Friday, December 8, 2017

November 29, Adult Ed Course on the Angels, Session 7: The Angels in the Lives of the Saints (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Final session of our course on the angels: The Angels in the Lives of the Saints

Course objectives:
1) To understand the theology of how angels can work in material space and time.
2) To consider in general how the angels have acted in the life of the Church throughout history.
3) To consider specific cases of angelic intervention, especially the exceptional stories.

Listen online [here]!


A Course on the Angels: Session 7, Angels and the Lives of the Saints
Fr Ryan Erlenbush

I. Review of all that has come before
A. Angels are wholly incorporeal
B. Each angel is his own species. We must multiply, not divide
C. Angels have no imagination, or emotion, or passion
D.  Angels are not outside of time, but they are not restricted to continuous material time

II. How can angels act within space and time?
            A. Review of angelic time: Eternity, Aeveternity, Continuous time
            B. Angels act within continuous, historical time
C. “An angel is said to be in a corporeal place by application of the angelic power in any matter whatever to any place.” (ST I, q.52, a.1)
D. “So, then, it is evident that to be in a place appertains quite differently to a body, to an angel, and to God. For a body is in a place in a circumscribed fashion, since it is measured by the place. An angel, however, is not there in a circumscribed fashion, since he is not measured by the place, but definitively, because he is in a place in such a manner that he is not in another. But God is neither circumscriptively nor definitively there, because He is everywhere.” (ST I, q.52, a.2)
            E. Angels do not need to pass through space to move about.

III. How can angels act upon material bodies?
            A. Angels do not become the form of material bodies – the way that the soul possesses the body
            B. Angels act on material bodies by way of motion – externally, not as united to the body.

IV. Particular cases:
A. St Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130)
B. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
C. St Frances of Rome (1384-1440)
D. St Gemma Galgani (1878-1903)

Saint Catherine of Siena received the cord of purity from Angels, as did St. Thomas Aquinas.

Saint Theresa of the Sacred Heart was espoused to Christ by Angels.

An Angel touched the thigh of St. Henry, Emperor, as a sign of chastity and justice; and an angel brought him the Gospel to kiss.

An Angel helped St. Veronica Giuliani with her kitchen chores.

When St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds was young she often saw a most beautiful Angel who would speak to her of Heaven. An Angel spun at the loom as she contemplated so that her father would be pleased at the amount of work done.

Blessed John of Alvernia has his Guardian Angel's presence for three months before his death.

Bl. Dalmatius, the Dominican and St. Humility were constantly favored with the visible presence of an Angel.

St. Gregory the Great, St. Cuthbert and St. Robert all showed kindness to a "poor stranger" who turned out to be their Guardian Angels.

St. Gemma Galgani had her Guardian Angel as her constant companion, as did St. Veronica of Binasco.

The Angel of St. Rose of Lima delivered messages, brought medicine at any hour, and opened a locked gate.

St. Paul of the Cross had the assistance from Angels many times as he wrote his Rule.

St. Philip Neri was visibly saved by Angels from death in an accident.

St. Martin de Porres was known to have been visibly helped by Angels.

St. Hilary of Galenta was protected by his Angel when barbarians threatened to kill monks.

St. Venantius the Martyr was ordered scourged when he was fifteen; an Angel untied his binds and threw the soldiers. Then the Martyr was hung over a fire to suffocate; the judge's secretary saw an Angel trample the fire and free the boy. He converted to the Faith with his family and it was not until later, in 257 that he was finally Martyred.

St. Eutsathius was thrown in a river and he was saved by his Angel.

St. Catherine Labore was awakened by her Angel in the form of a child who led her to the chapel to converse with the Blessed Virgin Mary, then led he back to her room.

Cherubim pierced the heart of St. Teresa of Avila with a burning sword, which set her on fire with the love of God.

While he was tending sheep as a youth, an Angel brought the Blessed Sacrament to St. Pascal Baylon to adore.

As a small child, St. Gerard Majella was brought his First Holy Communion by Saint Michael the Archangel.

Bl. Osanna of Mantua was given a glimpse of Heaven by her Angel who showed her that this was to be her preoccupation and happiness even while on earth. From early childhood until her death she enjoyed the loving companionship with the Angels as did St. Peter Celestine.

To St. Margaret of Cortona an evil spirit one day appeared, seeking to terrify her. But at the same moment her Guardian Angel also appeared and said: "fear not, daughter, and do not lose courage. The demon is less powerful to harm you than one who is trodden underfoot by his conqueror. I am with you-----I, the Guardian Angel of your soul, which is an exalted abode of God."

On one occasion, while assisting at Holy Mass with special fervor, St. Gertrude the Great was rapt in ecstasy. In this state she saw her Guardian Angel bearing her prayers to the throne of the Divine Majesty, presenting them to the three Divine Persons and imploring them to here her petitions. The prayer of the Guardian Angel was accepted and Gertrude was blessed by each Person of the Godhead.

St Gemma Galgani and her Guardian Angel

Born in 1878 in Lucca, Italy, she was outstanding for her angelic purity, child-like simplicity, candor, and innocence, virtues that no doubt help account for the special privilege she received. Gemma’s confessor and biographer provides us with details of her familiarity with her guardian angel.

“Gemma,” he writes, “saw him with her eyes, touched him with her hand as if he were a being of this world, remained talking with him as one friend with another. ‘Jesus has not left me alone,’ she said. ‘He makes my guardian angel stay with me always….’

“‘If I am sometimes culpable, dear Angel, don’t be angry with me. I want to be grateful to thee,’ she said to him.

“And the angel answered: ‘Yes, I shall be thy guide and inseparable companion. Dost thou not know who it is that gave me charge of thee? It is the merciful Jesus.’

“Unable to restrain her emotion at this, the angelic girl stood rapt in ecstasy with her angel. The angel sometimes let her see him raised in the air with outspread wings, his hands extended over her or joined in an attitude of prayer. At other times, he knelt beside her.

“I myself,” continues her confessor, “have often attended Gemma’s meditations with her angel.… I noted that every time she raised her eyes to look at the angel, listen to him, or speak to him, even aside from the time of meditation and prayer, she lost the use of her senses. At those moments one could prick, burn, or shake her without her feeling it.

“Her angel guardian was to Gemma a second Jesus, so to speak. She made known to him her own wants and those of others. In her sufferings she wanted him always by her side. She entrusted him to lay several matters before the throne of God, before the Divine Mother and her patron saints, giving him closed and sealed letters to them with a request to bring her the answers promptly. Those letters, as a matter of fact, disappeared.”

She also kept the angel busy with many letters to people in this world, often to her confessor.
“It was thus,” he writes, “that she kept the heavenly messenger continually on the move, and he most gladly favored her. Even without being called, he hastened to her in every need and danger. He restrained the power and malicious ruses of the devil, who was always just as vigilant in his efforts to do her harm. Instances are not wanting of this blessed guardian’s constant watchfulness. Once when Gemma was at table with her family, one of those present did not hesitate to blaspheme the Holy Name of God. Upon hearing this, she fainted in horror and, falling, would have dashed her head against the floor had her angel not hastened to her aid. He took her hand, supported her, and with a single word restored her.

“The most important mission of Gemma’s angel was in what concerned her spiritual advancement. While he served on one side as her watchful protector, on the other she found in him a perfect master of Christian perfection.

“The holy guardian knew how to show severity when necessary. One day she told me of this in the following words: ‘My angel is a bit severe, but I am glad for it. During the past few days he called me to order as many as three or four times a day.’

“Seeing the great charity lavished on her, Gemma loved her angel immensely, and his name was always on her lips as well as in her heart. ‘Dear Angel,’ she would say, ‘I so love you!’
“‘And why?’ he would ask.
“‘Because you teach me to be good, to remain humble, and to please Jesus.’

“Another time, Gemma wrote: ‘I was in bed, suffering greatly, when I suddenly became absorbed in prayer. I folded my hands and, moved with heartfelt sorrow for my countless sins, I made an act of deep contrition. My mind was wholly plunged in this abyss of crime against my God when I beheld my angel standing by my bed. I felt ashamed of being in his presence, but he was more than courteous with me, and said kindly: “Jesus loves thee greatly; love Him greatly in return.” Then he added: “Art thou fond of Jesus’ Mother? Salute her very often, for she values such attention very much and unfailingly returns the greetings offered her; and if thou dost not feel that she does, know that thus she makes a proof of thine unfailing trust.” He blessed me and disappeared.’”

May Saint Gemma’s intimacy with her angel, so simple, spontaneous, and full of profound humility, be an example for us all.


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