Castle San Miguel
Castle San Miguel
We left the abbey heading for Shirine of the most blessed sacrament, picking up our guest house people on the way.

There is a single entrance to the site down a country road filled with farmland horses and cattle grazing calmly nearby giving no clue as to what is to be found at the end of the road.

There were very few members of the group who had been to the shrine and the Castle that sits upon it but even so it remained an imposing sight as you approach it.

When you walk into the medieval style keep this is what you see

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Conference Room
this is the area used for conferences dining (items are catered and brought in). It also contains the rather large and very catholic gift shop full of coins, prayer cards and medals. As our catholic supply store in the Fitchburg area closed I loaded up on small bottles for holy water to be given out a few of which I filled from the taps connected to huge tanks of holy water kept in the nativity area next to the castle

For those who are not catholic be aware that all such items are just that items that can be bought and sold until blessed by a priest or deacon, once blessed they can NOT be sold either by a gift shop or by the person who had them blessed. No legit catholic gift shop will sell a blessed item.

The Courtyard
The Courtyard

We then filled into the conference room for a talk on the origins of Mother Angelica, her vocation and the Shrine of the most blessed sacrament. I set up a mic for the talk next to her podium so I caught all of her speech but in the Q & A you’ll only hear the “A” not the “Q”

When the talk was over we headed for mass at the lower chapel where Mother Angelica is buried. No photography is allowed there so naturally I have no images to show you. I was struck that not only was the Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated Ad Orientem but communion was received kneeling at the altar rail with an altar boy holding a salver under a chin, both of which I found very appealing.

Touring the Eucharistic Center
Touring the Eucharistic Center
After mass we had some time before our tour of the John Paul II Eucharistic Center we spent some time at the grave of Mother Angelica. We pressed rosaries against her grave that the station planned to give away and prayed a rosary for the person who would be receiving it.

A bit later we visited the Eucharistic Center. The last time I was there the young knights of the Holy Eucharist were the tour guides, but they had been transferred to Nebraska so a gentleman name Micah gave the tour.

When the Tour was over he took a few minutes to speak to me about his job.

The Vast Collection of Relics of Saints
The Vast Collection of Relics of Saints

When the tour was over and after a quick sandwich we had free time. I spent mine at Mother’s grave with several hundred rosaries saying a Hail Mary over each as I touched them to her grave.

Soon it was time to head back to St. Benedict Abbey where I visited and filmed the famous Grotto.

And interviewed Brother Christopher who gave us the history of brother Joseph

From there we were back to the cafeteria at St. Bernard Abbey where I interviewed one of the students who attended the school.

At St. Bernard Abbey
At St. Bernard Abbey
However at this point things took a turn for the worse. Our bus driver had been a tad under the weather on day one, by that evening he was in horrible pain. we had a pair of nurses on the trip who took a look at him and it was decided he needed to get to the local hospital. We had no way of getting him there. The Taxi services stopped running early, there was no Uber or Lyft and we failed to get ahold of the local parish or Knight of Columbus that we hoped to get a hand from. Eventually our driver drove to the hospital in his bus with our nurses with him while the rest of us took up a Rosary Circle. One of the Nurses takes up the story.

In the end our driver got the treatment he needed while a substitute driver arrived from Atlanta while he waited to be treated. Ironically our substitute had driven for our tour leader Maryann before and while our primary driver would have a day of rest we would be getting ready for our trip to the EWTN studio the next day.


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Baldilocks is tied up and her piece will go up thursday so to tide you over here are a pair of videos from the St. John Paul II Eucharistic Center at Mother angelica’s Monastery:

The role of Saint Juliana and Thomas Aquinas on the feast of Corpus Christi

and an interview with the gentleman who presented the tour

And lets throw in a few photos too

♫  And I’m one step ahead of the shoe shine
Two steps away from the county line
Just trying to keep my customers satisfied,
Satisfied.

Keep the Customer Satisfied Simon & Garfunkel 1970

Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that “only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the birth of new civilisations”. You see the little rift? “Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.” That’s the game.

C.S. Lewis Screwtape 25

There has been a lot written in the past week about EWTN, Mother Angelica and the secret of her success.

I think there is one factor that everyone is overlooking, and the clue to it comes from a post from 2014 about the conversion of congressman Keith Ellison to Islam:

Well part of it is what I didn’t know about Catholicism even though I went to Catholic school but other part of it was the social justice aspect, the ah inclusion,

Ellison converted at 19.  He is three months younger than me so that means he converted in 1982.  and went to catholic school before then, in the years before EWTN, yet years of Catholic school didn’t teach him of his own faith.

This perfectly illustrates what had happened to the American Church post Vatican II.

The church was big about social justice and about inclusion but not about actually teaching the truths of the faith.

Then along comes Mother Angelica and what does she do?

She unapologetically presents the truth of the faith, heaven, hell, purgatory.  

She unapologetically presents the scripture as it is.

She unapologetically quotes the saints of old not caring one whit if their message was not “modern” enough.

She unapologetically pushes the Rosary, Adoration, the Prayer of St. Michael, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and traditional Catholic practices that the American Church had ignored.

She unapologetically proclaims catholic morality and the consequences of avoiding it:

In other words she catechesis 

The church in the US choose to leave those things behind, and Mother Angelica decided to pick up the mantle that they abandoned.

Suddenly a person who is interested in the faith or feels the call of God suddenly had a place to go to find out about the faith away from the spin of the media or the filter of the liberal church.

Suddenly there was a message that valued the church not or what it could be used for but because of the Truth of Christ and the salvation it brings.

Suddenly there was a Poor Clare Nun doing the work of Priests, Bishops and Cardinals to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”  (Mark 16:15)

And through that work came the vocations that orders who abandoned the habit lacked.  As I once noted:

according to an article not online the youngest woman in the order is 57 years old.  That’s six years older than me.

And along with the lack of young sisters to sustain the order the money dried up as well.

Now I’m certainly not going to question a single one of their vocations, but let’s contrast their situation with the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in Alabama.  Their median age is not only younger than me, when I visited them I met women young enough to be my children both discerning vocations and active as nuns.

 

Of course Mother, if she was alive, she would explain that it’s all due to the grace of God and this is of course true but the grace of God was there because she was doing his will.

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My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great.

Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him.

Sirach 2:1-6

If you want to understand nothing about what Mother Angelica accomplished read the NYT Obit of her:

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, a cloistered Franciscan nun and media entrepreneur who founded the largest Roman Catholic television network in the country, and used it unstintingly to criticize liberalizing trends in the Catholic Church, died on Sunday. She was 92.

or maybe the Washington post which worked off the same copy with a few extras:

In a 1994 article in the National Catholic Reporter, Jesuit priest Raymond Schroth assailed Mother Angelica for what he considered her lack of intellectual sophistication. He cited her broadcast of the traditional Latin Mass, her belief in the literal reality of miracles and her skepticism of the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s.

“Anyone who watches EWTN will have to conclude that Catholicism is a Disneyland of pseudo-miracles, with a piety that exalts Mary over Jesus, more determined to squelch the Spirit than allow him or her to speak,” Schroth wrote.

The concept of the MSM quoting a Jesuit arguing against the Miraculous on Easter Monday is astounding, of course one might argue that Mother Angelia a child of violence, poverty and divorce in the 1920’s & 1930;s becoming the head of a media empire is rather miraculous.

But if you want Miracles read this timeline of EWTN from the site. Even if you ignore things like this

1934
Rita’s first miraculous experience: In running to catch a bus, Rita misses a car speeding toward her. When she sees it, she freezes. Rita feels two hands pick her up and put her on the median in the center of the street. The bus driver says he has never seen anyone jump so high before.

Or This:

March 8, 1981
Just before the first satellite dish arrives, Sr. Regina has a vision in which she sees a black sky, a white satellite dish, and a flame emerging from the center. She hears God say, “No one will be able to extinguish this flame. This is my network, and it will glorify my Son.” The dish arrives a few weeks later. A photograph taken while it was installed reproduces Sr. Regina’s vision. Professional photographers cannot account for the red flame.

all you need to see the hand of God at work is to see how many times Mother and EWTN are hopelessly in debt with no prospect of coming up with the money to continue, yet over and over the somehow in the nick of time something happens to save the network, as Archbishop Chaput put it

“Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve…She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. She had a lot of help, obviously, but that was part of her genius.”

And the secularists and cafeteria Catholics will never forgive her for it.

I’ll give the last word to John Allen:

One of the paradoxes about Mother Angelica is that although she was generally seen as a bête noire to Catholic progressives, there’s a strong case they too should celebrate her.

First, she proved that an independent, lay-led enterprise can pack a greater punch than officialdom in communicating a Catholic message. She and EWTN relativized the power of the hierarchy in America, not by attacking it, but simply by showing they didn’t need it to succeed.

Second, she also showed that a woman can stand toe-to-toe with powerful clerics in the Church and give every bit as good as she got.

Today there’s a great deal of ferment about how to promote leadership by women in the Church in ways that don’t involve ordination, a conversation Pope Francis himself has promoted. In a way, however, debating that question in the abstract seems silly, because we already have a classic, for-all-time example of female empowerment in Mother Angelica.

Rita Antoinette Rizzo, Mother Angelica’s given name, was many things: A lightning rod, a force of nature, an impresario, an entertainer, a deft commentator and pundit, and, beneath it all, a faithful and pious nun.

It is those last five words that matter most.

Darth Vader: Your powers are weak, old man.
Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi: You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Star Wars 1977

Yesterday on Easter Sunday Mother Angelica died at the age of 92.

She was a living contradiction.

She was a poor nun who lived with a group of sisters while at the same time the founder of a media empire that reached the entire globe.

She was an old woman dehabilitated by a stroke who could do very little, yet she loved live regardless of her state and wanted to live.

She was a person steeped in self denial, Yet the more she gave the more she continually got.

All that she preaches has been attacked and to some degree rejected by the larger culture lately yet through her efforts and God’s help she pretty much saved the Catholic Faith in America.

The most amazing contradiction is that while Christianity has lost or is losing the culture war in America while at the same time she has fought the culture war and winning it in the Catholic Church first in America and now extending it throughout the world.

Consider when she started EWTN with nothing, what the state of Catachresis, that is understanding of the Catholic faith was in America. It was poor at best and nonexistent. The message of Vatican II had been twisted by the left to the point where the message of Christ became: “Don’t offend anyone, get along with the world.” This would be news to Christ who said:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.”

Matt 10:3-36

If you want to ask what kind of vocations the church of don’t offend anyone by the truth produced in the Church simply look at the biggest headlines concerning the Church since 2000  nationally and internationally about the Catholic Church has been?

I submit and suggest that is not a coincidence.

 

At the same time the church abandoned it’s mission to push back at the world and be shy about truth Mother Angelica started EWTN as a tiny television in 1981 in Alabama.

While other people were running away from Truth she ran toward it saying blunting talking about faith, heaven, hell and above all speaking truth even as the greater culture was rejecting it.

And as EWTN grew those looking for an anchor in the faith found her as her network expanded on both Television and in Radio where it became the defacto goto choices for the Catholic faith.

While other orders with a watered down faith died Mother Angelica continued to inspire the young.  You would be hard pressed to find a young priest or nun in America who had not spent many house watching EWTN or listening to EWTN radio.

And while the secular media spun the church, the faith and the Pope(s) EWTN gave things as they were from the Mass every day so that people could see it, steeped in scripture, as it was and not as others described it.

They covered and do cover the Pope live so that when the media spins him faithful Catholics would be able to see things as they happened and not as it was cut.

And the priests and faithful that she attracted spread the word knowing that it was all about souls, all about telling the truth that Christ has given through the church with spin or apology.

There were plenty both inside and outside the church who pushed against her but St. Michael The Archangel was with her.  One story:

It is customary to place short-wave antennae in flat open fields, 
making it all the more peculiar that Mother Angelica should decide 
to place her antennae on a mountain top. According to Mother 
Angelica, St. Michael (the Archangel) appeared to her when she 
first visited the mountain. It is there, on the site where St. 
Michael's appeared, that Mother would decide to erect the 
antennae. Flying in the face of all the experts, the antennae 
reach millions a day. But no one can explain just how. Even the 
British Broadcasting Company has sent a team of experts to try to 
unearth the reason. They are still baffled. The folks at EWTN have 
their own answer: divine providence.

Can one measure the fruits of the decades of EWTN?  The number of manhours of service to others by those inspired by Mother Angelica is incalculable, and the reason is that it was never about her, it was about God and souls.

And that’s why she was and will remain hated by many, because her life,in constant pain, was a living testament against the message of the world and in death she leaves behind not only EWTN the sword that Christ described to fight against the world for the souls of man, but now finds herself in a position to intervene in a way even beyond the reach of the worldwide network that brings the message of Christ.

Closing thought, I often link to Robert Stacy McCain as he writes about various feminist women railing against the world.  Ask yourself if they are stronger than this little Italian Nun.  Ask yourself if they will have will have the impact and the consequence of this woman.

The answer of course is, they CAN, if they choose to embrace the path she did and follow Christ and live accordingly and it is not too late for anyone one of them to do so.

 

The Last part of the set of videos from the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament:

After the Creche we were led toward the statue of the Child Jesus

Our guide took us to the Temple and as we stood before the statue of the Child Jesus explained why it’s called a “Temple” rather than a church

And explained about the cut off or Tau Cross at the top.

There are two primary areas once you are inside, the first is the primary chapel. It contains the 2nd largest monstrance in the world (7 ft tall) at least it was at the time it was built. What’s amazing about it is you don’t really notice the monstrance (at least I didn’t) because the rest of the place is so impressive. There is a wall behind the altar and on the other is where Mother Angelica’s sisters pray.

Silence is required at all times in this place except during Mass and if the sisters are praying the Rosary we can pray with them as we can hear them praying aloud from our side.

Outside the chapel there is a staircase & an elevator to the lower level, in that level there is a room with a display concerning the shroud of Turin:

Just beyond that is the crypt church (the National Basilica in DC has such a chapel underneath where Mass can be celebrated, what’s interesting about this is the nuns of the order who have died are buried in the back wall. There is a spot already marked for the 91-year-old mother Angelica. Ironically that spot is directly above her birth mother who years after her daughter became a nun and joined the order.

There is a lot more to see but to really appreciate it you have to go there yourself.

As many of you know I spent nearly a week in Alabama on a religious retreat staying with the Sister Servants of the eternal word convent in Irondale.

In addition to the staying and praying with the Sister Servants we had several day trips to various locations.

Part of the trip was to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and our Lady of the Angels Monastery Hanceville where Mother Angelica the founder of EWTN TV & Radio currently resides.

When you take the long drive down the first thing you come to is the John Paul II center but you don’t notice it for long because as you pass it, the Castle kinda stands out.

It goes without saying that a Castle is not high on the list of things you expect to see in Alabama,

At the Castle I first talked to Luke

who told us about the reason for the Casa San Miguel (Castle of St. Michael).

I took a pan of the inside

After we settled in our group along with a Methodist group began our tour with this young lady

who spoke to us in the conference room of the Castle

About who Mother Angelica is and how she started out.

And then why the Castle itself is there.

Tomorrow the Grotto and the Creche