Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ...
In recent days one might be feeling akin to St Peter finding himself sinking in the waters. …but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt 14:30,31). We may unabashedly echo St Peter’s cry, but let us also confidently anticipate the outstretched, sure Hand and Heart of Jesus to fortify us. There is help all around.
As Seven Sisters, Mary is also our ever-ready support in whom we have recourse. Likewise, our patrons, St John Vianney and St Margaret Clitherow, assist in prayer and as inspiring models of perseverance. Further, our Holy Hours are mystically united and strengthened with the reality that other Sisters share the week’s prayer responsibility for the same priest or bishop. Our benevolent Lord lavishes us with the riches of His grace (Eph 1:8) and sends yet more help: His angels!
The Apostolate had an angelic link from day one. Inspiration Day was 24 March 2011, the traditional Feast of St Gabriel, the messenger. What a message indeed! At the end of this month (29 September) we will celebrate the now-shared Feast Day of St Gabriel, St Raphael and St Michael. Celebrate well!
These celestial servants of Christ enlighten, guide, watch over and protect individuals, churches, cities, countries and the world. They offer a unique friendship. Their existence is a truth of faith (Catechism, 328). Holy Scripture makes mention of them some 230-400 times (sources vary on the number because of differing use of semantics). It is one thing to consider the presence of angels, quite another to embrace the truth that we are quite literally surrounded by them. We are never alone on our earthly pilgrimage nor in our prayer.
In his enlightening book (EWTN publishing, 2018), His Angels at our Side, Fr John Horgan states that the angels’ work is threefold: adoring the Lord, carrying out His will, and mediating His communication with His bodily creatures (that’s us!). It struck me that all three aspects of this work are realized during our Seven Sister Holy Hours.
Imagine the gift to our Guardian angel when we enter the Adoration Chapel. The Chapel is filled with more angels who encircle Our Lord in the monstrance. Together we are swept up in enduring adoration and love. Guardian angels of the other adorers in the Chapel are present, as well. What sweet air we breathe as we settle into these holy environs for our Hour!
Our Guardian angel intercedes with us and is the mediator, bringing our prayers, as incense, to the heights. Remember the angels of Jacob’s ladder – ascending and descending (Gen 28: 10+). “The angels in particular serve as intermediaries between God and the faithful here below; they reveal to them the design of God; they intervene in the battle as His ministers…” (Dom Cyprian Vagaggini, OSB, Theological Dimensions of the Liturgy). They are missioned to carry out the Will of God, and likely assist us in praying that Will into being for our priest to whom we are committed to pray. “The prayer of an angel is like a flame; he is consumed by it, not in the sense that he is destroyed by it, but in the sense that his entire being becomes prayer” (Fr John Horgan). We stand to learn from the angels: how to perfect the charity of our prayer and seek the Will of God above all else in our intercessions.
This may be a novel idea: Consider praying for the Guardian angel of the priest/bishop for whom you pray. It is a given he has one and with the mission to light, guard, rule and guide. But there is more. The angel of a priest has a special relationship and deep respect for his dignity and duties. After having conferred Holy Orders on a man, St Francis de Sales noticed that the newly ordained priest stopped at the door as if to give precedence to another. When asked, the priest answered that God favored him with the visible presence of his Guardian angel. Before his ordination the angel remained at his right and preceded him, but afterwards he walked on his left and refused to go before him. St Francis of Assisi echoes the same (later quoted by St John Vianney) in saying, “If I saw an angel and a priest, I would bend my knee first to the priest and then to the angel.”
When my son, then-seminarian-Spencer, prepared to leave for his initial studies in Rome, my mind was a whirr at what sage send-off advice could be offered at the airport. Then through my heart and lips it tumbled out, “Get to know and love your Guardian angel.” The sound of the words brought both a bit of surprise and a bit of solace for both of us. It proved to be sage advice...
In these days when clerical scandals bring suffering to us, to the priests, to the Church … perhaps we may look to another angel for comfort, the Angel of Gethsemane. Fr John Horgan (His Angels at our Side) speaks of Catholic nurses who often recited prayers (as exampled below) to this angel that comforted Jesus Himself after He accepted the chalice of suffering for us and for our salvation (Luke 22:43). They prayed for “strength to tend to patients entrusted to their care, particularly during the long and lonely hours of the night.” He continues, “devotion to this angel may be a source of great grace and wisdom to help find the right words to say to those who suffer. It is in Christ and His sacrifice that we find significance and meaning for our human pains.” Our prayers for our priest/bishop may benefit from the concerted intercession of this angel of consolation. We can solicit the grace of God through the intercession of that angel who was chosen by God to bring comfort to His Divine Son on the night of His Passion. Truly, our priests/bishops who each live as an “alter Christus” share deeply in His Passion and in His priestly prayer for us in that Passion. Let us pray:
O Angel of Gethsemane, chosen by the Father to bring strength and consolation to Jesus during His agony, I ask you to be with me now as I keep watch over my loved one who is sick and suffering. Help me to offer my best care, love, and protection to this child of God. May my words and my touch be filled with gentleness, my presence bring comfort, and my prayers bring rest and healing sleep. Do what I cannot do, O loving Angel, to bring healing and strength to soul and body, according to the Father’s will. Amen.
In the vitality of these graces, we gain a clear-sightedness to cooperate with this lavishness of graces. There is help all around. From the fullness of His grace, we have all received one blessing after another. (John 1:16).
MORE on ANGELS: St Padre Pio (several writings)
Visit Web site/retreat schedule: Opus Sanctorum Angelorum www.opusangelorum.org
United in prayer and mission...
that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest...
... eternal gratitude continues as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day.... Pray that I will not 'spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted...' (St Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
... your kind emails and notes and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your letters of testimony are so beautiful and edifying! Don't stop writing to me. Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.