Yesterday, I wrote a tribute to Mother Angelica, a woman whose life and work was defined by her willingness to say what God wants us to hear, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. In fact, as she herself once said, “Those who tell the Truth love you. Those who tell you what you want to hear love themselves.”
She also said, “It’s your obligation to speak the truth, and everyone can either take it or leave it. But truth must be in us. We live in such a poverty of truth today.”
When it came to the way we live our faith, she admonished, “If you’re not a thorn in somebody’s side, you aren’t doing Christianity right.”
As for what drove her? “I’m not afraid to fail…I’m scared to death of dying and having the Lord say to me, ‘Angelica, this is what you might have done had you trusted more.”
You see, Mother Angelica was, by every conceivable measure, a deeply pious and holy woman. A woman who knew the value of suffering offered up to God. But as my old professor, Dr. Regis Martin (who appears frequently on Mother’s own network) used to say, “The real saints are the last people in the neighborhood to know that.”
This is because true holiness places us face to face with the frailty of our humanity. Our sinful, fallen nature. When compared the the ultimate perfection of God, our sins are scarlet, our faults stand out in grand contrast.
St. Catherine of Genoa, a 15th-century mystic who was given the experience of Purgatory during her life and is considered the “theologian of Purgatory,” explains what happens when we come into contact with God’s perfections after death:
“The greatest suffering of the souls in purgatory, it seems to me, is the awareness that something in them displeases God, that they have deliberately gone against His great goodness … I can also see … that the divine essence is so pure and light-filled — much more than we can imagine — that the soul that has but the slightest imperfection would rather throw itself into a thousand hells than appear thus before the divine presence.” Hence “the soul … aware that the impediment it faces cannot be removed in any other way, hurls itself into Purgatory …. That is why the soul seeks to cast off any and all impediments so it can be lifted up to God.”
(As cited in the book, Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory, p. 41)
Mother Angelica died with the last rites of the Church and an apostolic pardon. She lived a holy life doing God’s work. She voluntarily embraced suffering that could be offered up as a sacrifice to God. If anyone has a chance at a straight shot to heaven, it’s her.
But we must not presume. We do not know what God knows about her. We are not privy to the hidden recesses of her soul. This is why praying for the living and the dead are spiritual works of mercy. We are duty-bound to pray for souls that pass from this life, that their sufferings in Purgatory (if any) will be lessened. Most of us will go there. Some for quite a long time. We all need to pray for each other, and I’ve often joked that I will come down and haunt my family members and friends if they forget to do so!
I know for a fact that Mother would want our prayers, and would tell us that even if she made it, those graces might be applied to the Holy Souls in purgatory who are not yet done being purified.
If someone tells you Mother is in heaven before the Church’s process of canonization (which I fully expect will begin on her behalf) is done, do not listen to them. If you loved Mother in this life, pray for her in the next. Know that your prayers will never go to waste.
Particularly when it comes to the death of someone who is well-loved, we are told before the body is cold that they are “in a better place.” It may be true, but we just don’t know. This is what we want to hear, not what’s best for them. Remember, “Those who tell the Truth love you. Those who tell you what you want to hear love themselves.”
Pray for Mother Angelica, and all the souls of the faithful departed. May they rest in peace.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.