The third and final motif I would stress is Mother Angelica’s penetrating understanding of the value of suffering. As Arroyo’s biography makes eminently clear, Mother endured tremendous suffering, both physical and psychological, most of her life, and she appreciated these trials as opportunities for spiritual growth. Nowhere was this clearer for her than in the last fourteen years of her life, as this once very vocal and active and woman accepted silence and immobility. She told one of her sisters some years ago that if she got much sicker, she wanted every possible means employed to keep her alive, not because she was clinging to life, but “because I will have suffered one more day for the love of God.” I often thought of Mother, during the last years of her life, as a kind of Mother Drexel for our time. That great foundress, after suffering a heart attack at 75, spent the last twenty years of her life praying for the order that she had established.
Mother Angelica wasn’t perfect-and she would be the first to admit it. Due to her lack of polish and advanced theological education, she sometimes said things that were insufficiently nuanced and balanced. And her hot temper, which gave fire to her evangelization, also at times led her to indulge in ad hominem attacks and unfair characterizations of her opponents’ positions. But these are quibbles. When Church historians write their accounts of the years immediately following Vatican II, Rita Rizzo of Canton, Ohio, Mother Angelica, will find a very honored place.
Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.