Tag Archives: angels

Saints and angels

October 29, 2015

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Mary and Joseph in Nazareth - Stained glass window at St. John the Baptist, Vermillion, MN

Mary and Joseph in Nazareth – Stained glass window at St. John the Baptist, Vermillion, MN

A Special Feast Day.  November 1 is the Solemnity of All Saints, not “All Angels” nor “All Saints and Angels.”  In fact, the Archangels have a separate feast day on September 29 and the Guardian Angels on October 2.  If the saints and angels are both together in heaven gathered around God’s throne forever singing God’s praises, are they the same or different?

Angels.  An angel is a spiritual being without a body that has existed across the ages, dwells in heaven, has been and continues to be totally loyal to God, serves God in a variety of capacities, and may be dispatched as a messenger or representative of God to earth or to a specific person to carry out a special function.  There are many references to angels in Sacred Scripture.

Saints.  A saint was a human being that had a physical body, lived in a specific time and place, has died and gone to heaven, and lived an exceptionally good and virtuous life.  The saints were guided by Sacred Scripture on the path of holiness.

Special Classes of Angels.  The classes of angels are the Angels and Archangels, the Thrones and Dominations (Dominions), the Principalities and the Powers, and the Virtues, as well as the Cherubim and Seraphim, and the Guardian Angels.

Special Classes of Saints.  The classes of saints are the apostles, the foundation of the Church, its first shepherds and teachers, who watch over it and protect it still; the martyrs, those who have died for the faith and given heroic witness; pastors, great preachers and teachers; virgins and religious, those who have consecrated their life to Christ for the sake of the Kingdom; and holy men and women.

The Purpose of Angels.  The angels serve as God’s messengers and they bring God’s call to individuals; God’s instructions, commands or announcements; and they speak God’s Word.  The angels also convey God’s divine presence and companionship; lead the People of God on the journey; bring comfort and consolation in times of sadness; act as guardians and protectors; provide divine assistance throughout life, particularly in times of trial or hardship; give strength in the battle against sin and temptation; sing God’s praises in choir around God’s throne in heaven; and will assist the Son of God on Judgment Day.

The Purpose of Saints.  The saints are examples of holiness, and their virtuous lives teach us how to live in a virtuous manner.  The saints, particularly the martyrs, were heroic, and they show us how to live with courage and conviction.  The saints are proof that it is possible to live a good and holy life; if they can do it, we can do it.  The saints offer hope; if they have gone to heaven, they show us that heaven is reachable and that we can follow them there.  The saints are intercessors; they are in heaven, near God, and enjoy God’s favor, and they are in an excellent position to present our prayers to God on our behalf.

Famous Angels.  The best known angels are the Archangels:  Michael, the mighty warrior that led the heavenly host against Lucifer and the bad angels and expelled them from heaven; Gabriel, God’s messenger to Mary and Zechariah; and Raphael, the companion and protector of Tobiah on his journey.

Famous Saints.  The best known saints are Mary, the Mother of God, and her husband Joseph; John the Baptist, the prophet who announced the arrival of the Messiah; Peter, the first of the Apostles, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles; Benedict, the father of western monasticism, and Francis of Assisi, the saint regarded by many as the one who best patterned himself on the life of Jesus.

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Two angels at the tomb of Jesus

March 28, 2013

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Resurrection at St. Andrew in Fairfax revised

Resurrection at St. Andrew in Fairfax revised

A Miraculous Encounter.  On Easter Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and a number of other women from Galilee went to the tomb of Jesus, they encountered “two men in dazzling garments” (Lk 24:4).

A Curious Discrepancy.  Each of the four evangelists mentions the presence of one or two mysterious figures at the tomb.  Matthew explained that “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.  His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow” (Mt 28:2,3).  Mark reported that the women, upon entering the tomb, “saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe” (Mk 16:5).  In the Fourth Gospel John the evangelist recounted how Mary Magdalene “saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been” (Jn 20:12).  In Matthew and Mark there is one figure, while in Luke and John there are two.  Who are they?  Why is the number different?

Unique Identity.  There are multiple details that reveal the identity of the figures present in the tomb.  Both Matthew and John state explicitly that they were angels.  All four gospels say that the figures were clothed in white or dazzling garments, a sign they came from heaven, the abode of the angels.  Each delivered an announcement from God that Jesus was risen from the dead, and it is the duty of angels to serve as divine messengers.

One or Two Angels.  Modern rationalistic philosophy and the scientific method strive for factual accuracy and precision, while the evangelists use details to convey a symbolic message.  There are several plausible reasons why Luke prefers two angels to one.  Luke uses pairs throughout his gospel:  Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, the cure of a leper and the cure of a paralytic, Martha and Mary, and many others.  When it comes to the angels, it is preferable for them to work together in tandem rather than by themselves, alone.  Furthermore, when it comes to the strength of testimony, in the Mosaic Law a statement given by an individual is considered insufficient or unreliable, while the word of two gives necessary corroboration and verification (see Dt 19:15).

The Two-Figure Symbolism.  There is a strong likelihood that Luke wants the reader to make a connection between the Transfiguration and the Resurrection.  When Jesus was transfigured, two men in glory appeared with him (Lk 9:30,31), and when Jesus was raised two men in dazzling garments appeared (Lk 24:4).  Moses and Elijah came from heaven and the two figures in the tomb also came from heaven.  Moses and Elijah spoke of Jesus’ exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem (Lk 9:31), and men in dazzling garments spoke about the completion of Jesus’ exodus on earth in anticipation of his future and final exodus, his Ascension to heaven.

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“Do Not Be Afraid!”

March 25, 2012

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March 25th marks the date of the Annunciation. It is the day that Gabriel proclaimed the good news to Mary that Christ would be born within her. This year – because the date lands on a Sunday – we are celebrating that feast on March 26th.

I don’t normally see this blog as a place for my personal stories but this day is special  – so bare with me.

It was on March 25th some nine years ago Christ was born within me too.

In 2003 my children were attending a Catholic school.  As part of the Lenten practice, they were offered the sacrament of reconciliation as part of their school day.  Though I was a cradle Catholic and my children attended Catholic School, I had not visited that sacrament since my Confirmation. For me that was when I was in 4th grade!  Prompted by what I now understand as the Holy Spirit, but at the time felt like the guilt of expecting my children to go to confession when I didn’t go myself – I made an appointment to visit the new priest at our church.  The objective of my appointment was to argue with him the teachings of the faith.  Filled with misconceptions and pride,  I descended on this poor priest as if I would be able to convince him to “set the church right.”  At that time I rarely went to Mass, never prayed and and I certainly didn’t know that the date of my appointment fell on the feast day of the Annunciation. I didn’t know what a feast day was and I would have had to look up the word “Annunciation” if I even knew how to spell it.

I would have then called myself a Pro- Choice Catholic! (Who knew that 6 years later I would be working on the Archbishop’s staff as the Respect Life Coordinator.)

What happened at that meeting changed my life.  As Father patiently waited out my arguments on contraception, abortion and the anti- woman establishment that I saw as the Catholic Church, he offered some education, but most of all he offered me compassion.  At one point I remember getting up to leave – I didn’t want to hear what he had to say.
Out of no where he said to me, “Sharon, what are you afraid of?” The words hit me like a ton of bricks.  I sat back down, cried for 5 minutes and entered into a confession – a real confession; a confession of my life, of all my fears and my pain.

When angels appear in the bible – it seems they always start out with the phrase “Do not be afraid. ” Our common idea of angels is  cute little cherubs or gentle looking young men with wings.  But angles – must be awesome – and I don’t mean in the way that we say pizza is awesome.  Fired by the Holy Spirit and carrying the message of God – they appear to us as something we ARE afraid of. Is it the wings of fire, glowing with bright light or with a voice that booms of an orchestra or organ?  What is it that we are afraid of?

Ultimately, I think we are afraid of the message that they bring; the message of knowing ourselves and of seeing ourselves as who we really are.  We are afraid because we cannot comprehend the idea that if anyone knew the real us – the us that only God knows – that we could really be loved in return.  We also are afraid of what God may ask of us if we accept that love and try to return it.

On the day that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and said “Do not be afraid” Mary carried Christ within her for nine months. She carried her love for Him through his death on the cross.

Was she afraid of what God might see in her heart?

Was she afraid of what saying yes to God might mean?
I don’t know, but her  “Fiat” meant that not only would she carry God within her womb, but that God would carry her and would always be with her.

I realize now just how unprepared  I am to carry God within me to anyone. I realize how unqualified I am to work for Life.  I realize how unworthy I am to even receive the Eucharist at Mass. But when I say ‘Yes” I don’t have to be afraid, because like Mary – God carries me too.

So this Lent, I ask – how long has it been since your last confession and “What are you afraid of?”

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This Christmas, remember who was an angel in your life

December 19, 2011

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Here’s an idea we just tried at our Advent wreath prayer that you might find would add meaning to your family’s Christmas gathering.

Giving everybody a couple days notice, we invited them to think of a time when someone was an angel in their life, and then to share that story with everyone around the Advent wreath. This would be great around the Christmas tree, especially with aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas and cousins.

Minutes after the e-mail invitation went out I got replies from everyone that they were in — and they knew just what they were going to share.

If you try this, you may want to have a box of tissues handy. A couple people in our little gathering got pretty emotional in telling about the angels who were there when they really needed someone.

The angels that sang Gloria in Excelsis Deo on that first Christmas give you the perfect into to make this year’s a Christmas party that doesn’t bypass the messages Jesus taught when he walked this earth. I guarantee it will be a Christmas everyone will remember.

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Ever thought of yourself as an angel? Here’s how you could be one

December 16, 2011

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All this Advent spreading of inspiration. What follows is a post that was headlined “Silent Christmas Angels” and shared by Bob Proctor as his “Friday story” on http://www.Insightoftheday.com

 

By Virginia Hay

 

From the emails I have been receiving lately and my own observations out there in the world I would have to say that a lot of people are really going through some difficult times right now.

 

The population is aging and this is impacting those who are growing older, those who are taking care of them, and those who are alone.

 

The other day I witnessed a lady in our building who had just been dropped off by one of those handicapped vans, and even though she was not in a wheelchair herself, I could see that she had serious mobility issues.

She had just returned from visiting her beloved husband and lifelong companion who was now confined to a nursing home. I had seen them out walking together a few years earlier, laughing and holding hands and thoroughly enjoying each others company.

As she slowly made her way to the front of the door, she held the key in her hand ready to open the lock. And then at that precise moment she just leaned in toward the building and started to cry. I could see from the look of anguish on her weary face, that she was trying to summon the courage to enter the building, walk up the stairs, and open her apartment door, just to be alone once again for yet another evening without him.

 

 Should I go comfort her?

 

My heart went out to her. I wanted to rush over and hug her but got the feeling to just honor her presence instead and the precious space she was in. I sensed that she was a very private person and just needed to be alone in that moment. Sometimes the moment can carry us through when we don’t have the strength to carry ourselves.

 

I did hold her in the light in my heart and whispered a quiet prayer that somehow things would get better for her and that she would know that she is deeply loved, even though I am sure she was certainly not feeling that love right then.

 

I think sometimes if we can simply acknowledge each others pain, without trying to fix things, then that may be the greatest gift we can give to another human being. I don’t mean wallow in the pain or focus on it, but to just acknowledge it with deep compassion, would make a huge difference to so many.

 

We are human and pain is part of the journey. If we ever allow ourselves to love anyone or anything for that matter, pain is an integral part of the process because some day we may, probably will, lose that person, place or thing to which we have become attached, either physically, mentally or emotionally. Of course, the price of not loving, of not seeking, of not becoming involved, is a much deeper and emptier pain that strips away at our soul and destroys our spirit.

 

Your spirit will always reach towards the love and your soul will always take the higher road.

 

 Let’s do our angelic part

 

And so I would suggest that this holiday season, we answer our soul’s calling and “take the higher road” by becoming “Silent Christmas Angels” for each other, especially at this difficult time of year for so many. Christmas has a way of surfacing so many emotions and memories, some joyful and some not so joyful.

 

So, as a “Silent Christmas Angel”, be on the look-out as to where you could shine your light on someone else’s darkness. Be constantly aware to where your wings may take you, whether it be in a busy shopping mall, a lonely sidewalk cafe, a homeless shelter, a park bench, a Christmas dinner or party. Be constantly vigil of where you could look beyond the surface to the deeper pain that may be lurking there and attend to it in whatever way and means may lie before you.

 

Pretend you have been given a mission and are part of the “Silent Christmas Angel Invasion” of whatever city you live in or visit and it is your job to keep the home fires burning and heal the hearts and souls of those you encounter along the way.

 

Sounds daunting? Fear not! You have at your command an arsenal of tools with which to do your work.

 

We have all that it takes

A magic wand that you can point and shoot better than any camera will ever do and grant silent wishes to unsuspecting troubled hearts, uplifting them in the twinkling of an eye and restoring peace on earth.

 

A big, beautiful, heart full of love, with light beams that extend from you for miles and miles ahead washing away any sadness that may appear in the distance and replacing it with joy, wonder, belief in the magic, trust in the knowing, that we are all in this together and we are truly loved.

 

Dancing, daring, delightful Angel eyes, that dispense laughter, spread kindness, seek miracles, offer compassion, give thanks and beam these out into all the other eyes that meet yours along the way, eliciting an enchanting smile of knowing and surprised look of tender acknowledgement.

 

And we “Silent Christmas Angels” have the ability to recognize each other. A knowing glance, a curious nod, a gentle, sweet and unsuspecting touch. A sacred salute to a comrade in arms and wings and halos.

 

And so, dear heart, will YOU join me? Will you take your place among us? Will I sense you standing there next to me wherever I may journey?

 

I think I already have and I know that I will, for I feel you here, reading these words, and I already recognize you.

 

Veronica Hay is an inspirational writer. She provides inspirational support and resources to help you live a richer life. Visit her website at:http://www.insightsandinspirations.comor email her at:veronicahay@telus.net


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Angelic tale makes for good reading to children

November 16, 2010

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Angels are drawn to the bakery in St.Michael’s monastery because, “it’s the place that smells the most like heaven!”

Along the way they help bring confidence to a monk who isn’t too sure of his culinary skills and teach some lessons about faith and perseverance.

That’s as much as you probably need to know about “Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery,” a cute story grandparents will find they read over and over.

Benedictine Father Dominic Garramone penned this little gem, and artist Richard Bernal provided the colorful illustrations for this Reedy Press work that kids will enjoy.

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Art books captures angels captured by heavenly artists

November 18, 2009

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“The Glory of Angels,”
by Edward Lucie-Smith

Seraphim, cherubim, archangels and guardian angels.

That’s the sum total of my knowledge of angels before working my way through Edward Lucie-Smith’s huge, beautiful coffee table book.

Its pages are filled with so much about angels I never knew.

“The Glory of Angels” covers the waterfront about the heavenly host. Readers will find there is a hierarchy or “order” of angels — and archangel is only one category. Each level of angel supposedly has a job to do. This pecking order, if you will, appears in neither the Hebrew Scriptures nor the New Testament, but only shows up in the 4th century, so take that as a word to the wise.

On the other hand, there are numerous references to angels in both the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament, and this book reminds us of a number of them through use of well-placed and eye-catching quotations from the Psalms, Genesis, Revelation and St. Paul’s letters. There are pertinent quotes as well from artists, saints and historic figures.

But the written copy or text is really secondary in “The Glory of Angels.” The text simple is the skeleton for the real flesh of this book.

This is one marvelous gathering of stupendous art.

Works by the masters
Lucie-Smith may have captured on these pages a majority of the world’s great renderings of angels in art. Paintings, frescoes, tapestry, sculpture, bas relief, icons, stained glass, mosaics, even dishes and jewelry — they’re all here, and by scores of the most famous artists across the ages.

A Tiffany window, color-bursting modern works by Kandinsky, Kim, Gauguin, Dali and Chagall, pieces by masters such as Rubens, Giotto, Bernini, El Greco and Manet.

Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Titian all have their own version of God’s angel stopping Abraham as he’s about to sacrifice his son Isaac.)

One of my favorites is the beautifully framed Nativity done by Della Robbia in brilliant white marble on a stunning blue field. In it, God the Father and a host of angels want from above as the Virgin prays over the Christ Child in the manger.

Images both familiar and fresh
Readers with even a slight connection to religious literature will immediately recognize the sword-bearing angelic figure as the Archangel Michael. More than half-dozen images depict the warrior angel, the best being a two-page spread that carries the near-science fiction scene of “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” that Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted in the 16th century. The characterization of the bad angels turning into grotesque beasts rivals anything from the cantina scene in “Star Wars,” and a golden-clad Michael is prominent in the center of the action.

Gabriel appears in any number of renderings of the Annunciation. The angels often come in dreams — to Jacob and St. Joseph, for example –and they come from scores of countries, including China, Japan, Senegal, India and Ethiopia. Angels even illustrate pages of some copies of the Muslim Qu’ran.

Not a believer in angels?
The 192-page Collins/Design large hardcover offers a chapter titled “What Angels Do For Us” that invites readers to walk through works of art that show that, in the authors words, “we perceive things through our encounters with angels that might otherwise be hidden from us.” A handful of works bring guardian angels into the picture, saving mostly children from danger, but adults as well.

The coolest: “Cowboy Angel” complete with chaps, by Delmas Howe. The most different: Rom Mueck’s “Angel,” an elfish male sans clothing perched atop an old stool.

In a wonderfully designed and elegantly printed book, two elements stand out. The first is the interesting way the art is identified, with caption information about title, artist and era available on the page or nearby and clear via a numbering and icon system.

The second is a superb index — slugged “Picture Resource” — with thumbnail versions of each work, the page on which it appears, the title, artist, time frame, current location, medium and genre.

That alone turns a gorgeous coffee table book into an invaluable art resource. — bz
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If God hired an ad agency…

October 6, 2008

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“The Happy Soul Industry,”
by Steffan Postaer

“People are not responding to the message anymore,” God tells an angel named David. The old stuff — burning bushes, parting waters, changing water into wine — aren’t working anymore. God’s looking for a new and different approach.

“In order to inspire goodness we’ve got to improve our image,” God says. “We need better copy!”

Her answer (yes, God is a she in this novel): Hire an advertising agency.

With that as a great jumping off point for the plot, author Steffan Postaer mines his knowledge of the ad biz to create a fairly interesting story with characters that readers will care about.

That is, if readers can get past the soft-porn.

David the angel gets sent down to earth to find an ad agency to “market heaven,” bumps into a beautiful woman and has sex with her the very first evening. (Is this really the way “dating” happens today? Is it art reflecting life, or does art justify — give permission to — dismissal of the virtuous life?)

And although the sex is admittedly an element of the plot, the scene does get pornographic. As do other scenes later on. They’re unnecessary and offensive. Some, too, will be offended by the language. I’m sure the crude language does reflect reality, though, and it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

What just happen here?

What is a deal breaker, though, is that Postaer develops a handful of characters, gets us involved with them, works them into the plot and subplots, and then you find yourself asking, hey, what just happened there?

The ad exec with the overactive libido suddenly gets transformed into a caring, sensitive male. His ex-wife turns from witch to a do-gooder. The creative genius at the ad agency goes from workaholic to father-of-the-year.

But we never find out why. And Postaer never quite brings all the subplot elements together. Still, he does a pretty good job of leading us to what looks like it’ll be an engaging final scene.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, but the Greeks who invented “deus ex machina” have nothing on Steffan Postaer.

Greek tragedies aside, “The Happy Soul Industry” has worthwhile lessons to share about life and faith and virtue and marketing — if you choose to get past the offensive passages. And Postaer, a successful ad copywriter who runs Euro RSCG Chicago now, has a thought-provoking idea for an ad campaign to promote goodness to the American people. Think this would work? Picture billboards at bus stops and train platforms with messages like:

“These days, everybody’s skipping prayer.

So, how’s everybody doing?”


The insider peek into the advertising world is worked in creatively, and Postaer has a great touch with humor. It’s good writing and good reading. The pity is that this could have been a really good novel with just a bit more work on the ending and a tad less bowing to the convention that sex sells. But I guess we know where that comes from. — bz

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