A Curious Happening

Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.

I turned the page, expecting more. But there were only two questions under the journal entry of Friday, September 20, 2000. “What four beliefs have shaped your life?” it read, “Have they served you well?”1 This particular autumn morning left me with the task of listing my own beliefs, drawing from my own catechism of the heart, to use an expression coined by Jesuit Karl Rahner.

I believe that there is a God Who loves everyone even more than all the sparrows in the world, if that is possible, I wrote. I believe that life is good and that it works arduously to arrange circumstances to make us humans happy and fulfilled. I believe that there is a blessing hidden in every setback and disappointment, which usually we do not see at the time.

I believe that unshed tears can cloud our vision and zest for life, and that God often cries with us, sometimes even in our place. I believe that we can hide from others and from ourselves, but not from God. I ask myself what would happen if the hiding stopped. Perhaps, this would call for conversion and a yielding to something wonderfully greater.

Naming Our Mountains

I believe that real faith is born when we think we have none. I believe that a little faith goes a long way, and that we do not need a mountain of faith to move a mountain. Contrary to popular belief, I believe that we do not necessarily make our own mountains, but that if we could simply name the mountains in our lives, that little beautiful faith would move in and do its work, and we would be much happier.

I believe in Guardian Angels. The fact that my angel’s name is Caritas is debatable, but it would be nice if that were the case.

It was at this point that I stopped listing my beliefs, knowing all along that I had gone far beyond the number four. I stopped because I had surprised myself by listing Guardian Angels as one of my beliefs. I was also struck by the fact that the current Journey and the Joy would be coming out in October, a month dedicated to the angels, which in a way demonstrates that writing often is revelatory to the writer.

Scholar and theologian Bernard Cooke has a whole book, small but comprehensive, dedicated to the question: Why Angels? Are They Real? Are They Really Needed?2 Cooke points out that there is a long history of humans believing and trusting in angels. He even writes about his own Guardian Angel and mentions the fact that Dante and Thomas Aquinas took angels for granted. We do know, however, that Dante’s angel was Beatrice, a real person, which means that often in our own lives angels are real people. It seems that angels give us back a grounding and take care of that seemingly empty space between heaven and earth.

A Good Story

Speaking of angels coming to us as human beings, Bernard Cooke recounts the story of a disgruntled coach, who, before he took on that position, was a star baseball player. The dream of being an even greater player was shattered when he was injured and almost died in Vietnam, which resulted in personal embitterment. Some years later, a few days before his actual death from something else, another coach, a woman, visited him and brought into the situation not only a kind, soothing and gentle manner, but also reconciliation. The dying man wondered why this woman seemed so familiar to him, and then recalled that it was this person who was the nurse who had saved his life in war-torn Vietnam. Similar stories are told of St. Therese, the Little Flower, comforting frightened and wounded soldiers on the battlefields during World War I.

From little on, most of us have believed that God is everywhere and that somehow God keeps this world going. But the fact that this God is really present to us, personally, is another thing. It is even more awesome to think that this God is interested in each one of us and that from that bond of intimacy, we draw our deepest identity. Angels give us a sense of that divine presence. There is such a deep sense that this personal God has sent me my own personal angel to take care of what I most need.

I Am Sending My Angel

A few years ago, there was a meeting in Spain on the theology of prayer. Since most of those in attendance were scholars and hence very knowledgeable in their particular fields, there was naturally some disagreement. Finally, the group appealed to one of the participants who was respected by everyone present. “I don’t see anything in the Bible that indicates clearly the existence of Guardian Angels,” he said, “but still, I pray to mine every day.”3 In Exodus, we hear Yahweh saying, “Behold I am sending my angel before you to guard you and to keep you in all of your ways.”(Exodus 23:20) It would be even more comforting to think that this personal God is sending an angel to guard us and to keep us in all of God’s ways.
1Heron Dance, Issue 29, Rod Maclver (Middlebury, VT: Heron Dance, 2000) p.5.
2Bernard Cooke, Why Angels? Are They Real...Really Needed? (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1996)
3Ibid., p.30.