Saturday, April 19, 2008
2:32 Dunwoody Seminary Yonkers, NY

Father Richard Neuhaus, Joan Lewis, and I are sitting beneath the platform upon which we will be broadcasting during Pope Benedict's meeting with youth. There are power chords, camera boxes and earth patched with weeds all around us. Sitting here unnoticed with the messy stuff of broadcasting all about me is perhaps the prefect place to write this entry.

Tomorrow marks the 85th birthday of a woman who has made the message of this Pope (as well as the former occupant of the office) available to millions around the globe. Mother Angelica built EWTN from the ground up in the backyard of her monastery in Birmingham, Alabama. She sacrificed her health and often her peace to grow the network into a media platform that now reaches 140 million households internationally, on television alone. That doesnt account for the 100 plus AM/FM affiliates, a stand alone Sirius Channel, a shortwave network, and a widely visited website. Throughout her television career Mother zealously defended the Church and the papacy, often at great personal cost. Her words on occasion drew the ire of some Bishops and others who were at odds with Rome on this point or that.

Now cloistered in her monastery, suffering the aftereffects of a stroke that stole her speech seven years ago, Mother continues to spiritually sustain the network she founded. This week, unseen by the world, she remains the guiding light of EWTNs efforts.

Several correspondents to my overflowing e-mail account have noted that some well known media types (including non-Catholics) received a private audience with the Pope in Washington earlier this week and were awarded medals by the Holy Father. As nice as this is, it begs a question, one I wish I did not have to raise.

As she suffers in silence, living out her cloistered vocation in total obedience to her Church-- while the network she founded covers every move of Pope Benedicts American pilgrimagecould no one think of throwing a medal Mother Angelicas way? Could no one consider mentioning the fact that she preserved the faith of millions during the confusion and chaos of the 1980s clear through the sex abuse crisis? While others in the media were throwing rocks, attacking the papacy and the Church with outrageous charges and ignorant comments, Angelica kept a quiet vigil: broadcasting a message of hope around the world rooted in prayer and sacrifice.

Could no one have suggested that His Holiness make even a fleeting reference to the woman who for millions and millions of Americans has been the face of faithful Catholicism for decades? How easily loyal friends are forgotten when the world crowds in clamoring for papal mementos and their moment of reflected glory.

Well, I have no awards to bestow and my words are inadequate to convey what needs conveying-- but Happy 85th Birthday Mother. Your medal can be found in the millions of souls that you have nourished in their faith; those youve saved from despair or suicide and inspired in big ways and small for 27 years. Your reward will go on and on in a living parade of faith long after rust has claimed the all too easily won trinkets of the moment.

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