so also did St. Teresa, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, and countless other saints throughout the history of the Church. We should consider ourselves very blessed that God has seen fit to send us during these confusing, turbulent times in the world and the Church today a modern-day Saint Teresa: Mother Angelica.