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Franciscan Spirit Blog

Angels All around Us

May 10, 2020
Angel in a cemetery | Image by TuendeBede from Pixabay

It was a cold winter day when he first appeared as I was stacking books in the religion section of a major bookstore. We began a conversation about classic Catholic authors, mysticism, and spirituality. He was surprised I knew something about the mystics and inquired about how I came to have read so many books on spirituality.

I revealed that I had studied theology and had worked in the Church as a minister of religious education. He asked if he could pray for me because he felt God was leading him to do so. I immediately had a sense that God was present with us. The man’s presence brought a sense of peace and calm to me in a time of turmoil and confusion.

It was my break time, and the man and I went to the café to talk. I learned his name was Michael, and he was studying for ministry in the Orthodox Church. We talked, and I shared that my father was in the hospital in Connecticut and not doing well. I was working at the bookstore after being laid off from a teaching position and I was also suffering from depression. He prayed for peace and God’s presence in my life and the health of my father. I experienced an immense transforming peace that I hadn’t known in a long time.

I never learned Michael’s last name even though, over the next few months, when he would come into the store, I would try to take my break so that we would have coffee and talk about life and prayer. We talked about how family life can be difficult and challenging. We also shared our love for the Eucharist. I wrote in my journal that Michael was like an angel from God who was sent to offer hope and peace during a very difficult time in my life. My father died that May, and I only saw Michael once more after that.

My experience with Michael—and others who have touched my life—seems as though God sent my guardian angel in human form. Reflecting on how God has entered my life through “angels,” I realized that my prayer also led me to ponder ways in which God called me to be one for others.

 

To Protect and Serve

Everyone has an angel story. It may be the experience of barely avoiding a car accident, or a stranger stopping to help you when your car breaks down on the side of the road. Recently, I was driving the speed limit when the car behind me began bearing down on me. I resisted going faster. Suddenly, a deer raced across the road. Realizing that I probably would have hit the deer if I had been going faster, I gave thanks to God for the protection I felt.

Once, when I was working in a parish, I was leading a Communion service on the feast of the Guardian Angels because the pastor of the parish was called to an emergency and couldn’t say the daily Mass. I read the readings for the day, and one of the daily communicants, a man named Jim, asked if he could share something.

With tears in his eyes, he shared how his guardian angel had protected him from serious injury and had been there at other times. We were all touched by his sharing. Jim got me to become more aware of God’s presence and protection in my life.

The Church teaches that we each have a guardian angel, though I feel as if I’ve had several. Many of us may have had the traditional picture hanging in our rooms of a winged angel helping a child cross a bridge. Or perhaps we have wondered what our angel’s name is. My angels—the non-winged variety—have been called Michael, Jim, Ellie, Rita, and many other names.

I, too, have been called to be an angel. When I was walking home from my job once, I met an older woman who seemed confused trying to cross a busy intersection. I offered to help her. She told me she was lost and looking for the post office so she could pick up her food stamps. I offered to walk with her to the post office and realized that it wasn’t a task she could accomplish on her own.

A phone call the next day to social services arranged for the food stamps to be mailed directly to her and for additional assistance that she needed. I never met her again, but my experience with her told me that I needed to become more aware of how to help seniors, especially those without families.

 

Easing Life’s Burdens

While I was working as a religious educator in a parish in Lynchburg, Virginia, I took a class in pastoral counseling at Virginia Baptist Hospital, where I visited patients. For several weeks I visited an elderly man in rehab who had suffered a stroke and was learning to speak again.

It was hard for me to understand him in the beginning, but I stayed and listened and came back the following weeks. One day, when I went to visit him, his wife was there to take him home. He introduced me to her and thanked me for listening and talking with him when he was just learning to speak. He told me I had been an angel in his life.

It seems that everywhere I have lived I have met people who have come into my life and been there spiritually for me during lonely and difficult times. After a major traffic accident 20 years ago, I needed rides to and from physical therapy.

A neighbor, who was the mother of four young children, somehow got me there and back many days. It is the caring, the meals, and the assistance we offer to those in need or at a death of a loved one that make God present to others.

Another story I’m reminded of is when my son was very sick just after being born. He spent two weeks in the neonatal intensive care. People I hardly knew brought meals and support.

Friendship is a training ground for angels. During my senior year of college, I lived in a lay community called Emmaus, along with 11 others. Our landlady, Rita, lived next door, and she provided a listening ear, a cup of tea, and baked goods if we came over to do laundry free of charge in her machine. She patiently listened as we grew in faith and maturity. She would take my hand and say a prayer. She was like a mother to us.


Image
Angel in a cemetery

All around Us

During the year between college and graduate school, I went back to Connecticut and lived with my great-aunt, Mary. She had been a widow for many years and was a very prayerful person. During the course of that year she was diagnosed with cancer and decided to forgo chemotherapy. She did not want to die in a hospital and spoke of going to heaven and seeing her beloved husband.

While I believe God wanted me here to help care for Mary, I realized that, in many ways, she was teaching and ministering to me. As she grew weaker, she could do less and less, but the last thing she gave up was helping prepare meals for shut-ins. We talked about her funeral and planned it. Mary was more of an angel to me than I was to her.

Indeed, human angels are all around us. They offer a comforting word or a smile to us when our day may not be going well. On our spiritual journeys, they stand by us during the valleys and dark times.

These angelic people, for me, have been the good listeners who help us in our times of grief or despair. Their reflective listening and encouraging words, a shared verse of Scripture, or a question that causes us to look at life in a new way help us know God’s presence in our lives.


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Comments

Richard Bucci
Sat, 10/02/2021 - 08:45 AM
Richard Bucci
I’m a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and am familiar with the heroic actions of a fellow alumnus, Father Mychal Judge OFM. My wife and I were visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York City a few years ago. The names of the approximately 3,000 victims that died that horrific day are etched into the memorial. I told my wife I was going to look for Father Judge’s name. I started walking around the vast memorial scanning it for his name. After a few minutes a woman approached me, pointed his name out and said someone on her tour was also looking for it. She smiled and walked away. She was nowhere near us when I told my wife that I was looking for Father Judge’s name. After reflecting on this I believe she was an angel.
Mike Reininger
Sat, 10/02/2021 - 02:03 PM
Mike Reininger
Thanks for the anecdote Richard. I do believe what you said is true. I think such things are very possible in our universe/reality and it's comforting to know that they happen. Thanks be to God.
Mary Anne Matarese
Sun, 10/02/2022 - 09:05 AM
Mary Anne Matarese
I have known of the powerful and comforting presence of the angels for many years. I am writing on the feast of the Guardian Angels as a testimony and in gratitude. Thank you for this article
Mike Reininger
Sun, 10/02/2022 - 09:10 AM
Mike Reininger
I remember visiting Mount Angel monastery, Oregon, around fifteen years ago with my mom, and in one of the alcoves of the church where they have icons, Br. Louis, had just been praying, and I sensed and imagined a few seraphim just above that alcove. Now, a cynic would say it was just my imagination. Well, anyways, I want to think that what I sensed was real. Why not? I've experienced other supernatural phenomenon at other times in my life, things that were more tangible. So then, how real is real? How much proof would an agnostic need? Or would they just continuously rationalize it away, for whatever reason. I guess it all comes down to faith. One either has it, or not. But faith also has to be maintained by prayer, since once a person loses their faith, there is no guarantee they will ever get it back again from what I've heard. If my faith makes me a mystic, then so be it. Belief is an emotional thing, whereas Faith is a little more, once again.
Mary
Sun, 10/02/2022 - 11:45 AM
Mary
I too am writing on the feast of the Guardian Angels, with honor and gratitude for mine. I have many guardian angel stories. But the one i’ll share today involves my daughter when she was 19 years old. She was driving at least 60 mph on an interstate and suddenly came upon stopped traffic. She slammed on her brakes. The car behind was about to crash into her. She reported *somehow* her car was moved in an instant and placed in an open space ahead in the queue of stopped cars. She had no explanation for what happened. But I do..and so do you. All the glory be to God!
Joan Wernick
Sun, 10/02/2022 - 01:40 PM
Joan Wernick
My mother was dying. My niece Bess and I went out to buy some supportive pillows for her arms and legs so she would be more comfortable. We were talking and I absent mindly drove up on the medium of a 4 land street. I couldn't go back or forward. Just then a man in a truck came and got out of his car and lifted my car back into the road and then took off. I think I said thanks, but I am not sure I had time before he disappeared. I know that it was my angel and I thank him for it now. I love my angel and all the other angels. Praise God from whom all Blessings flow!
Mrs. C
Sun, 10/02/2022 - 06:10 PM
Mrs. C
No one need convince me of the existence of angels. Before I received my First Holy Communion at age 7, my Dad taught me about my Guardian Angel. When I couldn't sleep at night, Dad would bring me his Rosary and tell me to pray. He said if I fell asleep before I finished, my Guardian Angel would finish the Rosary for me. I never forgot that and believe it to this day, over 60 years later. Then, a few months ago, God sent me an Angel-Messenger. I'd known her from our church choir, she's the director, for nearly 15 years. We became good and close friends but when I recently fell ill, needed surgery, she got our pastor to perform the Anointing of the Sick for me. He didn't know, but she did, why I couldn't receive Communion - as a divorced and remarried Catholic. I'd tried for years to get the 1st marriage annulled then gave up. She sent me to the pastor for a consultation, helped and encouraged me to submit the annulment paperwork, then helped me through my illness, surgery and recovery and with other issues that ensued. We became closer friends, like sisters; "Prayer Partners" praying together at least 2 or 3 times a week, even over the phone during my recovery. Now, I have the dearest friend I ever had (and our families became friends too); I recovered quickly and well, my annulment is in the final and very encouraging stage; thanks to my conversation with my pastor about "internal forum" I've been able to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. And soon, we hope to be planning our convalidation ceremony at which my Angel-Messenger will attend as Matron of Honor. This friend has actually been trying to help me for nearly all the time she's known me. My angel was nearby the whole time and I didn't know it. Meanwhile, she never gave up. I thank God every day for the blessing that she has been and the friendship we now enjoy.
Mrs. C
Sun, 10/02/2022 - 06:52 PM
Mrs. C
When I was a teen growing up in NYC, my parents would take my brother and me to midtown Manhattan on Christmas Eve. We'd meet Dad when he closed up the store he managed, go down the street for a wonderful dinner at a French restaurant, visit Rockefeller Center the go up the block for Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. One such Christmas Eve, it began to snow while we were at Mass. By the time we started for home, it was a blizzard - the subway ran intermittently and there were no cabs to be had. Dad was able to flag down an off-duty "gypsy cab driver" in a large black limousine. We piled in and started home to the Bronx. About 10 minutes from home, the limo stalled. Dad and the driver could not get the car started and inside the limo, it was getting very cold. Dad was able to flag down a passing car. The young woman driver was willing to take us the rest of the way home despite being in a small car jammed with Christmas gifts. We squeezed in, got home safe and sound, and warm, and thanked the driver profusely. She refused the money Dad offered, but was able to get her name and address. A week later, Dad sent her a beautiful music box to thank her. The package was returned a few days later, addressee unknown. He tried to find her, to no avail. After a while, we all came to believe that the young woman was a Christmas angel sent by God to res cue us.
Brenda Brea Patton
Thu, 10/13/2022 - 07:50 PM
Brenda Brea Patton
My husband is a buider contractor. He was moving a block of bricks with his skid steer when the strap snapped and the whole load dropped on me. Or would have except something or someone threw me clear. I was moving the wooden plarform from under it. My husbandSs face was white when he ran to me. He grabbed my shoulders, "I saw you fly out from there. How did you know?" .I didn't know. We both believe my guadian angel went onro overdrive that day. Praise God.

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