Fold mountains

Full text of Cardinal Pell’s homily at Mass in honor of EWTN founder – Catholic World Report

Cardinal George Pell celebrates Mass in memory of Mother Angelica at the Roman Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, March 27, 2022. / AG/ACI Group.

Rome, Italy, March 29, 2022 / 07:00 (CNA).

Cardinal George Pell celebrated a mass in memory of Mother Angelica, founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), in Rome on March 27. The mass, at the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, near the Vatican, marked the sixth anniversary of his death in 2016.

Here is the full text of the Australian Cardinal’s homily:

As we all know, today is Laetare Sunday, Latin for “rejoicing”. We rejoice because it is the half of Lent. Now, I guess there is no particular reason to rejoice if you don’t do any penance, but we should all do some penance during this time of preparation for the great feast of Easter.

All branches of Christianity perform greater penances during Lent than we Roman Catholics, with the exception of Liberal Protestants. So I think you could argue that the tradition of penance in the Catholic Church, in the Latin part of the Catholic Church, is there to be refounded. For example, the English bishops made it mandatory, to some extent, that there be no meat on Fridays.

So we have an abundance of great stories for today’s mass. We have two good stories. First, the prodigal son. The story we all know of the young son who squandered his inheritance, was unemployed, desperate, until he started working with the pigs, who repented and then returned to his father.

And today we more or less celebrate the sixth anniversary of the death of Mother Angelica. A contemplative Franciscan nun, a Clarissa, from the age of 21, a fiery character who launched the Eternal Word Television Network in 1981 with $200.

Previously, with four companions, she had formed a monastery at Irondale in the Protestant Deep South, Alabama, a most unlikely starting point for today’s international agency, spreading Catholic truth. A company which, moreover, especially in the 1970s, was a world pioneer in the digital audiovisual revolution.

Mother Angelica.  .  EWTN.
Mother Angelica. EWTN.

So I want to make some comparisons between Angelic Mother and the Prodigal Son. The prodigal son, along with the Good Samaritan, is one of the two best-known figures in New Testament parables. Of course, he was not a character in the story. But sometimes people can be confused. I remember being in Israel at one point and the guide pointed to the hostel where the Good Samaritan sent the man who was attacked on the road.

Mother was a figure of flesh and blood, energetic, arrogant, aggressive for the Gospel. She wasn’t aptly named because it will be hard to think of someone who was, in some ways, less angelic. I had a little trouble crossing Via della Conciliazione here because of the marathon. And I had to use an ounce of Mother Angelique’s direct approach to be able to come here for mass. So we thank God for that.

Second, the prodigal son came from a wealthy farming family and had a wonderful father who is an image of God himself. The “Parable of the Good Father” would be a more accurate but less interesting title for the parable.

A wonderful old nun I taught with, who wasn’t too interested in modern Bible scholarship, claimed that the young man got into trouble because he didn’t have the love of a good mother. The mother, of course, was not mentioned one way or another in the story.

Rita Rizzo was born poor into a family in Ohio’s Rust Belt. Her father abandoned her when she was five and she was raised by her mother, who unfortunately suffered from depression. She didn’t do well in school, but she was the drum majorette in the school band, which of course comes as no surprise.

Her story is a great encouragement to those born into difficult family circumstances as an example of what those who are not blessed with a good start can achieve.

Driven at first by self-pity, the prodigal son eventually underwent deep conversion and repentance to return home. It is a good model for Lent and a special reminder for us to go to Confession to prepare for Easter, especially if we do not go to Confession regularly.

I’m not sure Mother Angelica ever underwent a radical conversion, growing up in faith as she did and entering the convent as a young woman. From then on at least, you could say she got better and better in a straight line.

The prodigal son was the younger brother, and perhaps a little spoiled. He was rebellious enough to ask for his share of the inheritance and leave home early. But he was fundamentally a weak man. He was destroyed by his own lack of self-control and perhaps by circumstances beyond his control. Until he returned to his father, he had accomplished nothing as an adult.

Mother Angelica moved mountains. She was a strong woman, with an aggressive character, sharpened by her environment and her education, which she controlled well and which she used wonderfully.

The prodigal son was a Jew who admitted his offenses before God. But obviously he did not know Christ. While Mother Angelique could only be Catholic and had something of a Protestant revivalist about her, she had a wonderful devotion to Christ that was at the heart of her faith, of her theism.

She was a woman of deep faith and prayer and is said to have done a great double act with the Old Testament prophet Elijah, who saved monotheism under the famous Jezebel and her weak and wicked husband Ahab.

It was love and devotion to Christ that prompted the most famous and controversial denunciation of Mother in 1993, after the presentation of a female Christ figure. [in the Stations of the Cross] at Denver World Youth Day. It was a searing and prophetic indictment. It was a bit of a stretch and the end result of years of insults and provocations.

I remember reading it and concluding that whatever one might say about the language, his argument was fundamentally correct. She was right. An Australian Catholic activist told me that the speech changed the direction of his life.

So in this time of preparation for Lent, the Sunday of Laetare, we rejoice in knowing and loving Christ, our Saviour, our teacher, our healer. We thank God for all the good work done by EWTN since 1981. And we pray that God will continue to bless EWTN for many decades to come. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


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