St. Aloysius Gonzaga and the holy angels

Angels seem mysterious and familiar all at the same time. Angels are by definition different than you and I are—they’re spiritual beings, without bodies, but can be present in our world. St. Augustine says “angel” is the name of their office, or what they do: they are servants and messengers of God.

They show up throughout the Bible, in the Old Testament and New Testament at key moments…

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For example the siege at Jericho:

He replied, “Neither. I am the commander of the army of the LORD: now I have come.” Then Joshua fell down to the ground in worship, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”

Joshua 5: 14

Or in the Book of Tobit

“I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” Greatly shaken, the two of them fell prostrate in fear.”

Tobit 12:15

And all throughout the Gospels:

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.”

Luke 1:13

“And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:35

“…saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.”

Luke 22:43

Jesus mentions angels a lot, as they are His angels…they did after all help explain the Resurrection of Christ to confused disciples.

“…two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?”

Luke 22:4

In the Gospel of Matthew at one point Jesus tells us that angels that watch over us, the Guardian Angels, also “always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which explains what Catholics believe, says, “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.”

What more do we know about angels and how we should think of them?

In this episode we learn about St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s Meditations on the Holy Angels, translated by Fr. Robert Nixon, OSB.

When think you might die, you tend to lean more heavily on your deepest beliefs, and for me, a Catholic, that means prayer for God’s protection.

For years I rode a motor scooter to work, similar to a Vespa. It was a 250cc, meaning it had the pep of a small motorcycle that could travel on highways, if I wanted to. I usually stuck to residential streets on a carefully calibrated route to avoid the most hectic intersections.

On a nice, sunny spring day in 2020—just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to pick up—I was looking forward to a pleasant ride into work after a messy winter. I put on my full-face helmet and jacket with body armor in it like normal. A friend long ago told me to wear the helmet I would want if ever I hit the back of a truck. Vivid, and effective lesson learned.

That morning I was delayed by a few minutes because I needed to add gas, but otherwise I was on schedule. About half-way to work I stopped at a red light, and after it turned green I cautiously continued as all motorcycle riders do through intersections. I got through no problem and then…

I’m hit.

In an instant I’m no longer on my scooter, and I put out my hands to try to catch myself from the fall that I can’t avoid. I roll onto the tree lawn just a short distance from parked cars that I narrowly missed.

I didn’t know what was wrong, only that my body wasn’t working right. I had a separated shoulder, a fractured wrist, some road rash on my leg and other soft tissue damage in my arm, not to mention the psychological pain that lasted long after.

I looked up at the beautiful blue sky as I took stock of my situation and said to myself over and over “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay.” The adrenaline and maybe shock began to take over, but I knew that I was alive.

I prayed as the EMTs got me into the ambulance, thanking God I was still alive, and had more time with my wife and children. And as I said Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and even portions of Hail Holy Queen, I began contemplating all that led me to that crash. How did it happen? And could it have been worse?

If I didn’t need gas, would I have missed the car that made an illegal U-turn? If I had been a little faster would I have missed the red light? Or if I was a little slower might I have died? Was my Guardian Angel helping me arrive at the point where I would make it out alive? What happened is clearly what was supposed to happen, but what role might angels play in this plan?

I spoke about this and many other issues of angels and faith with Fr. Robert Nixon, OSB, who translated St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s Meditations on the Holy Angels. We began with the big picture view—why this work?

***Full Transcript to come***


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