SELECTED BOOKS: “Mother Angelica’s Guide to the Spiritual Life”
Guide to the spiritual life of Mother Angelique
By Mother Angelica
EWTN Publishing, 2021
153 pages, $17.95
as i read With Mother Angelique guide to the spiritual life, a recurring image was of a tough but loving coach urging his players to give their all on the pitch.
Like a coach who knows his players are capable of performing better, Mother Angelica is outspoken and can be quite harsh at times. But just as a great coach can be both tough and loving, Mother Angelica regularly reminds her readers of God’s love and the need to trust Him.
In 25 brief chapters over approximately 150 pages, Mother Angelica covers a range of topics, including fear, suffering, jealousy and loving correction, making the guide a very practical and accessible read.
Mother writes in clear, direct prose that often incorporates humor, including in scriptural observations as well as self-deprecating comments.
“You know, I’m Italian by temperament. And believe me, no Italian, at least no one I know, wakes up in the morning thinking “It’s a wonderful day!” So I wake up angry, and I wake up impatient. … But do you know what corrects me? When one of my sisters comes in and says, “Hello, Mom,” she smiles and looks at me lovingly.
The book is highly relevant to lay people as it addresses challenges that can often be a stumbling block to growing in holiness, such as frustration with loved ones or feelings of jealousy or inferiority. The challenges she addresses – and the advice she dispenses – will be applicable to readers of any age, vocation or situation in life.
Mother Angelica writes in a very conversational style, almost as if she is sitting in the chair opposite the reader. She moves seamlessly between scripture references to witty prose that can make the reader smile while capturing the weight of the point being made.
When discussing good and bad fear:
“You know, we live in a life of simulation and fear. Nobody wants to be themselves. We are always afraid; we’re still following the Joneses. Your neighbor has a Buick and you want a Rolls-Royce. But all you can really afford are roller skates. We are trained from childhood to pretend and never admit defeat, because you want to tell yourself that you can do anything and that everything you do is right and good. The only people who are always right are those in Hell. That’s why they are there! They will never admit they did anything wrong. So when you do something wrong, say it! ‘I am wrong!’ Be honest.”
In addition to addressing specific points like fear and jealousy, Mother Angelica closes the book with chapters focused on how to deepen one’s prayer life, become more generous, and let go of harmful memories that hinder growth. .
In a chapter titled “Snippets of Our Lives,” Mother encourages the reader not to get stuck in the sins of the past, but rather to use those “scraps” of life that people “want to put under a rug” to grow. “Well, now you have to look at this mess and say, ‘Wait a minute.’ From this waste, from these ashes, can come great holiness of life, transformation – so much so that people will look at you and take courage for their own lives.
In her final chapter, Mother Angelica addresses the theme of Christian identity. Here she tackles the identity crisis that many people are going through today, wanting something other than what they currently have and neglecting their vocations.
“You see, when you’re not faithful to God, you’re unhappy. If you are unhappy, you will not be faithful and vice versa. So that ruins your peace, and when peace is ruined, there is no joy. And that’s where you lose your sense of identity.
Those looking for a tough, firm and loving spiritual coach as we move deeper into the new year and towards our Lenten journey will find With Mother Angelique guide to the spiritual life a most useful tool.
Nick Manetto writes from Herndon, Virginia.