Mother Angelica's last days: priest describes her suffering, death on Easter
Wolfe noted that Mother Angelica had instructed her nuns to do everything to keep her alive, no matter how much she suffered, because every day she suffered, she suffered for God.
"Most of us would not think that way," Wolfe said. "We would think, 'Get me out of here...' What's taken out of that picture is the love of God."
Mother Angelica wanted each day to be "one more act of suffering to God," Wolfe said.
"This is the greatest power on earth, the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord," Wolfe said. "This was something that Mother understood. She wanted to love Him in return. That was her whole life."
Mother Angelica suffered pain most of her life after an accident as young girl when she fell using an industrial waxing machine left her in leg braces. She had a stroke in 2001 that prompted her to wear an eye patch over her left eye as she hosted her TV talk show. On Christmas Eve 2001, she suffered a second stroke that left her mostly unable to speak. She also suffered from Bell's palsy, heart disease and asthma. She retired as chairman of EWTN in 2000 and stopped doing live TV programs after the second stroke. She was 92 when she died, and would have had her 93rd birthday on April 20.
"She saw something that most of us don't see ... that she could say, you don't know the value of one new offering, one new act of love of God, one suffering that is united to Christ and offered to him," Wolfe said. "You don't know the value of that."
Wolfe then described how Mother Angelica went into her death throes on Good Friday.
"It was on Good Friday that I heard form one of the caregivers who was helping Mother, as well as one of the sisters," Wolfe said. "Mother began to cry out early in the morning from the pain that she was having. She had a fracture in her bones because of the length of time she had been bedridden. They said you could hear it down the hallways, that she was crying out on Good Friday from what she was going through. These two people said to me she has excruciating pain. Well, do you know where that word excruciating comes from? Ex, from, cruce, from the cross. Excruciating pain."
"Her whole life really was colored with suffering," Wolfe said. "We don't think of her as someone who was downcast in her suffering but gave us courage in our own sufferings."
"After the 3 o'clock hour arrived on Good Friday she was more calm, she was more peaceful," Wolfe said. "On Holy Saturday, I also visited. I had this desire to thank her. We have benefited by her witness, her teaching."
"So I kissed her on the forehead. At a certain point that day she opened her eyes wide and I just put myself in a position to look into her eyes. I told her, 'Mother, I want to thank you for the witness of your faith. I want to thank you for teaching us how to love Jesus more.' Because that was really the heart of her message wasn't it? That Jesus loves you. He's called us to be great saints. Don't miss the opportunity to share his love. So I thanked her for teaching us all how to love him more."
Wolfe left Mother Angelica's side to officiate the Easter vigil on Saturday night in the chapel at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Several hundred people attended. "We had a beautiful Easter vigil," Wolfe said. "At 5:30 in the morning, Mother Delores called me and said Mother was really struggling, she wasn't doing very well. She wanted me to come over. I went over there, the sisters were already there."
That's when preparations for her death began with the last rites, he said.
"I anointed her, did the litany for the dying, gave her the apostolic pardon that the church grants to someone who is dying, and the sisters prayed their divine office around her bed - the morning prayers."
The holiday altered the procedures, he said.
"The fact that Mother's death took place on Easter Sunday means that liturgically we have to do certain things," Wolfe said. "We have to be singing alleluias. Our divine office cannot be the office for the dead, it's got to be the office for the octave of Easter. But you know, I'm happy about that. We can be singing alleluias for all that she has brought to so many of us. So the sisters prayed the divine office around her bed. I joined them for their morning prayer that morning."
Later that morning she received her last holy communion, called Viaticum when the consecrated bread and wine is given as part of last rites.
"At 10:30 Father Paschal offered Mass in her room and she received the precious blood, Viaticum, the food for her journey," Wolfe said. "The precious blood by which we have been saved. All of us have been saved by the precious blood of Jesus...., a drop or two of the precious blood, into her mouth."
The nuns and priests were gathered at her side as she approached death on Easter Sunday afternoon, he said.
"It was in the afternoon that Father Miguel and I went to her bed at the hour of mercy, at 3 o'clock," he said. "We had just finished praying the divine mercy chaplet. We all continued to pray silently around her bed. Then it was shortly before 5 p.m. that she went to the Father's house. She breathed her last."