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Roxane Salonen shares about experiencing one of the ways God amplifies his salvific message to the world. 

Being picked up at the airport by an EWTN driver, seeing the sign for Irondale and Old Leeds Road, and noticing the lush, hilly countryside, so different from the flat valley of North Dakota from which I hail, all contributed to a feeling of surrealness during a recent trip to the Birmingham, Alabama area. 

Taking in the scenery, I couldn’t help but flash back to those days, long ago, in Montana when my sister and I would borrow Mom’s cassette tape player to record our made-up commercials and other “programs” we’d devised in our imaginations during the long, slow summers of our youth.  




It seemed God had placed in my heart a desire to be a communicator of some sort, but decades would pass before I’d find myself doing this work in the Catholic sphere, as an author, speaker, and radio host. And somewhere in the middle of that career, I began yearning to travel to the studios where Mother Angelica had hedged her bets on something “impossible,” said a prayer, and let God do his thing. 

Recently, that yearning turned to reality when Patti Armstrong and I were invited to be guests on At Home with Jim and Joy to discuss the book we co-authored, What Would Monica Do? And it was every bit as thrilling as I’d imagined—perhaps even more. 




How many times had I heard the address for the studio mentioned on air, and now, here I was, in the place that has brought so many people across the globe to a greater appreciation of the Catholic faith? Indeed, countless lives have been saved through this ministry, eternal souls redirected and enlivened for God’s kingdom and glory.  

Many aspects of the place impressed me: the aged remnants of the Franciscan convent, formerly home to Mother and her sisters, now housing a studio with all its modern communication bells and whistles; the Franciscan friary on the periphery, still intact, providing a portal of prayer and priests to bring the Real Presence; and the numerous other indications of what a special place I’d arrived at, marked by Mother’s wry humor, no doubt, as noted in a sign near the entrance that read: “As a penance, do not smoke on monastery property. Thank you.”  




The Our Lady of the Angels Chapel also seized my senses. How many homilies had I heard over the airwaves that had originated here? To hear in person the familiar voices of the resident friars proclaiming the Gospel was an incredible feeling. The Eucharist brought an infusion of grace, which seemed to follow us around during our brief stay. 




But what had struck me most of all—at least at first impression—were the giant satellite dishes, visible just out the back window of our guest house. If not for those large, white disks, this small compound, set in a residential area among the hills of Alabama, might have seemed like any other neighborhood and not even caught my eye. These extraordinary obstructions seemed to quietly yell: “Whatever happens in Irondale was not meant to stay in Irondale, for the Good News is being transmitted from here to all the world!”  

Though the conversations with the Pintos, our tour guide Michelle Laque Johnson, the three friars we met our last evening while out on a walk, and our next-door “neighbor” Fr. Mitch Pacwa were all delightful, our most surprising discourse seemed to happen in the St. Clare Dining Hall, where executive chef Brian Vizzina caught our rapt attention, not only with his fabulous food but his conversion story and details about growing up in the area while EWTN was just sprouting up. After living in the fast lane as a world-class chef, he eventually returned to his roots, discovering the peace and faith that had eluded him for so many years in the wider world. Here, his heart was finally at rest. 




Brian also shared how EWTN has signals reaching now into approximately 190 countries throughout the world, and how some of those countries, like China, have blocked the life-giving signal. Despite this thwarting attempt, some citizens of those blocked countries have still caught hold of the Gospel message through short-wave radios. Our chef friend had even had the honor of serving some of those extraordinarily changed souls in that very spot.  

During our brief stay, Patti and I glimpsed some of the many ways God’s hand has touched down in this small corner of the world, spreading those initial efforts by a wise-cracking nun with a broken past who believed her small efforts could be amplified by God’s grace. 

And amplified they are. The satellite dishes are as much a symbol as an instrument that has made it possible for many throughout the globe to be touched by Christ’s merciful heart.  


Click to tweet:
I glimpsed some of the many ways God’s hand has touched down in this small corner of the world. #CatholicMom


This all brought my mind to the parable describing how one tiny seed could produce such bounty, as found in Matthew 13:32:

“It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and ‘the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’” 


Mother Angelica, and many since who have come along to further her ministry, have, like the mustard seed, increased the Lord’s mission to bring salvation to humankind, allowing an amplification of His message in a way that has produced the most beautiful of fruits—as beautiful as the angels that adorn the monstrance in the Holy Angels Chapel while clouds, visible through the glassed wall behind them, beckon us all toward heaven.  

Q4U: What has the Lord has placed in my hands and heart today to help amplify his message of love? 



Copyright 2023 Roxane Salonen
Images: copyright 2023 Roxane Salonen, all rights reserved.