Pray unceasingly. Many a Christian has contemplated this Biblical command and wondered: How? How can I pray without ceasing?
In The Prayers & Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica, edited by Raymond Arroyo, we see first-hand how Mother Angelica has lived that command during her sixty-five years as a Poor Clare nun. Given that Mother Angelica has dramatically impacted the Catholic World through the founding of a multimillion dollar empire–Eternal World Television Network (EWTN)–it is worth noting the source of her success is her faith in God. Yes, but of course, we already knew that. What we didn’t know was how her faith played out in her personal prayers and every day life.
In The Prayers and Personal Devotions, we become privy to Mother Angelica’s intimate conversations with God. Arroyo, is a long time friend of Mother, news director and anchor of the EWTN News and host of The World Over Live. This is his fourth and most likely final book on Mother Angelica. He was given complete access to Mother Angelica’s journals and notes and assembled it into a collection of her favorite prayers and devotions as well as personal compositions and conversations. Some of her innermost expressions–such as journal entries during her “dark night of the soul” in which she felt empty, void of God’s love–will surprise people who have watched this nun for over twenty-five years on EWTN.
It is especially surprising that the thoughts and feelings of Mother Angelica are so much like our own. Consider this sampling of her prayerful thoughts below.
Morning Prayer: Good morning, Jesus, I want to give You this day with all my love…It looks like a difficult day–a day of decision and I’m not sure of the right course to take. A day of pain and I feel weak, a day of uncertainty and I tend to lose hope.”
Prayer for Kindness: Dear Jesus, make me kind….No matter how tired You were You always had time for the sick, poor sinners, children and all those in need….I need to participate in Your kindness if I am to be kind. I cannot do it on my own. My poor soul tends to be critical of others and this makes me impatient and unkind….
To Forgive and Forget: Lord, I need Your help–help to love those who do not love me in return. I find this so difficult….
Prayer for the Good Use of Time: As I look forward to ‘tomorrow’ never let me forget it is always ‘today.” I have already begun the eternal ‘now’ that shall never have an end. Holy Father, let me see time as a precious commodity that must be used well and never wasted.
This woman that accomplished the seemingly impossible is not superhuman at all. She simply leans on a power infinitely stronger than her own. One of the quotes she kept in her notes was this from St. Augustine: “Do what you can and pray for what you cannot yet do.” It was 1981 when Mother Angelica, with a mere $200 in a garage in Birmingham, Alabama, launched what would eventually become the world’s largest religious network, reaching 148 million households around the world, 24 hours a day. Given her simple beginnings, she surely counted more on prayer than on her own human abilities.
Interview with Raymond Arroyo
Raymond Arroyo, first met Mother Angelica in 1995. “I was doing a profile piece on her for a magazine. I had never met her before but from the time I was brought into her office in Birmingham, I felt like I had known her all my life. She was like my Italian grandmother,” he says. The following year, when she asked him to start the news division at EWTN, he could not resist.
Through their long friendship, Mother often shared many stories with Arroyo that he says he never saw in print. He felt inspired to write her biography in order to document the amazing creation of the EWTN network through a most unlikely person, Mother Angelica. “Mother reluctantly agreed to let me write the biography. I sat and interviewed her every Saturday for three years and I was given complete access to her notes.”
The material for this current book is the spiritual progress of Mother Angelica through the years. It offers the simple wisdom of this amazing woman. Arroyo explains, “I wanted the book to be as practical as she is. What I love about Mother and what the world loves about her, is her authenticity. She grew up on the streets of Canton OH, so when she converses, she speaks with the language of the street; we can all relate.”
Although Arroyo did not meet Mother until after the period when she suffered a “dark night of the soul” he interviewed people that were very close to her during that time. “One woman that traveled with her on a trip for two weeks said they had a grand time. She said that Mother laughed and joked. All of her pain was going on internally.” The pain and darkness Mother released into her journal, remained hidden to the world.
While Mother’s thoughts and prayers were not unlike our own, she was building an empire against all odds. Arroyo says that the price for such success seems to have been paid in the intense physical sufferings of Mother. “It seems that throughout the building of EWTN, the advances of the network were squeezed out of her through her suffering.”
Arroyo notes that during times when trusting was difficult be it through suffering or roadblocks at the network, Mother remained responsive to God’s will through her routine and habit of prayer. “She was willing to be moved by God’s will even though often times it was not her will. Mother used to say, ‘He doesn’t send you a gold leaf invitation, we have to be responsive to what God is calling us to do right now. His will is manifested in the responsibilities of the present moment.’”
In 2001, Mother felt God calling her to step down from the network and return to a cloistered life. After she had turned over the reigns, on December 2001, she had a stroke which has left her partially paralyzed. Arroyo says that he believes today at 86-years old, Mother is still suffering in her body to support the network.
A Spiritual Handbook
If you want to follow the spiritual footsteps of Mother Angelica, this is the handbook. Mother Angelica’s prayerful conversations with God were much like a never-ending phone call where God and Mother had each other on speaker phone. Mother went about the business of building a network, but her line to God was always open. God was never put on hold and even during a bad connection — her dark night of the soul — Mother kept communicating with Him and trusting that He was there.
Arroyo says he hopes that people will be inspired by the ease in which Mother prayed. “It’s about a continual conversation with God,” he says. “Mother liked to say that if we are going to spend eternity with God, we’d better learn to talk to Him. She also liked to say, ‘Prayer is not something it is someone.’”
This is the fourth book Arroyo has written about Mother Angelica, to land on the NY Times best sellers list. Yet, those four books cannot completely chronicle the whole story. “Everywhere I go, I hear some of these stories,” Arroyo says. “For instance, at a book signing, a man came up to me with his wife and daughter and said, ‘I want you to meet these two people. Mother brought them back into my life after five years. I came across her book and opened it and what was in there convicted me.’ The man repented and returned to his family,” Arroyo says.
Arroyo explains that Mother’s influence around the world continues today. “Mother is still praying with her nuns and still engaged. We have this nun who has been mute for the last decade but her message is even louder and stronger today through her reruns and books than at any point in her life. I think this is nothing short of God’s divine providence.”