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Raymond Arroyo

Mother Angelica
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 everything.

The Only Jesus
You may be the only Jesus your neighbor will ever see.

Saintly Suffering
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.