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Sat May 21, 2016, 07:36 AM

 

Can Catholic TV move beyond Mother Angelica's legacy?



By Raymond A. Schroth | May. 20, 2016

A high point of my Jesuit novitiate in 1957 was our novice master announcing that Pope John XXIII had just called the Second Vatican Council, but it was almost 10 years of studying theology at Woodstock, Md., before the impact of this hit me. One day a recently ordained student, at a small liturgy, placed the sacred host in my hands. My understanding of the presence of Christ in both the Body of Christ, the congregation, and in my hands took on new life.

In June 1967, the altars in parishes were to be turned around and the congregation would no longer watch the celebrant from behind, hunched over the host at the consecration but now lifting it up as they faced one another. My home parish altar still had not been moved, but for my first Mass, when Jesuit Fr. Thurston Davis, my Fordham University dean and then America editor, would preach, my mother bought a new wooden altar to welcome the new Vatican II liturgy.

Twenty-seven years later, in 1994, while I was at Georgetown University researching my biography of journalist Eric Sevareid, I blocked off two weeks to write for the National Catholic Reporter. I watched nothing on my small-screen television but the Eternal Word Television Network, embodied in its 1981 founder, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration's Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, Ala., and later, in the 1990s, founder and abbess of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville. She was "news" because her EWTN was, for better or worse, the largest Catholic network in the world, and she was the face of the church.

My 4,000-word NCR essay concluded that she was a product of an American culture that wanted nuns to be fun, even though her anger was boiling beneath the surface. She was loved by a populace which, through no fault of its own, was religiously ill-informed, but fed a meal of reported miracles and apparitions, watered-down theology, neglect of social issues, and a Bible where "history" neglected scholarship: Here is the spot on the Jordan where Joshua's troops crossed and the walls came tumbling down. I wondered whether this was the best that the American church could do.

http://ncronline.org/news/art-media/can-catholic-tv-move-beyond-mother-angelicas-legacy

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