Profiles in Holiness: Mary Angelus Cady

Mary Angelus Cady, 1891 – 1980

Are You My Mother? is a classic little children’s book by P.D. Eastman. A little bird falls out of his nest and goes in search of his mother. She has not abandoned him however, she has just gone off to dig up a few worms for his supper. Freshly hatched from his egg, he doesn’t know that. He can’t fly yet so, he plops down to the ground and goes for a walk. Along the way, he asks a kitten, he asks a chicken, he asks a dog, and he asks a cow: “Are you my mother?”  Finally, he encounters a “Snort” – really a backhoe of enormous size. “Are you my mother?” “Snort!” the backhoe says, and lifts the little chick up and plops him back down in his nest. Just in time for his mother’s return. “I know who you are!” the baby bird says.

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui,
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

Mary, Mater Dei, are you my mother too?

Pre-Vatican II, I learned Mary’s Prayer in garbled Latin at my grandmother, Mary Angelus’ knee. Born in 1891, in Mary’s Land across the water, my grandmother was named Mary Angelus as the Angelus bells tolled as she came into this world. The Angelus, the Angel Gabriel’s message to Mary, is a four-part Ave Maria traditionally prayed three times a day, as the church bell rings at morning, noon, and eventide.

Mary Angelus was the eldest of twelve children. At twenty, her mother died, and she raised her eleven siblings. A sister, she now became a mother to them. At the age of thirty-five, she married my grandfather Benjamin Cady and had her own children: my mom, another Mary, and her brother, my Uncle Joe.

Grandma Cady’s Anacostia row house was a haven during the Great Depression and WWII years. A haven especially for wayward siblings, aka children of hers. There on V Street they could always count on finding a hot meal and a bed on the couch. They always knew they could come home to the sister who had been their mom.

In her later years, Grandma Cady moved into our house, a very chaotic and sometimes scary house. With my mother Mary Lou, often unavailable, Mary Angelus became my mom too. An incredible blessing really, my grandmother is the one who first taught me about the Blessed Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God. 

And for Grandma Cady’s love, I am eternally grateful.

Pax vobiscum,


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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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