Blog by The Anchoress
March 9, 2007.
How’s your Lenten reading going? Mine’s gone pfffft mostly because
the past few weeks have been unusually busy and the synapses simply haven’t
had the power to fire on anything weighty.
So, when a review copy of Raymond Arroyo’s Mother
Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality came
in the mail, I grabbed on to it gratefully. For me, and I suspect for many,
this is perfect Lenten reading for a busy age - portable, accessible, in
turns amusing and serious, and yet able to sound some surprising depths. If,
like me, you’re finding your schedule will simply not allow a Lenten
retreat to feed the soul, this book may be a useful alternative.
Arroyo created the book by gleaning through some of
Angelica’s past writings, notes that her nuns had taken on her talks to the
community, and even little notes she had written to herself. Some of the
entries are a mere line or two, but there are also short essays, and one
long and worthwhile discourse on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. You can pick
this book up, flip to a page - any page - and find a morsel worth chewing
on. You’ll also have a brief encounter with a woman who is a little force of
nature, because on every page this woman - now silenced due to a stroke -
jumps off the page, alive, vibrant, sassy, decisive, self-denigrating,
humble and undeniably faith-filled. Growing up in a rough area of Ohio, amid
gangsters and prostitutes, she was never a hot-house flower, and her musings
are the musings of the faith-filled pragmatist:
Savoring the Roses
St. Francis de Sales one day was looking at a rose, and he put his hands to
his ear and he said to the rose, “Stop shouting.” There is a power in the
love of God. Most people today look at a rose and they don’t see anything;
only a name, a color, a fragrance. But these great saints saw God in
The Only Jesus
You may be the only Jesus your neighbor will ever see.
The saints suffered. Therese had tuberculosis. Teresa of Avila had cancer of
the stomach. Padre Pio had perpetual diarrhea and asthma. Bernadette had
asthma too. Mother Cabrini had high fever due to malaria she contracted
during her travels. Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not
negotiable, sweetheart, it’s a requirement.
Praying for Little Things
Everytime you need cash, every time you need a favor from God, you go to
that automated teller you call “prayer,’ and you punch a few keys and you
tell God what you want. Then you stand back and expect it. Prayer should be
much more than requests. You must develop a rapport with God.
You know, if I get a new pair of shoes, I go into the chapel
and show the Lord. I say, “Look at my shoes. Thanks a million.” He gave me
those shoes, after all. now, you can do that in your daily life. You can
pray for sunshine, or a quiet day, or a parking spot (they’re near
miraculous.) Pray for little things, because little things say “I love you.”
Little things tell God that you trust Him.
Looking for Dummies
The apostles were dodos, dummies. But all the smart people in the world at
the time wouldn’t take chances. That is the same problem we have today. The
world is lokoing for intellectuals and the Lord is looking for dummies.
That’s why I’m here.
Making Deals with God
In 1957 Mother Angelica faced a hazardous spinal operation. The night
before the procedure, the surgeon informed Angelica that she had only a
fifty-fifty chance of ever walking again. She prayed zealously that night
and made a pact with God. Seh told Him, “If You allow me to walk again, I
will build a monastery to Your glory in the South.” With the aid of crutches
and several braces, she did walk again. From then on she would advise:
“When you make a deal with God, be very specific!”
There is a great story, somewhere in the book, I can’t find
it now, where Angelica recounts being about 4-5 years old and being shooed
out of her grandfather’s bar. He gave her a little glass of beer that was
mostly foam, and a few pretzels and told her to sit by the curb. She did so
and enjoyed herself watching the people pass by, talking to the usual
mobsters and prostitutes. After a while the Salvation Army came up the walk
and, after praying over her, began playing their music. Angelica called out
to her grandfather, “hey, there’s a band down here!” In ways you’d never
understand, I totally identify with that story.
I like this book. I’m buying a few copies for some friends
of mine who are also having rough, thus-far unfruitful Lents. This woman,
Angelica, has a gift for kicking you in the backside, in a very loving
manner, and then sending you on your way with full pockets
Actually, reading this “little” book has inspired me to take
Arroyo’s warts-and-all biography of the former Rita Rizzo,
Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network
of Miracles back off the shelf for a re-read. That’s a good one,
too. I’m in the mood to spend a little time with this plain-talking woman.
Maybe you are, too.