Mother Angelica Offers Holy Advice as Spiritual Coach
Mother Angelica’s Guide to the Spiritual Life
By Mother Angelica
EWTN Publishing, 2021
As I read Mother Angelica’s Guide to the Spiritual Life, a recurring image was that of a tough-but-loving coach exhorting his players to give it their all on the field.
Like a coach who knows his or her players are able to perform better, Mother Angelica doesn’t mince words and can at times be quite tough. But just as a great coach can be both tough and loving, Mother Angelica routinely reminds her readers of God’s love and the need to trust in him.
In 25 brief chapters over approximately 150 pages, Mother Angelica addresses a range of topics, including fear, suffering, jealousy and loving correction, making the guide a very practical and accessible read.
Mother writes in clear and direct prose that often incorporates humor, including in observations on Scripture as well as in self-deprecating comments.
“You know, I am Italian by temperament. And believe me, no Italian, at least not anyone I know, gets up in the morning feeling ‘It’s a wonderful day!’ So, I wake up with a temper, and I wake up impatient. … But do you know what corrects me? When one of my sisters comes in and says, ‘Good morning, Mother,’ and she’s smiling and looking at me with love.”
The book is highly relevant to laypeople because it tackles those 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 tackles — and the advice she dispenses — will be applicable to readers of any age, vocation or station in life.
Mother Angelica writes in a very conversational style, almost as if she were sitting in the chair across from the reader. She seamlessly transitions between references from Scripture to witty prose that can make the reader smile while also grasping the weight of the point being made.
In discussing good and bad fear:
“You know, we live in a life of pretend and fear. Nobody wants to be himself. We’re always afraid; we’re always keeping up with the Joneses. Your neighbor has a Buick and you want a Rolls-Royce. But all you can really afford is roller skates. We’re trained from childhood to pretend and never to admit defeat, because you want to tell yourself you can do everything, and that everything you do is right and good. The only people who are always right are those in Hell. That’s why they’re there! They will never admit they did anything wrong. So when you do anything wrong, say it! ‘I’m 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 shed harmful memories that are hindering growth.
In a chapter entitled “The Scraps of Our Lives,” Mother encourages the reader not to remain stuck in past sins but rather to use these and other “scraps” of life that people “want to push under a rug” to grow. “Well, now, you have to look at this mess and say, ‘Wait a minute.’ From this garbage, from these ashes, can come great holiness of life, a transformation — so much so that people will look at you and get courage for their own lives.”
In her final chapter, Mother Angelica addresses the topic of Christian identity. Here, she tackles the identity crisis many people are navigating today, wanting something other than what they currently have and neglecting their vocations.
“You see, when you’re not faithful to God, you’re discontent. If you’re discontent, you’re not going to be faithful and vice versa. Then that ruins your peace, and when peace is ruined, there is no joy. And that’s when 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 toward our Lenten journey will find Mother Angelica’s Guide to the Spiritual Life a most useful tool.
Nick Manetto writes from Herndon, Virginia.