Saturday, April 02, 2016

Most powerful Christian in U.S. dies on Easter at 92

You went a long way, Rita Rizzo of Akron, Ohio.  Mother Angelica created EWTN, the largest Roman Catholic television network in the U.S. with $200, a makeshift studio in a monastery’s garage in Irondale, Alabama, and one on-air personality, herself. The first time I heard her on the radio with her outspoken viewpoints on what was wrong and right in the world whether it was domestic abuse, poverty or the Vatican, I couldn't believe it. Funny, opinionated, deeply religious, and technologically savvy. Beginning in 1981 with nothing but a vision, her little EWTN is now a huge network with 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. The most powerful hierarchy and bishops in the land couldn't have done this. A child of divorce (at a time when it was a terrible sin) and poverty, she grew up in Canton, OH. She had a stroke 15 years ago, so I probably never heard her live. In my opinion, next to the Pope, she may have been the most powerful and influential Catholic in the world. And to die on Easter. Oh my.

In 1957 facing back surgery, she made a "deal" with God--"If you let me walk again, I'll build a monastery." She did walk again, with crutches and leg braces, and built the monastery, Our Lady of Angels, in Alabama. "When you make a deal with God," she said, "be very specific." (Story told by her biographer, Raymond Arroyo.) Her crippled legs were healed in 1998 and she removed the braces.
 She was 58 years old (and had already built a monastery) when she got her vision for spreading the gospel via radio and TV. I was planning my retirement at that age! She was way ahead of the Pope when he called for the New Evangelism. USCCB wasted millions trying to do what she did. Now critics of EWTN say it needs to change, it did its job, its audience is aging and so is the staff. Everyone chases the millennials. Your church and mine included. It's why the Pope has a Twitter account and your pastor wears jeans instead of a robe.She wasn't afraid to tell a bishop or cardinal to go stick his head in a toilet, or announce he wasn't preaching Catholic doctrine, and then under pressure would give an insincere apology. When liberal bishops talked to John Paul II about ordaining women she chastised them and said women were already the most powerful in the church and didn't need to be priests.

Originally, Mother Angelica said she wouldn't let the culture set her agenda--it would be scripture and the catechism. But by the early 90s, she was so sick of the liberal agenda, she jumped into the fight.

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