Mother Angelica passed away at 5pm central on Easter Sunday (2016). She was 92 and died of natural causes.
While we mourn the loss of this wonderful woman, let us also praise the Lord for what he accomplished through her! She was an incredible woman of God who helped lead many people closer to Jesus.
Yet, even though she was a public figure, there is so much about her life that isn’t well known.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about this amazing woman:
1) Her birth name was Rita Antoinette Rizzo
She was born on April 20, 1923 in Canton, OH and was an only child.
2) Her full religious name is Mary Angelica of the Annunciation
“Mother Angelica” is just a shorter version.
3) She was miraculously healed when she was 20 years old
When she was 16 years old, she started to suffer from terrible stomach pain. By the time she was 18, it had gotten bad enough that she sought medical help. X-rays showed there was something wrong with her stomach and intestines. Doctors tried various treatments, but nothing helped the pain.
In January of 1943, she prayed a novena asking for relief from the pain. Then, on January 17th, 1943 when she woke up, the pain was completely gone! She believed it was a miracle, and it deepened her relationship with God.
4) She joined her convent secretly
Her mother was against her pursuing the religious life, but she felt so strongly that God was calling her to to it, she decided to join a convent anyway. To avoid more resistance from her mother, she secretly left one day and went straight to the convent, leaving only a note for her mother. It read, in part:
“When you receive this letter, I will be in Cleveland. I have entered the Adoration Monastery… Something happened to me after my cure. What it was, I don’t know. I fell completely in love with Our Lord. To live in the world for these past nineteen months has been very difficult. I love you very much and I have not forgotten what you have done for me. Please trust Him… I ask your blessing that I may reach the heights I desire. I love you very much.”
5) She was nearly paralyzed in an accident in her 30s
After making her final solemn vows, she was scrubbing the floor with an electric scrubbing machine. She slipped on the soapy floor and was flung really hard against the wall. The accident injured her back severely. Over the next few months, her conditioned worsened and the pain became unbearable. She was eventually fitted with a body cast. Finally, doctors retorted to surgery to try to fix the problem.
The night before the surgery, worried she may never walk again or even die, she prayed: “God! You didn’t bring me this far just to lay me out on my back for life. Please, Lord Jesus, if You allow me to walk again I will build a monastery for Your glory. And I will build it in the South!”
And the surgery worked! Four months later, she walked out of the hospital.
6) She founded a new monastery in Alabama with money from selling hand-made fishing lures
True to her pre-surgery pledge, she worked to establish what would become Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, AL. And she raised the needed money in a unique way: she and a few other nuns made and sold fishing lures.
7) She was 58 years old when she founded EWTN
She first started filming a Catholic teaching series in the mid-1970s for a local CBS affiliate, but stopped after the channel aired an inappropriate movie. But that didn’t stop her from making TV shows: she simply started her own network.
She converted a garage at the monastery into a TV studio and officially launched Eternal Word Television Network as a cable channel on August 15, 1981, just a few months after her 58th birthday.
8) She regularly had mystical visions of the child Jesus
In 1995 when she was on a missionary trip to Colombia, she had an encounter with the child Jesus. She says that a life-sized statue of the Infant of Prague came alive, smiled, and spoke to her, asking her to build him a temple.
9) She received the highest papal award given to laypeople and religious
On October 4, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI honored her with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award. Started in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII, it’s the highest papal award given to lay people and religious.
10) Until her death, she participated in Eucharistic adoration for several hours every day
Despite her great worldly success, Mother Angelica remained committed to her vows as a nun and to her faith in Jesus Christ.
She had to stop hosting TV programs in 2001 at the age of 78 due to health problems. And yet she continued with spiritual devotions as much as she could, including participating in Eucharistic adoration for several hours each day at the Shrine she established.