Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Of Angels and Men

He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you. But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need."

These words of St. Bernard set the mood with which we celebrate this day, feast of the guardian angels. Most people would like to imagine them as cute, plump little babies with wings. I don't have that image of angels. What I have in mind is the image of someone strong and powerful, with or without wings. Yesterday in class we were just talking about them in class, within the intellectual world of Philo of Alexandria. He sees them As spiritual beings whose beauty and perfection could fittingly be described in terms of luminosity. They are beings of light. 

The devotion to the guardian angels has always been in the faith of the 
Church since the start. The Acts of the Apostles mentions that belief that the early Christians had in the ministry of the angels in the life of the early Church. The Church Fathers are not silent on this topic either. It is very much part of the Christian faith, this belief in the existence of angels and of their mission.

For my part, it was my mother who taught me this devotion since I was small. I pray quite frequently that prayer which she taught me to recite before bedtime, which I still do: "Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen." I've had brushes with my guardian angel in my life, the most memorable of which was when he gave me the push I needed in order to start in an exam in Fundamental Theology when I was still a seminarian. I had to work on the morning of the exam, and though I had studied the subject well, I was't sure if I really was prepared for the exam. When we started, and the test question was written on the board, my mind went totally blank, at least for five minutes or so. The words of the old prayer came to my mind, and suddenly, after having recourse to my guardian, the first words of what was supposed to be the answer to the question came flashing through my mind, very much like a neon sign. That gave me the start that I needed. From then on I remembered everything that I had studied. The exam went very well, and that small experience, hidden from the rest of the world at that time, was one that really convinced me of the angels' assistance and their presence in our lives. It wasn't a psychological thing...there was no way I could've remembered the answer on my own.

Today, being here in Pamplona, members of the Opus Dei are celebrating the anniversary of their foundation. The Work started precisely on this day in 1928, when the young priest Josemaría Escriva "saw" Opus Dei, on this feast of the guardian angels. St. Josemaría saw it as something significant, and since then he would have recourse more than ever to these angelic ministers.

This data impresses upon my mind the fact that angels also have their hand in the story of our vocation. The patriarchs of old have their vocations clarified to them in a way due to the work of the angels. Mary received the great news from Gabriel, and so on and so forth. Perhaps this would be one thoughts that could serve to guide us as we celebrate this day in their honor. We should turn to them for help in time of discernment, in time of doubt, in the struggle of fidelity, and in living the vocation to Christ that we have received. 

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