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Mother Angelica spent years teaching audiences all over the world through the medium of television. She sat and she talked.
But Raymond Arroyo, one of her close collaborators, learned from her both by hearing her advice and watching her live out that advice herself.
Arroyo said Random House will be publishing an updated version of his biography of Mother Angelica, including stories of his own relationship with the pioneering Catholic broadcaster. Lead anchor of EWTN’s news programs, the Louisiana native remembers the Poor Clare nun often calling him out as he went enthusiastically about his duties at the network.
“She would always tell me when I was running in circles, and she’d see me at the network, running there and trying to manage this, and writing,” he said in an interview March 21. “She’d say, ‘You have to learn to live in the present moment.'”
Arroyo was puzzled and a bit annoyed by her insistence. “At one point I even got ornery with her and said, ‘You always say I should live in the present moment, I’ve got to learn to live in the present moment.’ We all live in the present moment. I’m in the present moment right now. I have no choice. She said, ‘No, no, no. You’re not in the present moment. You’re in the future. You’re worried about what’s coming and at other times you’re worried about what happened already, and you’re reliving the past. You have to stay here in the present moment.'”
The young broadcaster maintained his home in Louisiana and commuted to Irondale, Ala., to do his weekly broadcast. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, and the Arroyos lost their home.
“We packed everything up and ended up going to live [in Alabama],” he said. “The nuns let us live in one of their guest houses for 10 months. I remember seeing her. I said to her, ‘What do you think this is about?’ and she took my hand and she said, ‘Living in the present moment.’
“It is the lesson of Mother’s life that I carry with me. That moment really underscored it because I suddenly realized you can’t cry over the house that’s lost or your belongings or the friends you’ve left behind,” he reflected. “You’ve got to keep moving forward and you have to be available to both the graces and the challenges of the present moment. And that has also freed me and allowed me to write books, manage the show, be present to my family, to juggle multiple projects and initiatives — because you stay true and present to those you’re with. You’re fully engaged, you’re not checked out, you’re not somewhere else. And that’s both a spiritual message as well as a temporal one, and a gift that she gave me.”
Her counsel had added import because Mother Angelica was “running between a cloister and running a company — and an on-air personality,” Arroyo said. “I learned a lot watching her because you would see her slide effortlessly from one duty to another.
“I used to ask her, ‘What is the present moment?’ And she would say, ‘What is Jesus calling me to do right now? Not yesterday or tomorrow but right now.’ His graces and blessings are here in the present moment, and if we’re not careful we miss them,” he said. “In her long life she embraced each of those present moments. She celebrated like no one celebrated. She had fun like no one had fun. She also suffered a great deal and embraced that suffering, and that is what, of course, marked the whole latter phase of her life. She was confined to her cell for more than a decade. But she embraced that with the same elan and the same grace that she embraced so much else.”
John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.