Catholics were brought up believing, even trusting, in their Guardian Angels. For the rest of us, the notion of such heavenly beings was fitting fodder for television or fantasy. Although there are countless references to the existence of angels in both the old and the new testaments., in this post-Christian age, the reply to the question ‘angels-bible fantasy or real?’ lands solidly in the former category of fantasy for many of us moderns.
I understand. There was a time when I felt precisely the same way. No longer, not since I converted to Catholic Christianity.
The references to angels in the Bible are liberally sprinkled throughout the Old and New Testaments. Jesus, himself, talks about guardian angels: See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
But, if not a believer, that doesn’t matter much.
Most likely, you have have read the startling findings of what physicists call dark energy and dark matter. That over ninety six percent of the universe is composed of ‘dark energy’ and ‘dark matter.’ That’s worth a repeat. We perceive only 4 percent of what surrounds us.
In his book The 4 Percent Universe, Writer Richard Panek writes about the puzzling findings of forty years ago that remain unsolved. “The overwhelming majority of the universe is: who knows?”
Statements like his cast some doubt on our prevailing sense of reality, yes?
And our adamant insistence that we know…we understand and we can fix.
The woman smiled broadly at me and said, “I stood here in line to wait to talk with you because I thought you should know there were four angels standing behind you during your entire talk.”
That gets your attention doesn’t it?
Shortly after my conversion to the Catholic faith, I was invited to do a talk for a women’s conference on forgiveness. One of those flattering invitations we agree to do until the date approaches and then the meltdown…”I have an hour talk to do this coming Saturday! Holy ###%%%&&&!!!” Panic- pure and unadulterated.
What could I say to a few hundred Catholic women? Women who had been Catholic far longer than my meager two years and who seemed far holier than I would ever be…
But my husband’s Christian talk radio came to the rescue when I heard a story. Borrowing his car for an errand less than a week before the conference, I listened to the radio show he had programmed. In that providential mercy of God the subject of that show was forgiveness.
The show host talked about an 1829 court case that went to President Andrew Jackson and then to the Supreme Court because Wilson refused to be pardoned from the death sentence claiming that he did the crime and therefore he deserved to die.
I got it…Eureka!, I thought, this is what I’ll discuss…excited, psyched.
But I was the last speaker of the day. And listened to about five talks by other speakers, none of which related to what I planned to talk about.
How could I have misunderstood this topic so completely?
My good friend felt my rising anxiety as we sat together listening to the speaker before me, a well-known Catholic writer and activist. She discussed her views on gender inequality, the economics of women in the workplace and verbal and sexual abuse of women by men. Without looking at me, Kate reached over to squeeze my hand, hard. By the time I stood to look at the lectern, my knees were shaking, literally.
But public speaking was something I had done a lot of in my past, I was accustomed to all the signs of stage-fright and knew the fear would pass. I had worked hard on this talk, had prayed hard and felt that my message was a good one.
Suddenly it was over. The applause was sustained and there was a very long line of women wanting to speak to me about what I’d said. It was a very long line. Many years later as I think back on that day, I know why the line was so long.
My passion for Supreme Court Justice Marshall’s written comments about the man who refused a pardon echoed throughout the auditorium: