The Angels in Vegas

st peter's cherubs angels

The Lord gave me an inspiration on the morning of September 11. We had gathered around the seminary security desk, watching the one tv in the building. Right after the first tower came down, I thought to myself: You shouldn’t just stand here. Go into the chapel and pray to the guardian angels of everyone who just died.

There is a realm in which guns can do no harm. That realm is invisible to our eyes now. But countless pure spirits live in that heaven of peace. They, our truest friends, will only what is good. And they understand things like why innocent people wind-up killed for no reason. The wisdom of the angels penetrates mysteries that look impenetrably dark and terrifying to us.

Now, something else happened yesterday, which I want to mention. The Archbishop of Los Angeles preached in Washington, addressing some justices of the Supreme Court, some members of Congress, and other officials.

Archbishop Gomez presides over the Church in the city named for the holy angels, the largest diocese in the US. Who founded that diocese, and the whole Church of California? St. Junipero Serra, of course. (That’s another memory for me: concelebrating with Pope Francis at Fr. Serra’s canonization Mass, two years and one week ago.)

Pope Francis Shrine Immaculate Mass Junipero Serra

In his homily yesterday, Archbishop Gomez reminded everyone how Father Serra wrote a Bill of Rights for the native Indians of California. He wrote it before Thomas Jefferson and Co. wrote the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights in Philadelphia.

Then Archbishop Gomez undertook to explain something that I myself had wondered about. Why did Pope Francis canonize Fr. Junipero in Washington, D.C.? Seems a little odd, since the saint never set foot on the east coast of the US. He’s the patron saint of California, after all. Why not canonize him in California?

But Archbishop Gomez explained Pope Francis’ reason. The Pope thinks that all Americans should revere Fr. Serra as one of the official Founding Fathers of the USA, right alongside George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

On a terribly sad day for our country, let’s remember: our nation began not with political struggle or material greed. It didn’t begin with strife and violence. It began with faith in God. Archbishop Gomez pointed-out yesterday: The Founding Fathers of the USA believed the revelation of Christ so profoundly, they regarded it as “self-evident.” Every human life is sacred and has a purpose. To quote Archbishop Gomez, explaining the fundamental idea of America:

Before God made the sun and the moon, before he placed the first star in the sky or started to fill the oceans with water — before the foundation of the world — God knew your name and my name. And he had a plan of love for our lives.

This is the Gospel, revealed to our minds by the ministry of angels. Not sure it really is “self-evident” to mankind. But it certainly is self-evident to all the guardian angels of mankind.

It’s hard to imagine anything more crushing to the hope and love of a nation than for one of our citizens to set up machine guns in a tall building in one of our big cities, and then randomly mow down his fellow countrymen in a crowd below.

This is going to take us a while to deal with. May our angels help us. And may the angels of the dead in Las Vegas carry their souls to heaven.

Angel Squad

We can take great consolation in the fact that every single individual human being has a particular angel assigned as a guardian. Everyone has one.

In fact, according to some doctors of sublime mysteries, there are certain individuals who have multiple angels assigned to guard them.

Spurs championsThe heavenly powers take one look at specimens such as myself, and immediately conclude: “Yes, Raphael single-handedly guided Tobiah. That was a successful solo operation.

“But this particular dude here presents a hard case. We better send back-up coverage straight away. He will probably need the angelic equivalent of the San Antonio Spurs starting five just to stay out of trouble.”

However many angels we need to guide us away from hell and towards heaven—that’s exactly how many we have. All joking aside, having one guardian angel beside me at all times—that’s pretty daggone solid.

Even the most fearsome demons cannot overcome my humble angel. Because our guardian angels have something going for them that the demons don’t have. Namely, all the light, truth, power, and glory of the Almighty Creator, Who loves everything He has made. And Who guides everything toward eternal friendship and peace.

ישוע Two Points: Why + the People

Mary will bear a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

Yeshua. God saves. That’s what the Hebrew means. Jesus. God saves.

That’s one of the angel’s main points to St. Joseph. The child has been conceived in ineffable holiness by God. The human child of your beloved Mary—the child is divine. And the divine child comes to save. You can’t name Him Xerxes or Thor or Qin Shi Huang–you can’t name Him anything but Jesus, because the whole point is: God saves. God comes to be with His people, in the flesh—in order to save His people.

Okay. Two points.

1. Salvation. From what? From slavery to ourselves, our limitations, our unshakable self-destructiveness. Salvation from interior darkness, ignorance, malice. Salvation from our incurable smallness. Salvation from pointlessness.

People say that mankind has lost the sense of sin. The popes of the twentieth century said this. But getting our sense of sin back is as easy as submitting to the questioning of any four-year-old.

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Some things do indeed transcend our ability to understand. Like how representative democracy can look so good on paper. And yet, in practice…

So we cannot grasp some things. Also, we cannot grasp our fellow creatures, the purely spiritual angels. Like us, they exercise intelligence and decision-making. But, altogether unlike us, they do not have matter. They do not have bodies.

julius-ervingTheir lives unfold through time like ours do. But they do not face the mortality of the body. And they do not face moral danger now, like we do. The angels all chose for or against God at the very beginning of time. The evil angels became…demons.

Among the good angels of God, a sizable army received the particular assignment of guarding individual human beings.

“Guarding.” How? Against accident, sickness, ill fortune, bad hair days? Not really. The guardian angel guards each of us against sin. Against moral choices that lead towards hell.

My guardian angel may not prevent my getting sick or facing a very difficult situation. But when I get sick or face a very difficult situation, my guardian angel will do everything in his power to inspire me and strengthen me, so I do not sin, but rather follow the Lord through the dark valley toward the Promised Land.

Many consolations await us in heaven, that we can look forward to. Like being able to talk at length with George Eliot, or listen to Bach play his own music, or watch Dr. J. go to the hoop in an eternal arc of gracefulness.

But one of the most pleasant consolations will be seeing my guardian angel and learning much more about his point-of-view on the whole drama of my pilgrim life. At this moment, he knows much more than I do about what is going on.

As Pope Francis put it in his encyclical on faith: “The believer is never alone.” The triune God watches over me. And He sends His angel to guard my steps, lest I cast my foot against a stone.

Hierarchic Veneration

The archangels preside over all the angels which interact with us here on earth. Each of us has a kind guardian angel to guide and help us to do good. Our guardian angels look to the Archangels as their models and guides. The Archangels did the great work of guiding the heroes of the history of salvation, which we read about in the Bible.

But the Archangels would not want us to forget that they themselves stand below countless hosts of higher angels. These celestial choirs sing the praises of God perpetually in heaven.

So we venerate the angels and archangels; the angels and archangels venerate the cherubim, seraphim, thrones, dominions, virtues, principalities, and powers.

Today we keep a special feast for the Archangels. But, of course, as we discussed a little bit on Sunday: every Mass makes a feast for us in communion with the angels. The angels celebrate the perfect liturgy of heaven, and we praise and worship God fittingly to the extent that we participate in what they always do.

N.B. We can look forward to more extensive references to the multiple orders of angels in the revised translation of the Missal. The translation we have been using often elides references to the various orders.

Yes. Liturgy. With Heavenly Songs.

Last week, we talked about our upcoming transition to a new edition of the Missal, our prayerbook for Mass.

The Lord be with you. –-And with your spirit.

Well done.

We will start using the new Missal on the First Sunday of…? Advent. November…? 27.

When we get together to pray and offer the Mass, the ceremony we perform has a special name: Liturgy. The word comes from ancient Greek and means “public work.” The common work we do together in church: the liturgy.

Our heavenly Father beckons us to do this work of prayer together. When it comes to adapting ourselves to this new Missal translation, maybe some of us are thinking, like the first son in the parable: “No! I will NOT re-learn how to go to Mass!”

Let’s think about it. The first son’s reply may have come from honest fatigue. Maybe he had intended to rest on that particular day. Maybe his lazy, good-for-nothing, con-artist brother had not done a lick of work for months or even years. Who knows? The second son may very well have had a good reason to resist his father’s directive.

Continue reading “Yes. Liturgy. With Heavenly Songs.”

Communication Skills

Jesus put His finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then He looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” — that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7:33-35)

In this day and age, communication skills are very important. To succeed, we have to be good at P. R. We could say that the beginning of the 21st century is the Age of Communication Skills.

morse telegraphRight after Holy Baptism, the priest or deacon touches the ears and lips of the newly baptized and says, “Be opened.” The minister says, “May the Lord open your ears to hear His Word and your lips to proclaim His praise, to the glory of God the Father.”

The Creator became man to give us the most important communication skills. He took our human nature to Himself so that we could communicate with Him.

Let’s consider the gift that Christ has given us by opening our ears and loosening our tongues. To try to understand it, we have to go back to the beginning.

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