During a dark period of my life when I was away from the Church, I decided I could no longer teach college part time, so I turned down a contract for another year and dedicated my time to searching for a full time job.
Getting hired took far longer than expected and in need of money I took a temporary job working nights at a warehouse that had been transformed into a flower factory for Valentine’s Day.
Huge boxes of roses were unloaded into a refrigerated room, unpacked from the boxes, and arranged so that the stems could be trimmed. The roses were then sent to a cadre of workers who arranged the roses in glass vases.
I worked in the refrigerated room, and after several hours the floor of the room was slick with a film of water and rose petals. I was wet and cold by then and longed for the end of my shift.
I arrived home after 1 a.m., would get something to eat, and would settle in before the television set in the kitchen to enjoy the quiet.
One night while shifting from one channel to another I ended up watching EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). I had been away from the Catholic Church for more than twenty years at this point and watched the channel out of curiosity.
I soon found myself watching every night for a short amount of time. I would listen to Mother Angelica and would be amazed by how plain she spoke about the faith, how direct she was. With each passing night I found myself becoming more admiring of the faith I saw presented on the network’s shows.
I considered myself an atheist then who practiced Buddhist meditation, so I told no one about my late night meeting with EWTN.
A report about now Pope St. John Paul II appeared on the network one night and I watched as he walked up to a kneeler, got down on his knees, and began to pray.
I could not take my eyes off the pope praying and saw in his humility at prayer a deep connection to something that was lacking in my life. I heaved with great sadness as I watched him pray, but the image of the pope praying and the knowledge that something was missing in my life stayed with me.
Years later I wrote about my experience watching the pope in prayer and published an article, “The Pope and the Laborer,” in the New Oxford Review. In that article, I spoke about the influence Pope St. John Paul II, and a laborer I witnessed at prayer in a Florida church on a different occasion, had on my return to the faith.
What I did not fully acknowledge in that article was the influence EWTN had on my return. From those nights as a secret watcher of the network to days when I openly watched, I learned how to become a Catholic again by watching EWTN.
And when I was a parishioner at a Jesuit parish surrounded by dissidents who could not accept the full and authentic teachings of the Church, who cared more about keeping up with the secular world than seeking the kingdom, EWTN helped me stay on the path.
In the introduction to the book Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality, Raymond Arroyo, the book’s editor, writes:
“Throughout the book tour for my biography, Mother Angelica, the Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles, I can’t tell you how often people waited on line to share how Mother’s story or words had transformed their lives. Misty-eyed CEOs, lawyers, maids, truck drivers, and home-schooling moms stood in queues to pay tribute to her, and to ask questions, some very pointed questions: How can I find God’s will in my life as Mother did? How I can I pray more deeply? How can I overcome the faults that seem to be holding my life hostage? How did Mother find the strength to cope with all the suffering she experienced?”
I sought everything that those men and women who had spoken with him had sought. And I found answers on EWTN.
Years later, I found myself waiting to speak with Mr. Arroyo after a talk he gave to tell him my own story, and though he had heard such stories hundreds of times in the past he listened carefully and expressed his great admiration for Mother Angelica.
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, known as Mother Angelica, the Poor Clare nun who founded EWTN, died on Easter Sunday at the age of 92.
I am just one of the many souls whose lives have been transformed because of Mother Angelica’s vision and her tenacity in creating a Catholic television network, as well as her commitment to ensuring that viewers of this Global Catholic Network would be exposed to the full truth of the faith.
I join mourners around the world in expressing my gratitude for the life of this humble and wise nun.
It seems so fitting that she died on Easter Sunday in the year that the Annunciation and Good Friday were celebrated on the same day.