St. Mary of the (Guardian) Angels

Every year we celebrate the feast day of the Guardian Angels on October 2nd, which is a wonderful opportunity to thank those spiritual beings who God assigns to protect and guide us. There are myriads of guardian angels, just as there are myriads of angels portrayed in the Bible and throughout our church—have you ever tried counting them?

God sent an angel to go before Moses and his people Israel, saving them from Pharaoh’s armies and leading them into the Promised Land (see Exodus 14:19ss; 23:20-24, and 32:34-33:2). Our guardian angel does the same for us: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:8); “For [God] will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12). The Old Testament even portrays the angels praising God on our behalf (see Psalm 103:20 and 148:1-2), which is why our Lord says: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

In the New Testament the angels become even more prominent. As Pope St. John Paul II reminded us:

“Angels are discreetly present at all the most important moments of Jesus’ life in addition to the Resurrection. They announce his birth (cf. Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26; 2:9); they guide his flight into Egypt and his return to his native land (cf. Matthew 2:13,19); they are a comfort to him at the end of the temptations in the desert (cf. Matthew 4:11) and at the hour of the passion (cf. Luke 22:43); at the end of time, they will stand at his side when he judges history and the world (cf. Matthew 13:41)” (Regina Caeli, March 31, 1997).

In the Old Testament people feared the angels: if they saw one they thought would die for example, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.” (Judges 6:22). In contrast, Christians see angels as their friends, collaborators in the common mission to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. For example, St. Peter’s guardian angel help him escape prison twice: once when the high priests and the Sadducees became jealous at his preaching and miracles, throwing him and St. John in prison, only to have their guardian angels release them so they could continue their preaching (Acts 5:17-20), and then again when Herod had thrown him into prison, his angel released him so he could continue his mission (Acts 12:1-19). God the Father even gives Jesus an angel to strengthen his humanity when it was rebelling during his agony in the Garden (Luke 22:39-46).

Opus Dei was founded on the feast of the Guardian Angels, on October 2, 1928, precisely at the moment the church of Our Lady of the Angels in Madrid rang out its bells. St. Josemaría always saw the guardian angels as collaborators of ordinary Christians, helping us fulfill our mission to sanctify the ordinary events of our lives and to lead others to Christ. As he wrote:

“Have confidence in your guardian angel. Treat him as a very dear friend that’s what he is—and he will do a thousand services for you in the ordinary affairs of each day” (The Way 562).

“You seem amazed because your guardian angel has done so many obvious favors for you. But you shouldn’t be: that’s why our Lord has placed him at your side” (The Way 565).

Let us befriend our guardian angel more frequently, asking him for favors that help us. It may be as simple as finding us a parking space, or as serious as protecting us in dangerous moments of ordinary travel or perilous social events. He will help you… that’s his job!

Fr. John R. Waiss


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Angels and the Virgin Mary

As we saw in previous Weekly Notes, the title “St. Mary of the Angels” goes back to Mary’s Assumption and to the empty tomb of the Virgin Mary. Angels were waiting at Mary’s tomb to take her body to heaven, where she was received by her Son and reunited with her soul. The Hermits of Josaphat remained to safeguard the tomb. In 364 some of these Hermits came to Rome with relicts from Mary’s tomb and presented them to Pope Liberius, who built a little church for them in Assisi and called the church St. Mary of the Angels. Because the little church was on a little plot of land, it was popularly called the Porziuncola—little plot.

In the year 1045—200 years before St. Francis—there is a record that the villagers heard angels singing in and around the little church, renewing its association with the angels. This seems to mirror what happened at Mary’s tomb about a thousand years earlier.

In 1216, Pope Honorius established August 2 as the day for the Porziuncola Indulgence, when people could receive full pardon for their sins. This was reinforced by Our Lady in several apparitions and miraculous statues.

For example, on August 2 in 1635 in Cartago, Costa Rica, a poor woman went out in the morning to gather firewood when she found a small, black stone statue of the Virgin Mary on a boulder next to a stream. She took the statue home and placed it in a box. She went out again at noon and she found the identical statue on the boulder again. Awestruck, she took the statue and rushed home. The box where she had put the statue was now empty. So, she placed the statue in the box again and locked it. When she returned to gather more wood, she again found the statue on the same boulder. Taking it home again she found her box still locked but with no statue inside. So she brought the statue to her parish priest and told him the story.

Incredulous, the priest locked the statue up in the rectory, telling the woman that he would look into the matter later when he had more time. Relieved, the woman resumed her task of gathering wood and found the statue again on the boulder. This time the woman left the statue at the boulder. She told neighbors as she went to find the priest. The small crowd followed the woman to the boulder. The priest took the statue and all processed back to the parish church where the priest locked up the statue in the tabernacle. But, as you can guess, the statue found its way back to the boulder. The people then built a little chapel there where Our Lady could stay! She is now recognized by Costa Ricans as their national patron: La Negrita—La Virgen de los Angeles.

In 1660—again on August 2nd—people around Lurs, France, saw and heard a choir of angels announcing the presence of Notre Dame of the Angels, as she appeared on a site where they built a little church. Miraculous cures took place then and still take place in the little church built on the site. It is located along one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago del Compostela.

Franciscans would spread devotion to St. Mary of the Angels wherever they went, as they did when they went to California to evangelize the native Americans there. One of their missions, established by St. Junipero Serra, was named Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, which is now the city of Los Angeles.

So, Our Blessed Mother wants to be honored as St. Mary of the Angels, especially on her feast day, August 2. We plan to do precisely that, with our parish celebration.

Fr. John R. Waiss


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