About the Author
MOTHER ANGELICA established Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1961, and twenty years later founded The Eternal Word Television Network, which has grown into the largest religious media organization on the planet. Her program, Mother Angelica Live, remains one of the most popular programs on the network and has made her an internationally beloved spiritual figure. She lives in her monastery in Hanceville, Alabama.
RAYMOND ARROYO, author of the New York Times bestseller Mother Angelica, is the news director and lead anchor of EWTNews. As creator and host of the newsmagazine The World Over Live, he is seen in more than 100 million households each week. He has worked at the Associated Press and the New York Observer, and for the political columnist team of Evans and Novak. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and many other publications. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife and three children.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
THE BEGNINNING OF THE END
Mother Angelica fervently believed in maintaining an eternal perspective for everyday living; a constant awareness that we must account for our actions in this life, and that a final judgment awaits each of us. Of course she put it more succinctly:
Everyone drags his own carcass to market. So be careful.
GOD LOVES YOU
I didn't know God loved me for a long time. Many feel that way. Because we are so aware of our faults, our weaknesses, our sins, we have an impression that God couldn't love us. Well that's not true. God is infinite. There is no end to His love. He doesn't love you for anything you possess. He loves you because He is love. We're all imperfect. We're all sinners, and many of us would be much worse than we are given the opportunity.
It is easier to see God in the sinner because I must make an effort to do so. It is one of the paradoxes of life that I run the risk of losing sight of God in those who are easy to love, because I begin to seek my own good in them.
God chooses little things to do big things.
GOD CHOSE YOU
God knew you, loved you, and chose you before there was an angel, before there was a world, a universe or a star.
You have to enjoy life without resting in it. You have to have zest for life but a desire for heaven. And you must see God in all things, realizing that He transcends them all.
Ask yourselves: How little am I before God? Am I poor in spirit? Do I accept my weaknesses, my past, my sins, my idiosyncrasies, my eccentricities, and my failures? Do I accept them cheerfully? To accept one's miserable self, cheerfully, is humility.
THE WAY TO HEAVEN
You must laugh your way to heaven, because tears won't get you there.
The Scripture says, "We are only earthenware jars" (2 Cor. 4:7). Cracked pots! That's what you are, a cracked pot that holds this great treasure. We are, all of us, imperfect, but we must remember that God is inside each of us.
MYSTERY AND FAITH
St. Augustine, one of our greatest minds in the Church, was walking on the seashore and he saw a little child. While he was walking, he tried to comprehend the Trinity: how there could possibly be three persons in one God. Further down the shore, this little child kept scooping a bucket of water and pouring it into a little hole on the beach. St. Augustine watched the child run back and forth, trying to fill the hole with water. Finally he said, "Son, what are you doing?"
The boy just looked at Augustine and said, "I'm trying to put the ocean in this hole."
"You can't. That's impossible," Augustine said.
"Neither can you understand the Trinity," the child responded. Then he disappeared.
So remember when you come upon a mystery--either in your life, or in Scripture, or in the life of Jesus--your mind can't accommodate all that is contained in the infinite, Holy God. Kinda like trying to put the entire ocean in a small hole, isn't it?
The riches of heaven are the things we should be desirous of--not the things of the world. The only treasures we know are the sunken variety. We've all seen those movies where the pirates open the trunks filled with diamonds and rubies, and we know there is tons of stuff buried at sea. It shows you what God thinks of them--they're down at the bottom! God's concept of treasure is a soul that deeply loves Him and deeply loves its neighbor. That invisible reality is far more valuable than the passing trinkets of this world.
God is not hindered if He wants to use you, whether you are holy, perfect, imperfect, good or bad. He can speak through an ass if He wants to. And He did. Remember, that's how He spoke to Balaam the prophet (Num. 22:28-30). So there is hope for all of us.
SPEAKING THE TRUTH
We don't like to speak the truth about evil because we're going to hurt somebody. Let me tell you, you are going to hurt somebody, but that Somebody is God. If you would rather hurt God than your neighbor, there is something wrong with your spirituality. It's your obligation to speak the truth and everyone can either take it or leave it. But truth must be in us. We live in such poverty of the truth today.
THAT OTHER COMMANDMENT
Boldness should be the eleventh commandment!
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. She 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."
When you have Jesus, what is there to fear?
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 looking for intellectuals and the Lord is looking for dummies. That's why I'm here.
A MASTER'S DEGREE
We're all trying to get master's degrees, and so often we forget the Master.
THE DEGREE THAT MATTERS
Where most men work for degrees after their names, we work for one before our names: "St." It's a much more difficult degree to attain. It takes a lifetime, and you don't get your diploma until you're dead.
LEADERS LIKE YOU
Who was Jesus looking for in His apostles--to be the leader of the leaders? Simple sinners, just like us. He looked for men who loved much, whose love made them unafraid, and whose love never put a stop to God's grace. When Jesus said, "Go out without scrip or shoes" (Luke 10:4), they were dumb enough to go--they were loving enough to go.
Everything starts with one person. God loves to work with weak people--like David, a little teenager with a slingshot defeated the fearsome Goliath. Gideon with only three hundred men saved the Jewish people from slaughter and slavery. I don't care if you're five or one hundred and five, God from all eternity chose you to be where you are, at this time in history to change the world.
STEPPING OUT IN MYSTERY
We don't want to step out in faith and say, "God, the only hand I have is yours, even though I don't know where You're going." I think that's the most thrilling experience: not to know what God is doing--but going out and doing it anyway.
It's very difficult for a real Christian to mess this up. If you try something and you fail, you've been humbled. You're a little smarter the next time; you learn to depend upon God and not yourself. You can learn much in failure. If you succeed: you are aware of God's spirit, aware of His using you in extraordinary ways. So from a spiritual perspective, you can't fail no matter what happens.
THE GREATEST POWER IN THE WORLD
The greatest power for good in this world is retarded children, the deaf, the dumb, and the blind--those who suffer loneliness. They have time to live with God, to experience the joy of God, to experience the presence of God, and their prayer is powerful before the Lord.
LIFE IS PASSING
No matter how successful one is, or how famous, there comes a time when he passes on. He's like a ship going through the ocean. The ship makes a little ripple, and when it has passed through, the ocean closes in.
Isn't that what life is all about, each of us passing through? Why lament over the things you wanted and never got? Why lament over what could have been when it is all passing? Right now, you are not the person you were a half hour ago. We are one half hour closer to the journey's end. For some this is a distressing thought. Why is it that we find death so depressing? We can imagine everyone dying except ourselves. Have we lost sight of this world being a pilgrimage? It's a journey. You're not home yet. A Christian must never lose sight of this passing reality of life; and it should be faced with peace, not constant surprise.
Don't waste your time in life trying to get even with your enemies. The grave is a tremendous equalizer. Six weeks after you all are dead, you'll look pretty much the same. Let the Lord take care of those whom you think have harmed you. All you have to do is love and forgive. Try to forget and leave all else to the Master.
Forgiveness means "to give." It means to give before your neighbor does.
LIGHT AND FAITH
I believe if we want this world to stop going to hell, if we really want to do something about the darkness--then you have to light the light. There is no other way to banish darkness. You can sit in a dark room and fuss and complain about it, but all you have to do is turn on a light. God has placed us all in a dark room, hoping that we will have sense enough to turn the light on and not yell and scream and panic over the darkness, because we know where the light is--we know who the light is! And we have Him. The tragedy of this age will be if those who have the light do not let it shine. Christians of all denominations have literally put the light under a bushel.
Can you imagine our Lord today, in present-day Jerusalem, under such stressful conditions? Can you imagine Him getting up and saying: Blessed are the peacemakers? They would laugh Him to scorn. Because today, my friends, we only want to eat, drink, be merry, and grab all we can. "Don't talk to me about eternity, or love, or Jesus, or the Church. I want what I want--now! Give me bread now!" So we feed half the man, and then we wonder why he is empty.
Don't kid yourself. The Lord sees every good act, every attempt you make to be holy. Many times, though we experience failure, He blesses our efforts. He sees it all: the kind words, the times you've held your tongue, or contained your anger. He keeps an eye on your heart, endlessly.
Since a stroke in 2001, Mother has been fairly quiet, speaking only when she has to. On March 22, 2006, one of the sisters asked Mother for a bit of wisdom. Without hesitating she said:
He who loves God loves everybody. He who hates God hates everybody.
YOUR MISSION, YOUR PURPOSE
"Who am I?" "Why am I here?" These fundamental questions, depending on the person, can take a lifetime to answer. As you might expect, Mother Angelica could answer them a lot quicker. Mission, purpose, and identity were bound together in Mother's thinking. She taught that it was far better to "find oneself" in proximity to God, than to attempt to do so separated from Him. After all, who knows the purpose of the creation better than the Creator?
Whether you are still finding your way in life or embarking on a new vocation, Mother has some guidance that will prove helpful now, and throughout the rest of your life.
THE CHRISTIAN VOCATION
The Christian vocation is simple: you are first a child of God, and the state of life where God has placed you is the source of your holiness.
YOUR TRUE IDENTITY
Everybody is searching for their identity. But the real you only emerges when you are united to God. You need His grace, and without it you are stumbling in darkness. Everybody wants to know who they are, where they're going, and what they're doing. Yet the realism of Heaven and God, that invisible reality, never enters the equation. Identity is becoming. It's an understanding of who you are, and why you were created by God. You can only understand it by knowing Him, because He has a very special plan for you. And that special plan makes its own demand: that you be faithful--faithful to the duties of your state of life.
You can't isolate yourself and say you want to "find yourself no matter what anyone else says or does." You'll never find yourself that way. You'll find a grotesque creature that you are creating as you go along. God made you in His image. He redeemed you so that you could reflect that image to your neighbor.
The thing that confuses us so much is that we are constantly thinking about ourselves: What am I going to do for the world? What am I going to do for my neighbor? You've got the wrong question.
The question is: What is God going to do through you? That's the question. How much are you going to let Him do? When you begin to ask the right questions you will get the right answers. You are nothing; and until you come to that realization, you will stumble and crawl through all of life. There is absolute freedom in the thought that you are nothing. Only then are you free to be used by God for His ends, the ends for which you have been created.
A MEDITATION ON YOUR CREATION
When I get a little discouraged in my own life, I like to make this meditation. I like to go back and visualize the Trinity before He created anything or anyone. Just God alone. In His mind, He knew everyone that He would create. And can you imagine God's eyes roaming over a possible 80 or 100 billion people who might have been. But they will never be. He passes them by, and suddenly His eyes rest on you. He says, "You shall be." Why you? Why me? If that were not enough, He placed you in a specific time, and of the billions of people on the planet only 1 billion would know His Son. And you were among that number. You must ask, "Why did You choose me, dear Lord, to know You and love You?" Because He loves you, and you can love Him in a way that no other creature in this whole wide world can love Him. You are that unique and special. Unless you understand this simple truth you will never love yourself or your neighbor.
THE BIG MISSION
You have been chosen twice: first to be, then to know Jesus. What are you doing with that fantastic mission? You have been created by God and know Jesus for one reason: to witness to faith, and hope, and love before an unbelieving world. I don't care if the world knows you, or no one knows you. Even if you influence only one person in your whole life, God does not look at numbers or quantities. He looks at souls and individuals. If you were able, by your example or by one of your acts, to bring one person to heaven, it would mean more to Him than all the accomplishments on earth.