March 31, 2016

Mother Angelica . Requiescat in Pace

John Allen writes We shall not look upon the likes of Mother Angelica again

With the death of Mother Angelica on Easter Sunday, the Church has lost the most charismatic American Catholic media personality of her time, as well as someone who proved beyond any doubt that a determined and savvy woman can, after all, wield real power inside an organization often perceived as a boys’ club.

Ninety-two at the time of her death and largely withdrawn from the world, Mother Angelica at the top of her game was feisty, smart, alternately stern and hilarious, all wrapped up in the habit of a seemingly ordinary Franciscan nun. There was nothing “ordinary” about her, however, because for much of the 1980s and 1990s, she was simply the most riveting Catholic figure on the airwaves.

She also had an instinctive grasp of the media business, which allowed her to found the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and develop it into the global juggernaut it’s become.  In that sense, Mother Angelica was sort of a cross between Rupert Murdoch and the nun who taught you 3rd grade religion.

  Mother Angelica

NYT  Mother Mary Angelica, Who Founded Catholic TV Network, Dies at 92

In an interview with The New York Times in 1989, Mother Angelica described how a visit to a television studio in Chicago ignited her entrepreneurial drive, and led to the birth of her worldwide enterprise.

“I walked in, and it was just a little studio, and I remember standing in the doorway and thinking, it doesn’t take much to reach the masses,” she said. “I just stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Lord, I’ve got to have one of these.’”

WSJ: Mother Angelica Created a Catholic Media Empire: 1923-2016

Mother Mary Angelica, a Roman Catholic nun, used entrepreneurial flair and saucy humor to create a religious television, radio and publishing empire with global reach.

Mother Angelica, who died March 27 at age 92, deployed her Eternal Word Television Network to spread her homespun version of the Catholic faith. Her “Mother Angelica Live” TV show had an unpromising concept: A grandmotherly nun sits in an easy chair and discusses religion for an hour in a high-pitched voice. Yet viewers loved her plain talk on matters spiritual and profane.
Her advice to the lovelorn: “People will rave and rant and cry: ‘Oh, he left me! I’m going to die.’ No, you’re not. Just shut up and you’ll feel better.”
The television and radio organizations she started are nonprofits and provide free programming to cable and satellite-TV services, radio stations and other outlets around the world. The Eternal Word network estimates that its programs are available to 265 million households. The network has about 500 employees and an annual U.S. operating budget of $64 million.

A Most Diligent Mother: Angelica by John Zmirak who wrote this piece in 2009 and Crisis magazine republished it following the news that she had died.

Leaving aside the popes, the person who has served as the public face of the Church in the United States for the past two decades is a little, crippled, chronically ill, old Italian-American lady who chats with Jesus daily, used to speak in tongues, and leaps before she looks. As I write this, she is quite ill, and we can’t predict how long she will be with us. But the global media empire planted by this contemplative Poor Clare has put down mighty roots, with millions of viewers who love its dogged loyalty to the teachings of the Church. Indeed, in large swathes of the country where parishes have either closed or turned de facto Methodist, EWTN’s broadcasts serve the isolated faithful like Allied broadcasts into Occupied Europe.
But Mother Angelica had come to see a pattern in her life: Faced with grinding pain and apparent futility, she would always respond with several steps, in this order:

1. Ask God His will in prayer.
2. Once she knew it, throw caution to the wind and trust that He would make her efforts fruitful.
3. Work like a madwoman, wheedling support from the uncertain and shunting aside doubters and dissenters who got in her way.
4. Rinse, repeat.
Mother Angelica has flouted powerful men, the conventional wisdom, and the voice of prudence so many times that for her it’s almost routine. Her intimate contact with Christ has helped her to keep, in the midst of outrageous success and mounting power, the simplicity of her founders—Francis and Clare.
Mother Angelica knew how to hornswoggle Baptists into laying free pipe for nuns, to charm the socks off jaded cable-TV execs, bend the ears of visiting cardinals, and impress the pope. She worked without ceasing, except to pray. It’s hard to imagine that she will ever rest, even in Heaven. Perhaps those with really high-end satellite dishes will someday be able to tune into “Eternal Life with Mother Angelica.”

Mother Angelica is an inspiration to Catholic women who want to achieve great things

Mother Angelica could be vociferous in defending Our Lord and she sparred with important men of the cloth.
One of the most unstoppable nuns to have ever lived in my view, Mother was the only woman to found and run a TV network for 20 years.
Her apostolate in Catholic media, even from the early recordings explaining God’s love for each person, was a bold endeavour to give the masses what the nuns of her childhood had not given her: the empowering knowledge of Jesus’s love for us.

Mother Angelica’s life and works prove that her love for Our Lord was genuine: this is precisely why she is an inspiration to Catholic women. Angelica alone shows that a Catholic woman driven by love of Jesus can achieve great things; even in our times when many young women like me are told that being successful and being a Catholic are incompatible

The Spiritual Legacy of Mother Angelica  Bishop Robert Barron

I would like simply to draw attention to three areas of particular spiritual importance in the life of Mother Angelica: her trust in God’s providence, her keen sense of the supernatural quality of religion, and her conviction that suffering is of salvific value.

Mother Angelica: A Strong Woman in Love with Jesus by Mitch Pacwas

The history of Catholicism in the United States will need to include a section, if not a chapter, on Mother Angelica. Hardly any other woman has had so much influence, except Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. St. John Paul II once said, “Mother Angelica—she is very strong woman.” No physical pain, opposition from inside or outside the church, no overwhelming odds or threats stopped that strong woman in love with Jesus.

In Honor of an Uppity Nun by Timothy George, a Baptist theologian

Her desperate life was made worse by illnesses and accidents, one after another, the scars of which she bore for the rest of her life. Mother Angelica believed in divine healing and miracles, and received several in the course of her ninety-two years. But she also learned to accept suffering as a part of God’s overcoming purpose in a fallen world. Her pain was providential, she believed, a part of her purification. Through brokenness, she came to know Jesus Christ and to share in what St. Paul called “the fellowship (koinonia) of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10).

Mother Angelica once summarized her life in this way: I am just “some street woman who got sick and was given many things.”
Someone said this of Mother Angelica: She was out of the ordinary, and into everything.” As Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who served on the board of EWTN, has said, “Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve. She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. Mother Angelica inspired other gifted people to join her in the work without compromising her own leadership and vision.”
When Mother Angelica arrived in Birmingham in 1961, the city was rife with racial tension and religious discrimination, much of it inspired by a virulent KKK. Some older citizens still remembered the brutal murder of Father James E. Coyle, who had been shot to death on the steps of his church by a Protestant minister in 1921. In 1962, while the first monastery was still under construction, there was an assault by several gunmen, and Mother Angelica herself literally dodged a bullet. She later said, You never saw a crippled nun run so fast in all your life!”

Holiness is not for wimps  Remembering Mother Angelica and a few of her memorable words

“If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy.”

“Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not negotiable, sweetheart, it’s a requirement.”

“Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 AM | Permalink

March 30, 2016

The Grey Zone

In National Geographic, Crossing Over: How Science Is Redefining Life and Death  What we are we learning about the gray zone between here and the other side.

A Harvard panel met in 1968 to define death in two ways: the traditional way, by cardiopulmonary criteria, and a new way, by neurological ones. The neurological criteria, which are now used to determine “brain death,” involved three cardinal benchmarks: coma or unresponsiveness, apnea or the inability to breathe without a ventilator, and the absence of brain-stem reflexes, measured by bedside exams such as flushing the ears with cold water to see if the eyes move, poking the nail bed to see if the face grimaces, or swabbing the throat and suctioning the bronchia to try to stimulate a cough.

It’s all quite straightforward, yet also counterintuitive. “Brain-dead patients do not appear dead,” wrote James Bernat, a neurologist at Dartmouth’s medical school in New Hampshire, in the American Journal of Bioethicsin 2014. “It is contrary to experience to call a patient dead who continues to have heartbeat, circulation, and visceral organ functioning.”
Some patients can be brought back from the dead after hours without a heartbeat, often with no long-term consequences.

 Cyronics Founder Hugs

Linda Chamberlain, co-founder of the Arizona-based cryonics company Alcor, hugs the container where the body of her husband, Fred, is frozen in the hope that someday he can be thawed and revived. She plans to join him in cryo limbo when her time comes. Fred’s last words, she says, were “Gee, I hope this works.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

March 29, 2016

Princess Joan of Sealand

This is the best and most fun obituary I've read in quite a while about a housewife who became a princess when her husband founded a state on a derelict and rusty sea fort

Princess Joan of Sealand - obituary

Princess Joan of Sealand, who has died aged 86, was plain Joan Bates, a former Essex carnival queen, until 1967 when her husband Roy declared himself head of state of an abandoned wartime gun platform off the Suffolk coast.

In 1965, on the nearby Knock John fortified tower in the North Sea, Roy Bates, a former Army major, had established Radio Essex, claiming it as Britain’s first 24-hour pirate pop station, only to see it swiftly closed down by the Labour government. He then bought HM Fort Roughs, a windswept hulk some seven miles off Felixstowe, with twin towers of steel-reinforced concrete spanned by a 5,920 sq ft rusting iron platform.

 Joanbates Sealand-1

In 1967, however, when a law took effect making it illegal for pirate radio operators to employ British citizens, Bates, who had fought in the International Brigade in Spain and once faced a fascist firing squad in Greece, knew how to respond. On his wife’s birthday, September 2, he declared UDI and founded Sealand, declaring it exempt from British taxes. Styling themselves Prince Roy and Princess Joan, they took up residence with their children – and Fruitcake the family cat. Their motto was E Mare Libertas (“From the Sea, Freedom”).
t was not long, however, before Sealand’s sovereignty faced a further challenge – in the form of a boarding party from Radio Caroline, which the Bateses repelled with Molotov cocktails and warning shots. In 1968, when the Royal Maritime auxiliary vessel Golden Eye passed close by, three warning shots were fired across her bow before she turned for the shore. Bates was summonsed under the Firearms Act and appeared in the dock at Essex Assizes. Again the judge decided that the courts had no jurisdiction. A QC commenting on the case described the family as having “the element of swashbuckling more appropriate to the days of Queen Elizabeth I than ours”.
During the 1970s Bates created Sealand’s own constitution, flag (red and black with white diagonal stripe), passports, national anthem and stamps and currency bearing Princess Joan’s arresting features.
But Sealand continued to face external threats. In 1978, when the Bateses were away on business, a German entrepreneur, with whom they had fallen out over plans to turn Sealand into a luxury hotel/casino, flew in a party of supporters by helicopter and staged a coup d’état. But within days Prince Roy and Crown Prince Michael had recaptured the island, sliding down 100ft ropes from a helicopter, fighting the invaders and capturing one of the raiders. They kept him as a prisoner, forcing him to make coffee and clean the lavatories for nearly two months until a diplomat from the West German embassy in London arrived to secure his release.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:25 PM | Permalink

March 23, 2016

"Jewish rituals serve to sanctify the dead—and to humanize the living"

Bari Weiss, Associate Books Editor for the Wall Street Journal describes  Watching Over My Grandmother

How do the rituals of death teach us how to live more meaningful lives? As religions go, Judaism is far more concerned about what happens in this world than the world to come. But as I learned this past weekend while burying my grandmother, Jewish rituals can serve not only to sanctify the dead, but also to humanize the living.

My grandmother, Sandy Steiner, who moved in with my family from Los Angeles 25 years ago to help raise my three younger sisters and me, was 81 years old when she died at home shortly after the Sabbath began on Friday night. In Judaism, a dead body is never to be left alone between the time of death and the time of burial. It’s a tradition called shmirah, or guarding, which dates to an ancient time when fear of rodents and grave-robbers was real.  Typically, the task is performed by volunteers, members of the community’s hevra kadisha—holy society—who do the watching in the funeral home. But if a person dies over the Sabbath the body cannot be buried or even removed.

And so my grandmother’s family became her guardians: Over a 24-hour period, her body covered on her bed, we watched over her.  My grandmother’s younger sister kept watch over Friday night. In the early-morning hours Saturday, I sat with my younger sister. In the afternoon, my father sat with my uncle, followed by other family members who took their turns as the shomer or guard.
An hour after sundown on Saturday, which marks the end of the Sabbath, her body was taken from the house by members of the hevra kadisha. These are not strangers, but people we sit next to in synagogue—my father’s doctor, my best friend’s mother, volunteers all.

The members of this holy society prepare bodies for burial according to detailed rituals meant to honor the deceased and preserve their modesty. (It is for this same reason that Jews prohibit open caskets.) Men prepare the bodies of men; women prepare women. The atmosphere in the room is quiet; only prayers are spoken in Hebrew, including a final one asking for forgiveness if the dignity of the deceased has been violated in any way. First the body is washed, then there is a ritual washing before it is dressed in simple linen shrouds....

My grandmother was buried in a plain wooden box. In keeping with Jewish law, the coffin had no metal—even the sides were connected by wooden dowels. The aim is to ensure its complete disintegration, fulfilling the verse from Genesis: “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

At the burial, her family and friends filled in her grave. In shoveling the dirt, we were performing a chesed shel emet—a true act of kindness—because it is something that cannot be repaid.
When so much in modern life is outsourced, there is something clarifying, maybe even purifying, about witnessing a loved one’s final days. In caring for someone after death, and being expected to take part in rituals at once deeply uncomfortable and comforting, I realized that Judaism was forcing us to examine our own lives and deeds—and to ask ourselves: Are we putting our own vessels to their best use?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

March 22, 2016

"That body was not your mother. Your mother is still here"

After Funeral and Cremation, a Shock: The Woman in the Coffin Wasn’t Mom

After a long battle with cancer, Val-Jean McDonald, mother of eight sons, with more than 20 grandchildren, almost as many great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, died on Dec. 18 at the age of 81.  Her funeral, 11 days later, attracted scores of mourners to Union Baptist Church in Harlem: her sons, from Manhattan, New Jersey, Georgia, Texas and Australia; other relatives and friends; and people who had never met her but knew her children.

They all filed past the open coffin, seeing familiar remnants of Ms. McDonald’s life: a favorite pink blouse and white suit, and her finest jewelry. “Why did they cut off all her hair?” a son, Errol McDonald, 57, remembers thinking. “Maybe it’s the cancer.” He bent and kissed her.

But sometimes children see what adults cannot. Adults rationalize. Children call it like it is. “My 10-year-old son said, ‘Daddy, that’s not Grandma,’” recalled Mr. McDonald, a school maintenance worker in Manhattan. “I said, ‘Yes, that’s what happens,’” he told the boy, explaining that people can look different in death. The next day, the family attended Ms. McDonald’s cremation at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Six days passed. Then, a manager from McCall’s Bronxwood Funeral Home in the Bronx, which had handled the arrangements, called another of Ms. McDonald’s sons, the Rev. Richard McDonald, with shattering news, he said.  “She says, ‘That body was not your mother,’” Richard McDonald said in an interview. “‘Your mother is still here."

The woman who had been in that coffin, seen by all those people, kissed by her sons, was not Val-Jean McDonald at all.

The revelation left Ms. McDonald’s family angry and incredulous, and asking themselves hard questions: How could so many people not have recognized that the woman in the coffin was not Ms. McDonald? How could her sons have convinced themselves, to a man, that this stranger was their mother?

And how could a funeral home make such a mistake?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2016

No Escape

Euthanasia Trumps Religious Liberty in Canada  Wesley Smith

I have never seen a society jump so enthusiastically into the abyss that is the culture of death as Canada has in the last year.

Based on government and medical association proposed guidelines, Canada’s euthanasia regime will soon include:
Death on demand for those with medically diagnosed serious sicknesses;
Death on demand for those with disabilities;
Death on demand for those with  medically diagnosed mental illnesses.
Death on demand for “mature” children with the above conditions, perhaps with parental consent required;
Nurses ordered to participate in euthanasia under the direction of a doctor, normalizing killing as an answer to suffering and making it easier for doctors to avoid the dirty work of homicide;
Government-paid euthanasia.

There will also, apparently, be no effective conscience exemptions for religious or morally opposed doctors, nurses, and religious medical institutions–even though Canada’s governing Charter explicitly protects “freedom of religion and conscience.” Doctors will be legally required to offer “effective referral” for patients who want to be killed. Nurses ordered to kill a patient by a doctor will have no options to resist other than active insubordination. Religious facilities will be required by law to permit euthanasia on premises if they receive public money–which includes most facilities as Canada has a socialized, single-payer health financing system. No escape.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 PM | Permalink

The Bios Urn

Instead of visiting your dearly departed grandmother in a cemetery, now it's possible to watch her ashes turn into a tree on your balcony.

This Urn Turns You Into A Potted Tree After You Die

The Bios Urn, made from coconut shells, compacted peat, and cellulose, holds a person's ashes along with a seed for a tree. As the urn decomposes, the tree roots take up the ashes and break through the small pod. Though the urn can be planted in the ground, the designers realized that city-dwellers not have access to land—and might want to keep a family member closer....

In response, they designed a new "tree incubator" called the Incube, a pot small enough to fit on a balcony or deck. The biodegradable urn fits inside. It also comes with a small kit of sensors that measure moisture, temperature, and sunlight, as well as an automatic watering system to keep the tree alive. An app allows for tracking the growth of the tree.

The designers are raising funds for manufacturing on Kickstarter.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:57 PM | Permalink

He left behind his biggest secret that was only revealed when his wife decided to sell his violin

Philip Johnson was a promising musical prodigy. Then he stole a teacher’s prized Stradivarius.

The Violin Thief by Geoff Edgers in The Washington Post

He is dying, Q-tip elbows poking through a baggy shirt. Friends visit, spooning him ice cream and playing music. His daughters are around as well, stopping in after school, too young to process the grim scene. And there, carefully placed in the closet, out of view in the room his ex-wife has set up, is the Stradivarius.

Philip Johnson’s fingers are no longer strong enough to play any violin, never mind one so unforgiving. So he keeps the Strad in a plastic crate. The instrument is the only thing he has of value. It is also his biggest secret.

When he’s gone, the news will shock them all, from the FBI to his family to the daughters of Roman Totenberg, who stand to inherit the instrument. They will ask how this once-promising, later penniless eccentric stole an 18th-century violin worth millions — and got away with it. After all, he was the only suspect when it was taken in 1980. As death approaches, Johnson, usually the loudest voice in the room, keeps his mouth shut. It is the fall of 2011. This has been his secret for 31 years.

Johnson, who was never able to hold a job, a mortgage or a relationship, somehow accomplished something most everyone thought impossible: He played Totenberg’s Stradivarius in plain view until the end.
The trail remained ice-cold even after Johnson died of pancreatic cancer two weeks before Thanksgiving 2011. Then, last summer, Thanh Tran, Johnson’s ex-wife, decided to look into selling the violin. She had no idea it was a Strad.

A great story with many photos and an audio of Philip Johnson playing "Trio in B Major" by Mobius on his stolen Stradivarius.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

March 7, 2016

"It transformed everything"

Inside the Heart of God: Holding My Daughter as She Lay Dying - People say there are no words for this, but there are ... -

Margaret Susan and Abigail Kathleen were born on Saturday evening via c-section. When we finally got to sleep late that night, they were stable in the NICU. By Sunday morning, they were not. We spent Sunday afternoon holding Maggie as she died in our arms.

People say there are no words for this, but there are. They are just achingly hard words. People say that parents should not have to go through this, but they do. It is just overwhelmingly awful.

But what everyone agrees upon is that having to do this two days in a row — having to hold two children while their breathing slows and their hearts stop — is unbearable. Beyond the pale. Nothing but nightmare.

I am here to tell you that it is not. .....

The nurses uncoiled Abby from her nest of cords and tubes. I tugged my shirt over my head and pulled the hospital gown around my shoulders. I inched back into the recliner, rows of stitches from Saturday’s two surgeries sending searing pain across my stomach. They slowly placed Abby onto my chest, covered her with layers of warm blankets, and left the room.

And every last dredge of sadness left my body.


I started to smile. I started to grin. This is not the reaction you expect when nurses place your dying baby to your skin. But everything turned inside out. I was flooded with peace. I was filled with the deepest joy I have ever felt. I could not understand why sorrow and grief had occupied any inch of my body before that instant. This was a different world.

Abby breathed and I breathed. She stretched out her hands across my chest, reaching with her tiny fingers. I held the smallest small of her back, felt her lungs and heart flutter against mine. I closed my eyes and sat there, smiling. The nurse came into the room and shook her head: I can’t believe you are smiling. Franco whispered into my ear, I wish you could see how you look right now. You are so full of joy.

It transformed everything.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink