Monday, August 4, 2014

The Curé of Ars and the Angels

My previous post featuring St. John Vianney was short and sweet and seriously in need of a sequel considering the stature of the saint involved.

To that end, and in honor of the Feast of the Curé of Ars (August 4th), I’d like to reflect a bit on the life of this remarkable priest and share some of his more memorable quotes about the angels (including the fallen ones, with whom he had some up-close-and-personal dealings).

St. John Vianney was born on May 8, 1786, in the small French town of Dardilly. He was the oldest of six children born to his parents, Matthieu and Marie. The anti-religious and anti-clerical political atmosphere brought on by the French Revolution made it difficult at that time to practice Catholicism, but the Vianneys managed to keep their faith alive and thriving by opting to teach their children at home instead of sending them to the state-run public schools.

It was in this environment that John’s faith and piety developed. His zeal was such that he was horrified by the large numbers of priests that defected and signed oaths of loyalty to the state. He famously said in response, “Oh, if I were a priest, I should want to win ever so many souls for God.” That desire would soon be made a reality.

After his rise to power in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte liberated the Church from state power, allowing church doors to reopen and Mass to be celebrated publicly once again. The road to the priesthood had been cleared for John, and at age 19 he entered the seminary. Life as a seminarian was a challenge, however, as academics, particularly Latin, proved difficult for John. Making matters worse, his studies were interrupted by a forced two-year stint in Napoleon’s army.

Upon his return to the seminary, John struggled again with academics and was almost dismissed by his superiors. But there were others in authority who recognized the value of John’s other gifts–his piety, asceticism, modesty, and power of recollection, to name a few. Given another chance to take his exams–this time in French instead of Latin–St. John passed with flying colors and in 1815 was ordained a priest.

At age 31, St. John was sent to the remote backwater village of Ars. Confronted with a staggering amount of immorality, religious indifference, and frivolity among his parishioners, John labored unceasingly to turn the tide back toward God. His success was nothing short of miraculous. It took 25 years, but eventually all 200 villagers “converted,” that is, were observing the 10 Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, and living a daily Christian life. His preaching became so famous for its eloquence and ability to touch even the most hardened hearts that many priests and bishops traveled from great distances to hear him.

But what St. John became most famous for was his ability as a confessor. He would hear confessions for 13-17 hours a day, sometimes hearing as many as 400 confessions in a day. With unparalleled powers of discernment and the ability to read hearts, St. John was able to pinpoint a sinner’s source of trouble and prescribe the exact means to treat or remove it. He also shared extreme empathy with penitents and would sob at the thought of souls being lost forever due to sin.

His long hours in the confessional left him little time for anything else, including eating or sleeping, and he often got by on a few hours of sleep and a couple of boiled potatoes. These sacrifices were nothing to St. John, though, as he regularly performed acts of self-inflicted penances. In fact, if someone gave him a loaf of bread, he would trade it for a crust from a beggar. He was known for giving easy penances in the confessional, saying “I give them a light penance and perform the rest myself.”

St. John also obtained many graces for his beloved Ars through his great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Blessed Mother, and St. Philomena. One of the things the Curé soon became known for were miraculous cures, not only of the soul but the body as well. But his modesty made him uncomfortable with the attention these acts gained him, and so he made a pact with St. Philomena that he would send all healing requests to her and that he in turn would spread her devotion. St. Philomena reportedly appeared to St. John on occasion, as did the Blessed Virgin. He remarked, “With Our Lady and Saint Philomena we get on well together.”

St. John’s holiness and the good he did for the people of Ars caught the attention not only of Heaven, but (not surprisingly) of the other place as well. For 35 years, from 1824 to 1858, the Curé was subjected to an onslaught of spiritual and physical harassment from the devil, many instances of which were verified by witnesses. The attacks ranged from horrible manifestations, to pulling St. John out of bed by his ankles, to hideously screaming and/or singing in the middle of the night. One morning the Curé’s bed was set on fire while he was hearing confessions. St. John’s comment was, “Unable to catch the bird, he sets fire to the cage!”

The devil did all he could to prevent St. John from getting the rest he needed to do his miraculous work in the confessional. He would go on for hours producing harrowing, ear-wrenching noises, or he would sing, "with a very cracked voice," the Saint said, or whistle for hours on end. Sometimes he would produce a noise as of a horse chomping and prancing in the room. He would bleat like a sheep, growl like a bear, or meow like a cat. At times he would shout under the Curé's window: "Vianney! Vianney! potato-eater!" The Saint, for his part, developed a remarkable sense of humor about these supernatural assaults, saying, “Oh! the grappin’ [his nickname for the devil] and myself? We are almost chums.” In 1845 the devil ceased his physical attacks, but not before revealing that if there were three such priests as the Curé on earth, his (Satan’s) kingdom would be broken.

St. John’s life continued with days full of charity, austerity, and works of wonder. But finally at the age of 73, on July 29, 1859, his severe daily routine proved too much and he collapsed for the last time. The bishop presided over his funeral, which 300 priests and more than 6,000 people attended. In 1925 he was canonized by Pope Pius XI, who then in 1929 declared him “Patron Saint of Parish Priests.”

In 1904 St. John’s body was exhumed and found to be incorrupt. His body is on display above the main altar in the Basilica at Ars.

 The thoughts and sayings of the Curé of Ars are ever popular, and there are volumes upon volumes available containing his sermons and other words of wisdom. Below are some of St. John’s thoughts about the holy angels, to whom he had a great devotion. (There are a few thoughts on the devil as well.)


The first thing about the angels that we ought to imitate, is their consciousness of the Presence of God.
Ah! if we had the eyes of angels with which to see our Lord Jesus Christ present on the Altar and looking at us, how we should love Him!
With what humility should we assist at Mass, if we realized that our Guardian Angel was kneeling beside us, prostrate before the majesty of God! With what eagerness should we not ask him to offer our prayers to Jesus Christ!
Our Guardian Angels are our most faithful friends, because they are with us day and night, always and everywhere. We ought often to invoke them.
The Angels take great pleasure in helping us with our enterprises, when they are in accordance with God's will.
If you find it impossible to pray, hide behind your good Angel and charge him to pray in your stead.
We ought to ask the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints to pray for us that we may receive the good God as worthily as it is possible for us to receive Him. (Sermon on Holy Communion)
The devil writes down our sins—our Guardian Angel all our merits. Labor that the Guardian Angel's book may be full, and the devil's empty.
Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels, and the saints—they are your public.
Like the saints, let us be very zealous in fulfilling all our duties; let the devil never find us doing nothing, lest we should yield to temptation.
God , the Blessed Virgin, the angels and saints are about our path; they are at our side and see all we do.
After thanking our Guardian Angel who has remained by our side during our sleep, we should ask him for his protection during the day.
How happy is that Guardian Angel who accompanies a soul to Holy Mass!
We must take great care never to do anything before having said our Morning Prayers.... The devil once declared...that if he could have the first moment of the day, he was sure of all the rest.
What a comfort to you it is to know that when we go out of the house, we are never alone en route.
When we are walking in the streets, let us fix our eyes on Our Lord bearing his Cross before us; on the Blessed Virgin who is looking at us; on our Guardian Angel who is by our side.
It is our angels who ask God to grant us a deep sorrow for our sins.
Offer your temptations for the conversion of sinners. When the devil sees you doing this, he is beside himself with rage and makes off, because then the temptation is turned against himself.
Blessed are they who are tempted! It is when the devil sees that a soul is tending towards union with God that he redoubles his efforts.
If we did like St. Remigius, we should never be angry. Being questioned by a Father of the desert as to how he managed to be always in an even temper, replied: "I often consider that my Guardian Angel is always by my side....."
If we could only see the JOY of our Guardian Angel when he sees us fighting our temptations!
In the Sacraments, it is God himself who comes to annihilate our enemy. The devil, seeing Him in our heart, throws himself despairingly into the bottomless pit; which explains why he does all he can to draw us away from them, or to make us receive them badly.
All the angels and saints are engaged in trying to prevent us from committing sins.
What happiness it is to a Guardian Angel to have the care of a pure soul. When the soul is pure, all the Court of Heaven looks upon it with joy.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Catholic Ladder

 Ever heard of the Catholic Ladder? I’m guessing not. I know I never had until a fateful day back in 2004 when I was approached by Monsignor Desmond Dillon after a little talk I gave to our parish’s Knights of Columbus chapter about writing for Columbia Magazine, the Knight’s flagship publication. Monsignor was in need of a writer at the time for a “personal project,” and lo and behold, there I was. How do you say no, right?

So I worked with Msgr. Dillon on his project, which turned out to be a reinterpretation of the original Sahale Stick, or Catholic Ladder, an evangelizing tool used by early French-Canadian missionaries in the Pacific Northwest. Msgr. Dillon believed that the Catholic Ladder was an extremely effective way to explain Salvation History, not only to centuries-old Native Americans, but to modern American Catholics as well.

A complete explanation of the Catholic Ladder is provided below. It is the text version of the brochure I did for Monsignor Dillon back in 2004. If you would like a print version of the brochure, please see the details at the end of this post.

One final note: Msgr. Dillon passed away on May 9, 2014, at the age of 99, after serving more than 70 years as a priest. He was a good man and a great priest. While the world is a little dimmer without him in it, heaven is that much brighter. Whatever angel is in charge of “writing things down,” he is no doubt keeping busy with Monsignor dictating to him. This man had so much to say and teach. In honor of Msgr. Dillon, here is the Catholic Ladder:


An Evangelizing Tool for the Ages

When French-Canadian Roman Catholic priests Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers were sent to the Oregon Territory in 1838, their mandate was clear and simple—and no less than impossible: Evangelize the indigenous people scattered throughout the vast and unsettled territory while providing for the spiritual welfare of the settlers who were employed in the lucrative fur trade for the Hudson Bay Company. As Bishop Joseph Signay of Quebec could only spare the two of them, the missionaries soon recognized the need for an extraordinary way to proselytize that would not only surmount the language barrier but also reach across the daunting geographic range of the territory, which stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, and from the California boundary up into Canada.

The problem took on a human face in the spring of 1839, when Father Blanchet traveled to Cowlitz to give a mission for the white settlers. News of the missionary’s whereabouts reached Whidbey Island Indian Chief Tslalakum, who with eleven of his men traveled 150 miles to see and hear for themselves the “black robe.” The meeting between Blanchet and Tslalakum proved frustrating, as the language differences made it exceedingly difficult to discuss theological concepts such as the Incarnation and the Redemption. Father Blanchet immediately saw the need for a visual aid that would give the Indians a “plain and simple” idea of religion that would command their attention, stay in their minds, and, most importantly, could be passed on easily to other members of their tribes.

The Sahale Stick

The solution couldn’t have been simpler. In a stroke of inspired genius, Father Blanchet carved into a stick of wood simple symbols of bars, dots, and crosses to represent the basic tenets of the Catholic faith. Akin to a miniature totem, the Sahale Stick, or “The Stick from Heaven” as it was known in Chinook, enabled the missionaries to teach religion from a historical-biblical approach, using the Sahale Stick for visual reinforcement. Since the Indians were used to transmitting their history and traditions through oral presentation, this method of teaching proved most successful. Moreover, the portable nature of the Sahale Stick enabled the missionaries to distribute the sticks to members of tribes long before physically visiting their camps, giving them, in effect, a head start on their catechetical mission.

Given the shortage of priests and the vastness of the region, this willingness on the part of the Indians to use and distribute the device was vital to the proselytization process. The chiefs to whom the Sahale Sticks were given took their responsibilities as catechists to their people very seriously. This was no better demonstrated than by Chief Tslalakum. After eight days of instruction by Father Blanchet at Cowlitz, the Chief and his companions mastered the subject matter and went back to their tribe not unlike the Twelve Apostles, determined to instruct others as they had been taught. When, eleven months later, Father Blanchet visited Tslalakum and his people on Whidbey Island, he was astonished at the Chief’s success. Men, women, and children were not only thoroughly familiar with the teachings represented on the Sahale Stick, but were even singing hymns.

The Sahale Stick had proven its worth, and would continue to attract and hold the attention of the Northwest Indians for quite some time. Demand for the teaching device reached a crescendo in August 1939, when Father Blanchet distributed eight more sticks to Indian leaders at Nisqually. As effective as it was, the Sahale Stick was nonetheless limited in its use as a catechetical tool. Only the skeleton of doctrine could be portrayed on the simple stick, and the time it took to carve one put a heavy burden on the busy missionaries. It was time to raise the Sahale Stick to a new level.

The Catholic Ladder

Sometime in the latter part of 1839, Father Blanchet began drawing his chronological religious histories on paper, calling them Catholic Ladders. Like the Sahale Stick, the Ladder was created in a vertical format, describing events from bottom to top. The term “ladder” fit the drawing not only for its physical appearance but also in that it drew a spiritual parallel to Jacob’s Ladder, which Father Blanchet described as “resting on earth at one extremity, and on the heavens at the other.”

The charts allowed room to include more historical and doctrinal points, as well as symbolic illustrations such as the sun, moon, and stars to represent creation, and a small church building to represent the Catholic Church. The backbone of the ladder remained constant: four groups of ten bars representing the 4000 years before Christ, 33 dots representing the life of Christ, and two groups of nine bars representing the 18 centuries to Father Blanchet’s time.

Although the charts were less time-consuming to prepare than the Sahale Sticks, the missionaries still found themselves spending many hours drawing the highly-demanded ladders. Consequently, in 1842 Father Blanchet wrote to Bishop Signay and requested that the charts be prepared by a printing press. Shortly thereafter, the hand-drawn ladders were replaced by lithographed copies from Quebec.

As they were with the Sahale Sticks, the Indian Chiefs to whom the Catholic Ladders were given were extremely conscientious about their duties as catechists. In imitation of the missionaries, they took the charts back to their villages and explained them by means of questions and answers. Father P.J. DeSmet, the famed Jesuit missionary, would later write: “The Catholic Ladder passed from nation to nation and the Indians explained it to others. It was for them a divine book.”

Father Blanchet’s original hand-drawn ladder underwent many revisions through the years. It was printed in three languages and in four countries, and editions varied greatly as to the scope of their detail and instruction. In addition to Blanchet’s ladder, there were also ladders created by renowned Catholic missionaries Peter John DeSmet and Albert Lacombe, as well as several by Protestant authors.  Records indicate that Catholic Ladders stayed in use among the Pacific Northwest Indians up until the early part of the twentieth century.

The Catholic Ladder presented here is a compilation of many variances of the original one designed by Archbishop Blanchet. Its intention now, as it was then, is to help us understand God, His attributes and His plan through the events of history. In essence, the Catholic Ladder—from the simplest design to the most intricate—tells the story of salvation. You are invited to use this Ladder in your home or classroom, keeping in mind that discussion is as vital to the learning process as reading. A further hope is that this Ladder will serve as a stepping stone to a deeper examination of, and devotion to, our magnificent Catholic faith. God bless!

For print copies of the above information, please write to:

Catholic Ladder
St. Joseph Church
520 S. Garfield St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Suggested donation is $1.00 per brochure.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How a Book About the Angels Grew Cyber Wings

I have been asked on several occasions how I came to write Partners in Holiness. Well....

I was five, and as five-year-olds are wont to do, I woke up in the middle of the night distressed and disoriented. My room wasn't completely dark, as my parents always left my door open a crack to filter in a soft glow from the kitchen nightlight. I shouted out for Mom and Dad. No one answered. I wanted to get up and look for them, but I was afraid to leave my bed. I started crying and that's when I saw it. The alligator's tail at the foot of my bed. Fear of the reptilian appendage trumped fear of the void beyond my covers. I bolted.

The apartment was eerily quiet, with no lights on save the kitchen nightlight, and no sign of my parents. (I later learned they had been down in the basement storage room putting away boxes.) On the verge of complete panic, I shouted once more, but this time I heard an answer–soft, gentle, and instantly comforting.


I turned to where I heard the voice, and beheld a sight that to this day is as vivid in my mind as it was that peculiar night. Standing in the doorway that separated our dining room from our kitchen were two radiant, white-robed figures. They filled the entire archway with their imposing size, yet I knew without a doubt that they were good. I ran to the taller one on the right. He picked me up and told me not to be afraid. Then the two of them took me back to my bedroom. The shorter angel (by this time I was certain as to what they were) reached down and made a sweeping motion with his arm at the foot of my bed. "There's nothing to be afraid of," he said smiling. The one holding me gently tucked me back in under the covers. I must have fallen asleep quickly because I don't remember them leaving or saying anything else.

When I woke the next morning, I immediately replayed the previous night's events to my mother. She had heard plenty of tall tales from me before, but there was something different about this story, she confided to me when I was older. It was too exact, too detailed. And I told it with more gusto and conviction than any other story or dream before. Eventually I stopped talking about the angels and the alligator's tail, the episode relegated to a filing cabinet in the back of my mind, replaced by newer and more relevant experiences.

Now there's an excellent chance, of course, that what I've just described is nothing more than a five-year-old's overactive imagination, fueled perhaps by seeing somewhere the famous Lindberg painting of the guardian angel helping two small children over a bridge. In retrospect, my angels did look very similar to that one, right down to the wings.

Whether it really happened or not is inconsequential. The memory has given me a priceless link to my childhood that I will always treasure. It also sparked something just as enduring and more important–a lifetime interest in the angels.

It was no surprise, then, that early in my writing career I wrote a piece entitled "Isidore's Angel," a retelling of a legend in the life of St. Isidore the Farmer, for My Friend Magazine. (No longer in circulation, My Friend was a children's magazine published by the Daughters of St. Paul.) The success of that piece, along with a few others written in a similar vein about saints, got me thinking about a book-length project. The only thing was, I needed a theme, something that would tie the stories together.

It was also about this time that I became increasingly agitated and annoyed at the preponderance of New Age "angel" books on the market versus the smattering of solid Catholic books about the angels. How were my kids–any Catholic kids–supposed to wade through all the hogwash to reach a truly Catholic perspective on the angels? Suddenly the lightbulb went on. I had my theme.

Using "Isidore's Angel" as a guide, I decided to tell the stories of saints who interacted in spectacular ways with their guardian angels. I spent countless hours pouring over classic and modern works on the saints and angels until I came up with the nine men and women who are at the center of Partners in Holiness: Guardian Angels in the Lives of the Saints. Like my earlier magazine pieces, I wrote the accounts in storytelling mode as opposed to straight historical narrative, taking certain liberties with dialogue and settings, but always staying true to recorded facts. At the end of each chapter I included nugget-sized bits of Church-approved information about the angels. This was a way I could take the "lesson" from the historical account and apply it to our modern lives.

Once I completed the book, I shopped it around to different Catholic publishers. As the rejections started piling up, I began thinking I was crazy to have invested so much time in something that only my own kids were going to read someday. But then Pauline Press and Media (the Daughters of St. Paul again) asked to take a longer look at the manuscript. I waited, hopes high, for almost a year to hear something. Every time I sent a status request, I was given a "still under consideration" answer. And then one day, sadly, I received the manuscript back in the mail with a polite note that basically said they couldn't use it at that time. Since I don't have the patience of an angel, I stuffed the manuscript in a cabinet drawer and moved on to other things.

Fast forward ten years later. As a follower of publishing news, I'd been hearing more and more about ebooks and digital publishing. The more I read about how authors were self-publishing not only new works but also their backlisted material, the more I got to thinking about those long untouched cabinet drawers that held a decade's worth of work, some previously published and some not. I pulled out Partners, blew off the dust, re-edited the stories, updated where necessary (Padre Pio had become a saint!), and uploaded it to Amazon and Barnes & Noble with a wish and a prayer. I figured that even if a few people read it and learned something, it was doing more good than sitting in a drawer.

I'm happy to say that many more than a few people have downloaded the book since it went on sale a few years ago. And I'm also pleased to announce that this journey back to faith-related writing was what inspired me to create this blog that is reaching people all over the world. (Who knew there were Catholic blog followers in Bahrain?)

My hope for readers of Partners in Holiness: Guardian Angels in the Lives of the Saints is that they will come away with a better appreciation and love of their own guardian angels, a deeper respect and understanding of the saints who lived before us, and a truer love for God, the Creator of us all.

Oh, and if can help allay fears of those dreaded alligator tails, my wish is for that as well.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Padre Pio: Guardian Angels and a Miracle

If there was ever an earthly authority on angels, it was Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio). He talked to them regularly as you and I talk with our family and friends. He sent them all over the world on “missions” to his spiritual children, and received messages back via the angels as often as we receive mail. Here are a few of his thoughts on these magnificent heavenly beings:

“When we die, our Guardian Angel will take our soul to heaven.”

“Our Guardian Angel  never leaves us, even when we are disgusting God with our behavior.”

“Oh if all men could understand this great gift that God assigned to us; this celestial spirit."

"For whoever is alone there is his Guardian Angel."

“The duty of the Guardian Angel is not only of spiritual guidance. He also prevents bodily harm for us.”

“Our Guardian Angel prays constantly for us.”

“Let’s confide to Our Guardian Angel our pains and sorrows. He is like a friend, like a brother.”

"Your Guardian Angel prays for you; offers to God all the good works you accomplish; your holy and pure desires."

"Do not forget this invisible companion, always present to listen to you; always ready to console you."

"Invoke often this Guardian Angel, and repeat the beautiful prayer: 'Oh Angel of God...'.”

"Often remember his presence; thank him; pray to him; Respect him; be in constant fear of offending the purity of his gaze."

"What consolation when, at the moment of death, you will see this Angel, who accompanied you through life and was so liberal in maternal care.”

Padre Pio's Daily Prayer to His Guardian Angel

Angel of God,
my guardian,
to whom the goodness
of the Heavenly Father entrusts me.
protect and guide me
Now and for ever.

Finally, I just had to share this story of a man named Paul Walsh and the astounding miracle that happened to him in 1983 through the intercession of St. Pio. Enjoy (and prepare to be amazed).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blame It On The Garlic

“We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic . . .”   (Numbers 11:6)

Ah yes, the garlic. Love it or hate it, this ubiquitous little herb (or vegetable, depending on your take) has been feeding and healing from pre-biblical times to now. According to Greek historian Herodotus, the slaves who built the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza were given loads of garlic, onions, and radishes to fuel their work. Garlic was so valued it was even used as currency on occasion. A healthy male slave in ancient Egypt could be purchased for fifteen pounds of garlic.

The Greeks and Romans also recognized the value of garlic, not just as a source of fuel for their laborers and soldiers, but for its medicinal qualities. In his 37-book encyclopedia of natural sciences, Historia Naturalis, Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) listed 23 different ailments that garlic could be used to treat, including infection, a condition which modern research has shown garlic to be effective against.

After the fall of Rome, Christian monks became the chief keepers of herbal and medical knowledge, and consequently grew garlic in their monastery gardens along with other plants considered important and useful.

So why the mini-history lesson on garlic? Well, it’s partly my explanation for being absent from blogging for so long. (The other part is due to simple lack of discipline.) For the past couple of months I’ve been writing a little book about garlic which is now . . . drumroll, please . . . FINISHED!

Garlic is pretty cool. In addition to keeping away vampires, it’ll flavor your dishes, keep you healthy, ward away pests, help you catch fish . . . read the book and you’ll find out all kinds of neat things.

Of course, we Catholics already know how great garlic is. Just check out this statue of St. Lorenzo (Lawrence), the patron saint of cooks. Look at what he’s holding: a gridiron and cloves of garlic! (Legend has it that St. Lawrence suffered martyrdom in the 3rd century by being roasted over a gridiron.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

St. Bernard on the Guardian Angels

St. Bernard of  Clairvaux (1090-1153) was one of the greatest preachers of all time. In fact, he became known as the Melifluous (“full of honey”) Doctor, because his words were so sweet. As previously noted, St. Bernard left us with a rich legacy of prayers, meditations, sermons, and teachings, particularly in regard to Mary and the angels. In honor of the Feast of the Guardian Angels, here are some angelic reflections from this great saint:

Be mindful then of these angelic princes when you go to pray or to sing the Psalms; stand with disciplined reverence and be proud that your angels continuously see the face of the Father. Since they are all spirits whose work is service, sent to help those who will be the heirs of salvation, they bear our prayers to God in heaven and return laden with graces for us.

In whatever lodging, in whatever nook or corner you may find yourself, cherish a reverence for your guardian angel. In his presence do not dare to do anything you would not do in mine. Or do you doubt his presence because you do not see him? Would it really help if you did hear him, or touch him, or smell him? Remember, there are realities whose existence has not been proven by mere sight.

With such bodyguards, what are we to fear? They can neither be subdued nor deceived; nor is there any possibility at all that they should go astray who are to guard us in all our ways. They are trustworthy, they are intelligent, they are strong — why, then, do we tremble? We need only to follow them, remain close to them, and we will dwell in the protection of the Most High God.

So as often as you sense the approach of any grave temptation or some crushing sorrow hangs over you, invoke your protector, your leader, your helper in every situation. Call out to him and say: Lord, save us, we are perishing.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Feast of the Archangels

Today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The Church has a rich history-filled archive of devotions, prayers, practices, and liturgical traditions dedicated to these mighty spirits, and a simple Google search will yield a fantastic amount of information and devotions for personal prayer and meditation.

A few ideas for your consideration:

Read the Book of Tobit. It's one of the shorter books in the Bible and tells the fascinating and charming story of St. Raphael's appearance and guidance to Tobit's son Tobiah and his family.

Recite the Angelus in honor of St. Gabriel. This prayer reminds us of the important role this archangel played in the mystery of the Incarnation, and how Mary's simple response set into motion the greatest event the world has ever experienced.

Read and meditate on G.K. Chesterton's famous poem, "To St. Michael in Time of Peace" (see below), first published in 1929. It will renew your fervor and love toward this Prince of Angels.

Have a wonderful, angel-inspired day!

To St. Michael in Time of Peace

Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning,
Michael of the Army of the Lord,
Stiffen thou the hand upon the still sword, Michael,
Folded and shut upon the sheathed sword, Michael,
Under the fullness of the white robes falling,
Gird us with the secret of the sword.

When the world cracked because of a sneer in heaven,
Leaving out for all time a scar upon the sky,
Thou didst rise up against the Horror in the highest,
Dragging down the highest that looked down on the Most High:
Rending from the seventh heaven the hell of exaltation
Down the seven heavens till the dark seas burn:
Thou that in thunder threwest down the Dragon
Knowest in what silence the Serpent can return.

Down through the universe the vast night falling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning!)
Far down the universe the deep calms calling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Sword!)
Bid us not forget in the baths of all forgetfulness,
In the sigh long drawn from the frenzy and the fretfulness
In the huge holy sempiternal silence
In the beginning was the Word.

Monday, September 3, 2012

St. Gregory and St. Michael at Hadrian's Tomb

St. Gregory the Great, like the recently blogged-about St. Bernard of Clairvaux, was a “super saint.” His virtues, heroic acts, teachings, writings, supernatural experiences, and, perhaps most importantly, his lasting impact on both the Church and secular culture today, have truly earned him the title “Great.”

On the anniversary of his death (March 12), I posted a story about “St. Gregory and the Beggar,” the beggar being an angel in disguise. Today on his feast day I would like to mention another angelic occurrence in the life of Gregory, this one featuring St. Michael.

In 590, a great plague struck Rome. When the stricken city had nearly reached its breaking point, Pope St. Gregory the Great united the people by preaching a sermon that filled them with hope and resolve. They were to bombard heaven with their prayers, declared Gregory, to such a degree that God and His Blessed Mother could not resist in ending the scourge. He rallied people from the seven corners of Rome and led them in procession through the streets as an act of penance, praying for forgiveness and atoning for sin. As the crowd reached the bridge of St. Peter’s, the miraculous occurred: St. Michael appeared in full view of the faithful over the tomb of Hadrian, sheathing his flaming sword to indicate the end of the plague. At the same moment, Saint Gregory heard angelic voices singing the antiphon, “Queen of Heaven, rejoice!”

To this day, the tomb of Hadrian in Rome is called the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, in memory of the visitation of Saint Michael and of the miraculous deliverance of the city from plague. A chapel was later built at the top of the tomb along with a large marble angel, which remained there for centuries until Pope Benedict XIV replaced the statue with a bronze one.

The custom of saying “God bless you” when someone has sneezed, and the making of the Sign of the Cross on the mouths of those who yawn, goes back to the days of Saint Gregory and the Roman plague. Because the disease typically ended in a spasm of sneezing or yawning, Gregory ordered that “God bless you” should be said to those who sneezed, and the blessing of the Sign of the Cross should be put on the mouths of those who yawned.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Catholic Connection to Coffee

I wouldn't survive most mornings without coffee. I admit it, I'm an addict. I have been since my freshman year of college, when I decided that downing a cup or two of my parent's Maxwell House was better than sleeping through my 8:00 a.m. chemistry class. My grades soon thanked my wise choice, and I have ever since enjoyed a warm and comfy relationship with the dark and bitter brew. (I take mine black, thank you.)

 Several years back I came across an interesting tidbit of information about the Church's historical role in bringing coffee to the Western world. I did a little further digging and ended up writing a short article about it for Liguorian Magazine. I'm reprinting it here for all of my coffee drinking guests. Between all the latest research touting coffee's health benefits and this affirmation of coffee's, ahem, blessedness, all is good in java land. Enjoy!




Melaine Ryther

    He negotiated the Union of Brest in 1598, which brought the Ukrainian Church back in communion with Rome. He revised the breviary, forbade dueling, and promoted the forty hours devotion. Yet for many modern Catholics, the greatest achievement of Pope Clement VIII was allowing coffee to be introduced to the Western world.

    Long a part of Arab culture, coffee began finding its way into the West in the late 1500’s via Italian trade ships returning from Constantinople. The bitter elixir soon gained adherents among the populace in Venice and other port cities in Italy. Church officials in Rome, however, were wary of the dark drink. Fearing that coffee had been invented by Satan himself for the Muslim infidels, priests forbade the faithful to imbibe. They argued that if wine was the drink sanctified by Christ and used in Holy Communion, then coffee—the preferred beverage of the Muslims, who weren’t allowed to drink wine—must be the Antichrist’s brew.

    Into this ring of debate stepped Clement. Although known as a devout and spiritual Pope, Clement was not without his practical side. He spearheaded missionary efforts in the Far East, Persia, Mexico, and South America. He brought back into the Church schismatic Serbians and Ukranians. And, closer to home, he often visited hospitals, not only to comfort the sick, but to inspect the food that was being served.

    Having heard all the fuss about the devilish Turkish drink, Clement asked that a cup of it be brought to him. Onlookers held their breath as their beloved Pope first smelled, then sipped the exotic beverage. Would he die on the spot? Would the devil himself appear? Nothing quite so dramatic happened, of course. But after satisfying his palate, Clement did make a proclamation that was nonetheless surprising:

    “This Satan’s drink is so delicious,” Clement intoned, “that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it.” Clement further reasoned that it would be a larger sin to keep the drink from the Christian world.

    The on-the-spot blessing opened the floodgates for coffee imports to the West, paving the way for the first coffeehouses to open in Italy in 1645.

    It’s perhaps only fitting that the man to whom nine-to-fivers worldwide owe their gratitude started his career in a white collar setting himself—as a humble bank clerk in Fano, Italy.

Monday, August 20, 2012

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Today is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). St. Bernard was one of those “super saints” who comes along maybe once every century. A noted theologian, zealous Abbott, monastic reformer, papal advisor, schism mediator, gifted speaker, and inspirational writer, St. Bernard was officially proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1830. He is particularly known for his writings and sermons on Mary, and his Marian theology is still considered preeminent today.
“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.”

St. Bernard also had a lot to say about the angels. Simple in style, but rich in substance, this quote should give us all pause to reflect:

“In whatever house, in whatever place you find yourself, respect your Angel, because he is present and is very close to you. Not only is he with you but he is there for you. He tries to protect you and be useful to you. With an Angel near you, what do you have to be afraid of? Your Angel cannot let himself be conquered or deceived. He is faithful; he is prudent; he is powerful: so why are you afraid? If you were lucky enough to see the veil fall from your eyes, you would see with how much attention, with how much solicitude the Angels are in the midst of those who pray, within those who meditate, over the bed of those who are resting, over the head of those who are ruling and governing.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mea Culpa

Looking back at my last substantive post, I see it's dated June 5, or in relation to my favorite summer pastime, early in the baseball season. Today I'm seeing preseason football games on television. Yikes. Where did the summer go?

I apologize for my lack of posting. Life, as it often does, got in the way. But still, I could have been a bit more diligent. Mea culpa.

Now for those of you who might be interested, seeing as I brought the subject up, let me share with you Ten Reasons Why Baseball is Better Than Football by blogger Bill Miller. It's hilarious, insightful, and entirely off-topic. But lots of fun. Enjoy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Archbishop Fulton Sheen and the Angels

Archbishop Fulton Sheen was famous for attributing stagehand help on his television show, Life is Worth Living, to his "little angel." The reference was always good for a chuckle, especially when a very visible hand was shown erasing his infamous chalkboard in full view of the camera.

But as much as the good Archbishop joked about angels, he could be also be pointedly serious about them. As he said on one of his shows, "There are angels. I have one of them with me on this program. You've got one of them too, if you only knew it, incidentally."

Archbishop Sheen was renowned for his expressive–some would say overly dramatic–preaching style, and for his work in radio and television. At the peak of his media career, he reached an estimated 30 million viewers. Deservedly, he is often referred to as one of the first televangelists.

Archbishop Sheen died on December 9, 1979. His remarkable career as a priest, speaker, writer, radio and television personality has produced innumerable stories and testimonies about the personal holiness of this great man. As Pope John Paul II told him during an meeting with the Archbishop shortly before his death: "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You have been a loyal son of the Church!"

The Church is now returning the favor by considering Archbishop Sheen for canonization. His cause was opened in 2002 by Bishop Daniel Jenky, CSC, of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, where Sheen was ordained a priest. In June 2012, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had found Archbishop Sheen to have lived a life of “heroic virtues,” thereby conferring on him the title of “Venerable” and paving the way for the next step of beatification.

In the meantime, we can enjoy and benefit from the many writings, audio clips, and videos Archbishop Sheen has left behind. Among his works was a wonderful talk on the angels he gave on his Life is Worth Living show. Luckily, it has been reproduced on YouTube in three separate videos. Parts 1 and 2 are about 10 minutes each; part 3 is only four minutes. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy.




Tuesday, June 5, 2012

St. Boniface

One of my earliest church-related memories is wandering through the sacredly silent, mysterious yet majestic spaces of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I grew up. (They don’t make churches like that anymore. Sigh.) What I remember most impressing my 9-year-old brain was the curving hallway behind the sanctuary called the Shrines of the Nations.

Along this walkway are six mini chapels/shrines that honor the national patron saints of many of the immigrants who settled Minnesota: Saint Anthony of Padua (Italy), John the Baptist (France and Canada), Saint Patrick (Ireland), Saint Boniface (Germany), Saints Cyril and Methodius (Slavic Nations), and Saint Therese (protector of all missions). Each shrine holds a (large) statue of the patron saint, an altar, stained glass windows depicting other saints of the same country, and marble imported from their respective country. It is a beautiful, moving place to spend time, which oftentimes there seems suspended.

Coming from a robust German family, I was always fascinated in particular with the statue of St. Boniface. Maybe fascinated isn’t the right word. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure I was a little intimidated by the stern-looking, bearded figure with the pointy hat and big stick. Though similar in stature and garb, he just didn’t look like as much fun as St. Patrick down the hall. I thought his name was kinda cool back then too. Boniface. Never heard that one before. Then again, my maiden name, Manteufel, wasn’t exactly vying for a lot of phone directory space. Maybe I sensed a connection.

At any rate, today is this great saint’s feast day, and I hope many people visit his shrine today in St. Paul and throughout the world. Here’s a snapshot of his life:

Saint Boniface was an English Benedictine monk who propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. By the age of 30 he had become an ordained priest, and in 731 an archbishop. On his missions east of the Rhine River he was unrelenting in his effort to convert pagans to the faith.

A famous story is told of Boniface and the Donar Oak (also known as Thor’s Oak). This particular oak tree was highly venerated by the pagan Germanic people. In an effort to convert them to Christianity, Boniface struck the tree with an axe, after which a great gust of wind blew and knocked the oak completely down. When Boniface was not immediately struck by lightning for his blasphemous action, the pagan people became convinced of Christianity’s truth and converted. Boniface later built a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter from the tree’s wood at the site where today stands the Cathedral of Fritzlar.

In 754 he returned to evangelize in Frisia (an area in northwestern Germany today), where he and 53 companions were massacred while he was preparing converts for Confirmation. Boniface is the patron saint of Germany.

In order to restore the Germanic Church to its fidelity to Rome and to convert the pagans, he had been guided by two principles. The first was to restore the obedience of the clergy to their bishops in union with the pope of Rome. The second was the establishment of many houses of prayer which took the form of Benedictine monasteries. A great number of Anglo-Saxon monks and nuns followed him to the continent. He introduced Benedictine nuns to the active apostolate of education.  (From Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feasts by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wisdom from St. Philip Neri

Today, May 26th, is the Feast of St. Philip Neri. St. Philip was a 16th century Italian priest who founded a secular order of fellow priests called "The Congregation of the Oratory." St. Philip was known for his down-to-earth manner and humor as much as he was for his sanctity.

He had no money, but contributions poured in from his friends, rich and poor. Pope Gregory and Charles Borromeo gave generously, as did other prominent men. Cardinals and princes were now among Philip's disciples, though he sometimes shocked them by his impulsiveness. His desire was always to establish a close, human bond with others, even though it meant indulging in a wine-drinking contest, practical joking, or other undignified behavior. He acted in a jocular manner to conceal his deep emotion, or to put himself on a level with those around him. Humility was the virtue he strove most of all to practice, but of course he could not conceal his extraordinary gifts or sanctity. More than once he foretold events which later came to pass. He lived in such a state of spiritual exaltation that at times it was with difficulty that he carried on his daily labors. Men declared that his face often glowed with a celestial radiance.
(Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc., 1954.)

St. Philip left us with an amazing collection of thoughts, instructions, and sayings. Here are but a few.

"Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.”
"Nulla dies sine linea: Do not let a day pass without doing some good during it."

"Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow.”

“Sufferings are a kind of paradise to him who suffers them with patience, while they are a hell to him who has no patience.”

"First let a little love find entrance into their hearts, and the rest will follow."

"Give me ten truly detached men. and I will convert the world with them."

"Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if he wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength."

"If you wish to go to extremes, let it be in sweetness, patience, humility and charity.”

“Believe me, there is no more powerful means to obtain God’s grace than to employ the intercessions of the Holy Virgin.”

If you'd like to be inspired daily by St. Philip, bookmark the website The Maxims and Sayings of St. Philip Neri. There is a quote there for every day of the year from this holy man who taught us, among other things, that's it's okay to be cheeky at times.

St. Philip Neri . . . was called "The Humorous Saint," and at his door was a little sign that said, "The House of Christian Mirth." "Christian joy is a gift from God flowing from a good conscience," he said. Once, a young priest asked him what prayer would be the most appropriate to say for a couple after a wedding Mass, and Philip Neri thought and said, "A prayer for peace."
(Taken from the essay "Laughing with the Saints: Joy, Humor, and Laughter in the Spiritual Life" by James Martin, S.J.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Story of St. Faustina and Divine Mercy

This Sunday, April 15, 2012, is the Feast of Divine Mercy. It offers believers the extraordinary opportunity to have not only their sins forgiven, but the temporal punishment due them excused as well. All of this, and much, much more, has been promised to us by Our Lord out of the goodness and love of His merciful heart.

Of course Jesus’s love and mercy toward us has always existed, but it was in the early 20th century that He saw fit to bring the message of His mercy to the world by means of a humble, holy young woman named Helen Kowalska. We know her now as St. Faustina. The following, first published in Columbia Magazine in April 2003, is her story and the story of Jesus’ unstoppable quest for souls.


Divine Mercy: The Spark That is Setting the World Aflame

By Melaine Ryther

Amidst rumors that he would be announcing his retirement due to failing health, Pope John Paul II traveled to Poland last summer and proclaimed a message far different to the expectant world. During a dedication Mass for the Shrine of Divine Mercy in the city of Krakow-Lagiewniki on August 17, 2002, the Pope announced: “Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy.”

The Divine Mercy devotion, though humble in its origin, offers nothing less than salvation and peace to all mankind. Efforts being conducted on many different fronts are furthering the hope that Catholics everywhere will soon know of the extraordinary graces promised by Our Lord to those who would follow His simple call to mercy and trust.

St. Faustina: The Messenger

Helena Kowalska was born in the village of Glogowiec, Poland, on August 25, 1905. The third of ten children born to poor but devout parents, she exhibited an early love of prayer, work, obedience, and sensitivity to the poor. At age seven, she felt the first stirrings of a vocation in her heart, and before turning twenty entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, where she received her new name, Sister Maria Faustina.

To the outside observer, Faustina’s religious life was unexceptional, as she spent her days attending to kitchen and garden tasks, or acting as the doorkeeper in various convents. But interiorly, Faustina experienced an extraordinary communion with God, the extent of which was known only to her superiors. Her supernatural gifts included revelations, visions, hidden stigmata, bilocation, prophecy, and the reading of souls.

In 1934, at the urging of her spiritual director and, later, of Our Lord Himself, Faustina began keeping a diary of her divine revelations and mystical experiences. The result is the 600-page spiritual classic, Divine Mercy in My Soul, which continues to astound scholars to this day with its depth of spiritual and theological insights. She recorded this diary over the span of four years, ending it shortly before her death from tuberculosis in 1938.

Divine Mercy: The Message

“Encourage souls to place great trust in My fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all will be drowned in the immeasurable depths of My mercy” (Diary, 1059).

Jesus’ message of mercy to St. Faustina was not a new revelation, but a reminder of those timeless truths of our faith about God’s merciful love for all mankind and His desire for us to turn to Him with trust. What was new were the forms of devotion to that mercy that Jesus requested, and the powerful promises attached to them.

There are generally considered to be four basic elements of the Divine Mercy devotion: the Image, the Feast, the Chaplet, and the Hour of Mercy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Good Friday
Theodore Maynard

The priest unveiled the crucifix, and I
Went up -- but oh, my heart was numb and dry!--
To kiss His image who once heard, "Crucify!"

Tears rained from Peter down the rugged rock
When, thrice denying, he heard the crowing cock:
I dull-eyed, with my sins a countless flock.

I kissed Christ's wounded bosom in my turn--
Death-cold, I colder. Would that I could learn
That piteousness with which the strong saints burn!

Next an old feeble, shabby woman came.
She kissed His feet, and was transformed to flame;
Then hands and face and side, and sobbed His name.

Compassionate and hungry, in eager bliss
Crucified with Him! Would that I could kiss,
Dear stranger, your poor, faltering feet for this!

(From Not Even Death: A Book of Poems by Theodore Maynard, 1941.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Angels in Disguise

Dr. Peter Kreeft, in his book Angels (and Demons) — What Do We Really Know About Them?, reminds us that angels often come to us in unrecognizable ways. As Scripture warns: “Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

We hear stories all the time, some even touching our own lives, of mysterious strangers coming to the aid of accident victims, lost hikers, and other distressed individuals. Many times these “helpers” disappear from the scene as quickly as they arrive.

In the lives of the saints, the Church has recorded many similar encounters in which angels–under disguised forms–have intervened in the lives of humans. I wrote about one here not too long ago: St. John Bosco and the big gray dog. (Guess which one was the angel.)

Another one comes to mind in which the angel this time appeared in the form of a beggar to St. Gregory the Great. Lucky for Gregory (and all of us who have benefitted from his historical actions), the great Pope treated the “beggar” with Christian charity and kindness over and above what was expected of him.

In honor of St. Gregory's death anniversary (March 12), here’s an excerpt from my book, Partners in Holiness, that tells the story of that miraculous encounter:

St. Gregory and the Beggar

Silvia read the letter a second time. She was not surprised that her son, Gregory, was ill. His severe fasts were well known among the religious communities in and around Rome. Silvia's convent was near the monastery of St. Andrew, where Gregory lived with his fellow monks.

If only I could tend to him myself, she thought. I can't bear to lose him so soon after Gordianus.

Tears welled up in her eyes at the memory of her dear husband. She recalled how after his death people she thought were her friends called her crazy for wanting to enter a convent. Why would anyone, they argued, want to trade a luxurious estate on Rome's prestigious Caelian Hill for a secluded cell in a nunnery? Silvia had not been able to answer her critics. The love she felt for Christ and her desire to dedicate the rest of her life to Him were feelings she was unable to describe.

But she never had to explain herself to Gregory. His own passion to serve God, if anything, surpassed her own. The seven monasteries he founded with his inheritance money were proof of his zeal.

No, Silvia had no misgivings about leaving her wealth behind. But now she was glad that she had saved one small keepsake from all her former possessions. It was a handsome silver dish, and she knew just what she was finally going to do with it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

"What I don't get about angels is why, when someone is in love, they shoot arrows at them." - Sarah, age 7

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

St. John Bosco and the Big Gray Dog

On various occasions throughout his life, St. John Bosco found himself aided by a mysterious, yet gentle and loyal, large gray dog. The dog would appear unbidden when St. John was passing through dangerous neighborhoods, traveling on foot through the dark countryside, or, most famously, once when attacked by thugs. (The dog chased the thugs away after giving them a good scare with his not-so-little teeth.) St. John called his intermittent companion Il Grigio, Italian for "The Gray One."

A mysteriously as he appeared, the dog would trot away after accomplishing his duty. Not once did St. John ever see the dog take food or water. And on at least one occasion, the dog somehow disappeared from a cottage in which all the doors and windows were shut.

St. John had no doubt as to the origin of his furry friend: "It sounds ridiculous to call him an angel, yet he is no ordinary dog." Indeed, the saint firmly believed that had it not been for the big gray dog, his work would have been severely hindered, if not stopped altogether.

John Bosco, of course, went on to institute and organize the Salesians, a religious order for men and women under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales. Il Grigio reportedly retained a fondness for the Salesians long after John Bosco left the world. Between 1893 and 1930, sisters of the Salesian order testified that they had received the gray dog's protection on at least three separate occasions.

(A summary of information from Partners in Holiness: Guardian Angels in the Lives of the Saints)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aquinas on the Angels

Thomas Aquinas was known as, among other things, the "Angelic Doctor.” He wrote extensively about the nature and mission of the angels in his masterpiece, The Summa Theologica, devoting a substantial part of his massive tome to them.

In keeping with the nature of this blog (i.e., easy to read and digest), I thought I'd post a "Top Ten List" of some of St. Thomas' points about the angels from the Summa. Everyone likes lists, right? David Letterman does.

These tidbits aren't arranged in any particular order, nor do they purport in any way to adequately represent the whole of St. Thomas's teachings on the angels. Nonetheless, I think there's enough here for us mere mortals to ponder and appreciate for quite some time And if the spirit should move you to further scholarship, you can read the good Doctor's entire discussion of celestial beings at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library

So, here we go:

1.  The angels were created in heaven. And it is fitting that creatures of the most perfect nature should be created in the most noble place.

2.  Angels were created in grace, and by using this grace in their first act of charity (which is the friendship and love of God) they merited the beatific vision and heavenly beatitude.

3.  God gives the angels their knowledge of things when he brings them into existence . . .Each receives what is fitting and necessary for its status and the service it is to render, and therefore some angels know more than others.

4.  Angels manifest knowledge to one another, and to this extent they "speak" to one another. But the speech of angels is not a matter of sounds or of uttered words. The speech of angels is a direct communication of knowledge from spirit to spirit.

5.  The faithful angels are a greater multitude than the fallen angels. For sin is contrary to the natural order.

6.  Angels, good or bad, can do wonderful things, but only such as lie within the power of angelic nature, and a miracle surpasses the powers of all created natures.

7.  Superior rules inferior; hence angels rule the bodily world. St. Gregory says that in this visible world nothing occurs without the agency of invisible creatures.

8.  God sends angels to minister to his purposes among bodily creatures . . . Angels sent in the external ministry are those whose names indicate some kind of administrative or executive office. These are, in descending rank, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels.

9.  Each human being, without exception, has a guardian angel . . . In heaven a man will have an angel companion to reign with him, but not a guardian; no guardian is needed when the guarded journey has been successfully completed. In hell, each man will have a fallen angel to punish him.

10.  An angel can illume the thought and mind of man by strengthening the power of vision, and by bringing within his reach some truth which the angel himself contemplates.

(The above translation and wording is courtesy of A Tour of the Summa by Msgr. Paul J. Glenn, Tan Books and Publishers.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Medal from Heaven and Other Saints Stories for Kids

Calling all ebook readers! My children's book The Medal from Heaven and Other Saints Stories for Kids is currently FREE on Amazon, but only for another day and a half. So all you Kindle owners out there, get your copy while it's hot!

If you don't own a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app from Amazon for your computer and most mobile devices.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sing Choirs of Angels

There are nine groups, or "choirs," of angels. The highest choir, the Seraphim, are believed to be nearest the Throne of God, loving, praising and glorifying Him ceaselessly. After the Seraphim follow the other eight choirs: Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels.

The Tradition of the Church teaches that Guardian Angels are taken from the Angel choir, and, in certain cases, the Archangel choir. These angels are at the lower end of the ranking not because they love God any less, but because they are in more direct contact with human beings and other visible works of creation.

During this resolution-making first week of January, we are reminded that not only do we all have our own place and duties, but that there's also always room for improvement.

The angels have no such weaknesses. They have their assigned jobs and do them quite well . . . okay, perfectly. So who better to ask for help in keeping our resolutions for the new year? Our angels, of course. In fact, maybe we should make that one of our top resolutions: Pray to the angels more! Sure, they have plenty of other stuff to do, but I think it's safe to say they can handle multitasking.

As Mother Angelica says in her inimitable style: "[The angels] all have specific works to do. They are not just dilly-dallying up there."

Here's wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and productive 2012! Remember, no dilly-dallying.