No doubt about it, Hurricane Katrina was a monumental disaster.
And recovering from it requires a miracle.
Thousands of people apparently died and Raymond Arroyo's city, New Orleans, was devastated.
Raymond Arroyo is EWTN's host of "The World Over" and News Director, a native of New Orleans, the biographer of Mother Angelica, and, due to Hurricane Katrina, a refugee.
Mother Angelica is the remarkable nun who founded EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network).
Fortunately, Mr. Arroyo left his home in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina struck and relocated with his wife Rebecca and their four children (including a 14-day old baby) to Mother Angelica's monastery in Alabama.
On his aptly named website, www.raymondarroyo.com, Mr. Arroyo posted this poignant personal message on Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, dated August 30, 2005:
"Dear Friends and Family,
It has been an awful, emotional struggle over the last few days as we have watched the toxic waters overtake our beloved city of New Orleans. Our home is in Metairie (a New Orleans suburb), near the lake. We are told that the standing water could be as high as 10 feet. Though one might be tempted to say that we have lost everything, we have not. Instead we have rediscovered the depth of our friends love and been reminded that family, children and life are all that is really important and necessary.
"I have received countless e-mails and voice messages at the network inquiring about our safety, and I want to assure you that we are fine. Dear Mother Angelica and her sisters in their kindness allowed us to stay in the guesthouse at her monastery in Hanceville, Alabama when we could find no rooms elsewhere. She and my EWTN family have been our safe harbor in the wake of this terrible tempest.
"Gratefully the boys, our new born daughter, my parents, and wife are safe. We got out early before the start of the mad exodus that left so many families stranded on roadsides and caught in stalled traffic. We are wearied by all of this, but safe and coping.
"Thank you for your prayers, your kind thoughts, and I look forward to seeing you all on the book tour (which in the spirit of the New Orleanian that I am, will go on...)
The book is MOTHER ANGELICA: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles.
Mr. Arroyo wrote the book over five years and it officially will be released on September 6, 2005.
Peggy Noonan, President Reagan's fabulous speechwriter, prepared this now especially timely description of Mother Angelica and review of Mr. Arroyo's biography of her:
"She has been called 'the most influential Catholic woman in America' (Time Magazine) and 'the most successful TV evangelist since Fulton Sheen' (America Magazine). The first woman in television history to found and lead a non-profit television network, Mother Angelica is one of the most recognized and beloved religious figures in the world. Yet the story of her hard won success and enormous personal sacrifice remained a mystery until now.
"In this intimate and inspiring biography, journalist Raymond Arroyo unveils the true Mother Angelica: abandoned by her father at age 5, plagued by illness and self doubt, Rita Rizzo experienced a miraculous healing in 1943 that drew her to the cloistered life at the age of 21. There she discovered a love that would forever alter her life and the lives of countless others around the globe. With unprecedented access to Mother Angelica's letters, diaries, medical records, family, friends and foes, Arroyo vividly retraces her tortured and sublime path from the tough streets of Canton, Ohio to the buckle of the Bible belt in Alabama, to the perilous heights of television fame.
"In this definitive biography, a fully human portrait emerges of a woman willing to risk everything to follow the inspirations of Providence. It is a story of survival, and the power of faith to overcome incredible obstacles. Captured in these pages are Mother Angelica's crippling physical handicaps; her outrageous bargain with God that presaged the building of a monastery in Birmingham, Alabama; and the difficult founding of EWTN, the world's largest religious media empire when she was 58 years of age. Here too are the hidden details of her public and private battles with Church hierarchy; her close relationship with Pope John Paul the Second; the titanic showdown with Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles in 1997; and the Vatican investigation that threatened her community and her television network. Though not an authorized biography, Mother Angelica fully cooperated with the author, granting him hours of candid, sassy, revealing interviews over a three-year period. Only weeks after completing the final interview for this biography, Mother Angelica suffered a stroke that stole her speech and sealed her memory. Within are her final reflections, her powerful life lessons, and the last word on her remarkable life. For anyone in dire straights, anyone who has ever been overlooked or told, 'You can't'--here is Mother Angelica in all her tenacious, faithful, and hilarious glory.
"This is the amazing story of a working class girl who grew up to become the head of a huge television network. It's also the story of a nun who loved God and battled the church. This is some woman. What a wonderful story Raymond Arroyo has written -- wonderful because it's true, because he got the facts, because she chose him to tell them, and because he's a born storyteller."
So many people are in dire straights and desperate need of inspiration as well as material support due to Hurricane Katrina.
And Mr. Arroyo has decided to do precisely what he should do: proceed with his planned book tour and tell the inspiring story when the need to hear it is greater than ever.
Peggy Noonan is hardly alone in her fulsome praise of the story of Mother Angelica and the way Mr. Arroyo told it:
"This is one of the great untold business stories of our time. Who could have imagined that a cloistered nun with a dauntless faith and the ability to turn handicaps to advantages could build a media empire? In this dramatic page-turner, Raymond Arroyo has captured the life and lessons of Mother Angelica, a woman who may well be the patron saint of CEO's. Buy this book and be inspired."
-Lee Iacocca, The Iacocca Foundation, former chief executive officer of the Chrysler Corp
“A page-turner about an elderly nun? It seems improbable, but when the nun is the formidable Mother Angelica and her biographer the eloquent Raymond Arroyo, the result is a book that few readers will be able to put down. Arroyo has produced a spellbinding tale of how Rita Rizzo emerged from a broken home, battling poverty, illness, and uncomprehending clerics to become the queen of Catholic media and a leader of the New Evangelization in America.”
-Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University and author of A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
"Raymond Arroyo masterfully captures the complexities, humanity and tenacity of Mother Angelica, who has long been one of my own personal heroes. The founder of the Eternal Word Television Network, Mother Angelica was a woman who dared to dream, to stand up for what she believed in, and whose faith showed that anything is possible. In Arroyo's hands, she becomes someone you wished you would have had the opportunity to know and love. Read this book and believe. . . "
- Nicholas Sparks, Author of The Notebook
"Raymond Arroyo invites the reader to join him on the wild ride of the Holy Spirit that transformed Rita Rizzo into Mother Angelica, one of the feistiest and most effective evangelists of our time. It is an invitation not to be declined."
-Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things Magazine
“Mother Angelica is one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, and is truly one of my heroes. With his 'insider' perspective, Raymond Arroyo has done a masterful job capturing not only Mother’s immeasurable accomplishments, but also her remarkable personality. Like Mother herself, this book has the unique combination of being both inspiring and entertaining.”
-Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza and Chancellor of Ave Maria University
“A rattling good story of fear, faith, courage, and bulldog tenacity, beautifully told. The drama of Mother Angelica's life is a powerful reminder that the extraordinary lies just beyond the ordinary--if we have eyes to see and ears to hear."
-George Weigel, author of Witness to Hope: the Biography of Pope John Paul II
“Arroyo is a great biographer. His style of writing is as straightforward, exciting, and irresistible as Mother Angelica, herself. This book reveals the soul and personality of the famous nun so truly, that it’s sure to inspire countless readers to imitate her, by striving to achieve impossible, ‘ridiculous’ and often miraculous feats.”
-Anthony DeStefano, author of A Travel Guide to Heaven
"If Rita Rizzo was an unlikely candidate for a Poor Clare's convent, Mother Angelica was an even more unlikely choice to establish, in Alabama, the business empire that is the Eternal Word Television Network. In this candid, captivating biography, Raymond Arroyo delivers not just a great story of a savvy and courageous woman, but multiple examples of the claim that all things are possible with God. I highly recommend it."
-Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy
"'Mother Angelica' is the beautifully told story of a beautiful woman of God whose toughness, tenacity, drive and determination built a network to bring the Catholic truth and culture to a nation that has never been more desperately in need of them."
- Pat Buchanan, Columnist and Author of The Death of the West
"Mother Angelica's personal words to me, her courageous example, and her constant prayers helped inspire my portrayal of Jesus in 'The Passion of the Christ'. No one could have captured the essence of this modern day saint better than Raymond Arroyo. His narrative gifts and understanding of Mother are clearly evident in this truthful and often candid depiction of one nun's struggle to bring God to the multitudes. Surely this book, and Mother's life will have an incredible enduring legacy."
- Jim Caviezel, Actor
“Raymond Arroyo, one of America's leading journalists in reporting religion, has written a fascinating story of how faith transformed a cloistered nun into a media giant. This is an exciting rendition of a story that is more extraordinary and surely more heartwarming than fiction.”
- Robert Novak, Columnist
It's up to the rest of the country to make up for the sales that would have been made in the devastated parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Predictably, Raymond devoted his September 2, 2005 show to the catastrophe.
And urgently called for help for those far less fortune than he. Partricularly a registry, so that separated family members can contact each other.
Instead of interviewing guests as usual, Mr. Arroyo answered questions from concerned callers and emailers.
And he spoke with both compassion and frankness and without concern for political correctness or political sensibilities.
He admitted that he too would loot food for survival.
But he also pointed out that some of the looters were opportunists after jewels, furs and even Nike sneakers.
He did not try to excuse the inexcusable: the shooters and rapists.
He pointed out that the civic government of New Orleans has been a disgrace for years.
And he refuted the charge that the people left in New Orleans were left there because they are black and poor.
By pointing out that the New Orleans civic authorities and police are black.
Sadly, the major media, particularly CNN, seem to be giving a pass to the local authorities, who obviously bungled badly in delaying evacuation and not effecting it fully, in favor of blaming the federal government for not doing more and sooner.
After September 6, Mr. Arroyo will be traveling America signing books, talking about Mother Angelica, celebrating the 25th anniversary of EWTN and undoubtedly calling for massive help for the people of Louisiana and Mississippi and the rebuilding of his beloved New Orleans.
Take advantage of the opportunity to see him and to get his book.
A book review on Raymond Arroyo's MOTHER ANGELICA can also be found at Vivificat!