OTHER ANGELICA of EWTN has passed away, and an astounding number of people—from quarters I’d never expect—have been praising her life and accomplishments. This has infuriated the so-called “progressive” liturgists, to whom she was an enemy. They do not like to see her virtues praised, and many are using the internet to demean her with vile comments. 1
I am too young to remember Mother Angelica, but I do have vague memories of my mother watching her on television. She took exception to a document written by Roger Cardinal Mahony in 1997.
So how bad was this document? Did Mother Angelica overreact?
Here are some excerpts: 2
THE PRESIDER RESPECTS SYMBOL. What we do at liturgy takes us beyond the literalness that dominates our lives. To preside, a person must live from the rich ambiguity of symbolic reality.
Respect for the power of symbol does not come easily. Even in the Church, we are afraid of symbol. We want the facts, the dimensions. We want a literal truth, but the literal can never be “the way and the truth and the life.” Symbols get beneath the surfaces and are true and real. The symbols we live by are large, ambiguous, and always engaging us anew. One who would preside at liturgy must be practiced in reverence for the symbolic reality of the deeds done by the Church at liturgy. […] Is that Baptismal font a pool of water, a womb, or a tomb? Is this a marriage bath, or a funeral bath, or a birth bath? It is all!
Doing their symbols, Christians form Christians. […] A priest may know the Bible from a scholarly perspective, but still need to discover how it sounds and what it means when its words are spoken powerfully in the midst of the Church and attended to by an assembly.
When people ask if she went too far, I suppose the only logical answer would be: “It’s not about whether Mother Angelica’s reaction was disproportionate. It’s about living deeply from the vibrant realities of ambiguities beneath the surface of our bird bath.”
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine…
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Mother Angelica seems to evoke strong emotions. I remember an Irish bishop who wouldn’t even mention her name, instead referring to her as “the nun on television.”
2 I posted some reflections on that 1997 document here.