‘The shenanigans’ at Mother Angelica’s first vows
by Mary Farrow
Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2021 / 03:03 am MT (CNA).- If you picture a nun’s first profession of vows, you probably picture a serene, peaceful affair with the sisters singing harmoniously and everything running joyfully and smoothly.
However, the day of Mother Angelica’s first vows was anything but.
Outside, a blizzard spit snow and ice, snarling roads and delaying the guests and the presiding bishop, James McFadden.
Inside, different storms were brewing.
As then-Sister Angelica knelt behind the grille, trying to pray before taking her vows, the organist sister and the choir director, Sr. Mary of the Cross (with whom Sr. Angelica had sparred in the past), began arguing about musical technique, within earshot of the already-arrived guests.
As the incident is recalled in her biography:
Voices slowly escalated. Suddenly the two nuns were at each other: the organist refusing to play, Mary of the Cross threatening to throw her into the snow if she didn’t.
“And I’m sitting there trying to re-collect myself for my vows,” Mother Angelica recalled. “The people must have thought we were nuts.”
Then came the bug, scampering across the wooden floor in front of the sisters.
Mary of the Cross rose up, lifted the kneeler with both hands, and pounded it on the ground, attempting to annihilate the insect. Like a madwoman with a jackhammer, she repeatedly wielded the prie-dieu (kneeler), hurling it and herself at the crawler. The organist, thinking the display an underhanded critique of her playing, pounded the keys all the harder. Sister Angelica could not believe what she termed “the shenanigans.” Then the bishop walked in.
Wet and cold from walking several blocks where he had to leave his stalled car, Bishop McFadden requested a fresh pair of socks, which Sr. Mary of the Cross sent Sister Angelica to get.
When it came time to place the profession ring on Sr. Angelica’s fingers, the bishop couldn’t fit it past her knuckle – her hand was swollen from a shower handle in the convent that had crumbled and cut her hand several days prior.
“With everything going on there, I’m thinking, Oh Jesus doesn’t love me. You know?…I mean, it was a real spiritual experience!” Mother Angelica said. “But that’s the way God works with me. As I look back, before anything big that was coming, something happened to me.”
Despite “the shenanigans” of the day, Sr. Angelica took her vows seriously, writing in a letter to her mother that “the espoused” and “royal couple” (herself and Jesus) “wished to express their gratitude to their friend and member of their personal court…The spouse has asked the Bridegroom to fill you with his peace and consolation.”
She signed the letter: “Jesus and Angelica.”
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of EWTN, died on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.
EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched by Mother Angelica in 1981. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.
In addition to television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.
This article originally ran on March 28, 2016.