Saturday, February 11, 2006

For God's Sake, be a Dodo!

Catholics who leave the Church are called lapsed Catholics, so I call myself a relapsed Catholic. In the almost 30 years since I relapsed, I’ve been trying to find and build community with other Catholics who still believe the faith that was handed down from the apostles. I had a devil of a time finding them, until just recently. For two years now, I've been a member of a small group of lay Carmelites that meets in a monastery in Santa Clara, CA, and I have found that I don't have to keep my guard up in that group, because our spiritual assistant (who is the abbot of Mount St. Joseph Carmelite monastery in San Jose), and our formation leaders teach sound doctrine. And when I went to Israel on pilgrimage under the spiritual guidance of another good holy Carmelite monk, I found another small remnant that seemingly shares my views. For years I was shored up by knowing that in Pope John Paul II I had a fellow spirit. After JPII’s death, Cardinal Ratzinger’s election as Pope Benedict XVI calmed my fears and comforted me because I realized then that Christ would not leave us orphans. And now in Mother Angelica’s book I have found another hero.

I bought Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles at the EWTN 25th Anniversary Family Conference in San Francisco on January 28, 2006. Raymond Arroyo signed my book there, and he added below his signature, “May you find strength and inspiration herein.” I have found both strength and inspiration therein. It’s a great story. Raymond Arroyo’s book is one of those books that can change your life.

I left the Catholic Church in 1963 and returned in 1978. Upon my return I found what Mother Angelica is quoted as calling “the electric church,” because “Every time you go you get a shock” p. 230. It really was a shock for me to find that the doctrines I learned in my childhood and came back to believing were not being taught any more.

It was and still is unthinkable to me that Catholic believers could accept being told that doctrine and morality were changing without reacting as I did with dismay at the illogic of it all.

How could anyone who sincerely is seeking the Truth want to belong to the Catholic Church if that person really believes that the Church has been dead wrong about most things for nineteen hundred and sixty odd years, until Vatican II happened? In the aftermath of the Vatican II council, a bunch of 60s era theologians, priests, nuns, sisters, brothers, and laypeople began quoting the council documents, almost always erroneously, to justify an anticlerical, anti-hierarchical, anti-transubstantation, anti-gospel, pro-contraception, pro-divorce, pro-sexual-license agenda, and the principles they derived from their selective readings of the council documents are being institutionalized in parishes around the world even to this day.

What I have discovered by reading this book is that EWTN is a shining witness to the ability of the Church’s true doctrine to triumph in the middle of a time when in many cases even the Church’s bishops had been misled and heresy had seemingly taken over. Mother Angelica’s book is a reaffirmation of the truth that if God wants a work to be done, He gives the ones He calls the power they need to accomplish His work.

“God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” 1 Corinthians 1:27.

Mother Angelica is not the only cloistered nun who was called to do great things for His Church. Raymond Arroyo aptly compares her at one point to the great doctor of the Chuch St. Teresa of Avila. In both cases, these cloistered women (in what Mother Angelica called “the wrong state in life”) were able to found religious orders and lead people to holiness in the middle of times of darkness and moral laxity.

Raymond Arroyo's talk on the book at the EWTN 25th anniversary conference simply exorts us to live 1 Corinthians 1:27:

"Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote the first encyclical about the nature of love. . . . It’s the primordial creative power that moves the universe.. . . . Mother Angelica harnessed some of that energy. . . . . Mother Angelica said, “I am convinced God is looking for dodoes. He found one: me! There are a lot of smart people out there who know it can’t be done, so they don’t do it. But a dodo doesn’t know it can’t be done. God uses dodoes.” . . . . Every major thing that God wanted her to do was preceded by suffering. . . . . When she started the network, she was 58 years old. She had diabetes. A twisted spine. . . . . You pay the cost to be the boss. . . . . She was following inspiration and the dictates of her spouse.. . . . The struggle. The cross. That’s her real story. Her life has become a parable. She wanted to reach people.. . . . She did what she did for love of souls, It was never about TV. For God’s sake, be a dodo!"

This is a longer version of a review I posted today at amazon.com about Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles.
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