Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fr. Perrone remembers Mother Angelica in his Sunday Column

Below is full text from the Pastor's Descant in today's Grotto News.  Fr. Perrone reflects on Mother Angelica and remembers some personal encounters.


A Pastor’s Descant

Mother Angelica R.I.P.

God often accomplishes His finest works with humblest means. This is a theme running throughout Sacred Scripture. The prodigious accomplishments of Mother Angelica in propagating, defending and preserving the Catholic faith have changed the course of the Church in our time, in the USA, and over the whole globe. That’s saying an awful lot, I know, but I can’t refrain from asserting it. One would have had to live through those dark, uncertain, and even frightening days after Vatican Council II to appreciate fully the recovery of theological sanity, doctrinal stability, reverence and piety that began to emerge from the rubble of those distressing times. While Mother Angelica and her works were not the only factors enabling the revival of real Catholicism–a work, we might add, yet in progress–yet she was indeed a mighty force that helped cut through the thick, multi-layered controls which had prohibited the reforms intended by Vatican II.

Dissidents were in charge of nearly everything–seminaries and religious education, liturgical movements and publications, chancery bureaucracies and priests’ councils, social media, Catholic schools and universities, local parish staffs. The clergy had made a general turn towards a destructive modernism which manifested itself in every aspect of Catholic life. The sufferers of all this, constrained to keep a respectful silence, were Catholic laity who struggled to keep faith, confidently trusting–in a laudable, if misplaced, loyalty–that they were being led aright. They had been told that this strange, new kind of Catholicism had been officially mandated by Christ’s Church. Thus the tension arose: fidelity and obedience to a Church which was manifestly odd and erroneous. Strong voices were raised in protest. I remember Catholics United for the Faith which valiantly tried to hold back dissent and teach truth. Father John Hardon’s great Catholic Catechism cleared much of the theological air that had infected doctrinal studies. It was, however, the emergence of the great pontificate of (Saint) John Paul II over the whole Church along with the apostolate of Mother Angelica in the communications media that turned things around towards a recovery of authentic Catholic faith and practice.

My association with Mother came about this way. As the newly installed pastor of Assumption Grotto Church, I had been invited to appear on Mother Angelica Live because our outdoors Lourdes Grotto somehow came to her attention. This was back in 1994. Although I had heard much about this bold and influential nun, I had never seen her TV program. After a brief introduction and prayer in the studio, we were to go onto the set and speak about heaven-knows-what. Mother and I got along fabulously, as they say. Immediately I felt comfortable in her presence because of the one thing we held most dear: love for the Catholic faith. An unexpected upshot of this TV appearance was a big boost in the prominence of our parish nationally and locally. 

Our next great meeting was in regard to the formation of the first Call To Holiness Conference in 1996. For those who do not know, the story runs that the major dissident national ‘Catholic’ organization at the time was Call To Action, a wealthy, pestiferous monster born in our own Archdiocese in the later 1960s. It had graciously moved out of Detroit and into Chicago but had now planned to make a comeback to its native Detroit for a homecoming. Wondering over what to do about this troubling prospect, and rather confident that nothing would be done to stop it from our diocesan bureaucrats, I decided to hold a day of reparation in our church before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. I mentioned my idea to Fr. Hardon who was delighted with the proposal. Contact was then made with Fr. Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press who said that this local countermove was far too little but that I should “go big” with the whole thing. I asked Fr. Hardon if he would invite Mother Angelica to come to the event and speak (Father had been her  spiritual  advisor).  After prayer, Mother agreed to come.  She made  the day.  Our Conference was a major anti-dote to the  toxic offerings  of  Call  To Action. It was, I would say, a great hit. Mother  was  to  return  to  Detroit  twice more  for  CTH  Conferences,  making  a great impact on the people of the Archdiocese  and  of  the  whole  country  as well. 

Fr. Perrone conducting on Easter Sunday 2016
My last involvement with Mother came upon the dedication of her ‘temple,’ the new monastery church she had built for her Order in Alabama. When the dedication date for opening the new chapel had to be  delayed  due  to  construction  set-backs, Mother  found  that  the  musical program  she  wanted  for  the  dedication  Mass couldn’t go ahead. Alabama’s local choirs and orchestral musicians had made  other commitments  for  the  new opening  date.  Mother appealed to  her TV audience for help. Was there a choir out there that could sing Mozart’s Coronation Mass for the dedication? Briefly put, we were able to fill the bill. Mother flew our parish choir down to Alabama, put us up in a motel, fed us and carted us about on a chartered bus. Our part was to have a single rehearsal with local orchestral musicians and to sing the opening Mass. It was a memorable event, of course,  and  Mother,  with  all  that must have been on her mind those days, gave us a generous amount of personal attention. My favorite moment  was  during the singing of the Agnus Dei when I saw Mother’s head peeking out behind us to see what she was hearing. Evidently she was pleased. After Mass she met with us to thank us personally. Needless to say, we were overcome with gratitude  ourselves.

Following the days of her increasing debilitation I had often thought of inviting her back to Detroit, if only to be seen once again (she could no longer speak) and receive a warm and generous public thanks for all she had done for the Church in her ever-so fruitful religious life. I realized that this would not have been possible. She was perhaps doing more than ever by her silent prayer and personal suffering than she had done in active apostolate. News of her death brought me the happiness of thinking that she had finally finished the work God had asked of her and was moving towards reaping the harvest of her tireless labors. You must pardon me for mentioning only these select things about this remarkable woman of faith. I’m aware that she did a great deal more in her writings (her inspiring pamphlets were loaded with sound doctrine), in her radio and TV network (which today, as EWTN, did so much to brighten the face of a depressed Catholicism worldwide), and in the founding of her religious communities which continue to steady, purify and strengthen the Church through the sacrificial lives of her many spiritual children.

Mother Angelica, may your warm and lovely smile glow with the heavenly radiance of the One you served so well on earth. We thank Him for your inspiring and inspired religious life. Rest, Mother, but do not neglect to pray for us.

Fr. Perrone

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