Archive for September, 2014|Monthly archive page

Angels and Saints

In Christianity on September 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm

On the nightstand in the guest bedroom of our home stands a statue of St. Michael the Archangel. Its purpose is to remind guests and ourselves of the protecting power of God. “He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” ¹ Today’s Feast of the Angels (September 29), is a reminder that, in writing about Christian Community², God’s ministering spirits³ are very, very much among those in the family of our Faith.

The statue is modeled after Guido Reni’s painting of St. Michael, part of the altarpiece in the first chapel of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome. A marvelous copy by Giovanni Andrea Sirani, one of Guido Reni’s best students, hangs in the Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC.

What does this have to do with community? With the Communion of Saints? Just this: as Catholic Christians celebrate and remember the lives of Saints daily, whose faith and holiness we are to imitate (1 Corinthians 11:1), these three ministering spirits — Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21, and 12:1; Revelation 12:7-9, and Jude 1:9), Gabriel (Luke 1:26), and Raphael (Tobit 12:11-22) — are very much among them.

For what reason? From Butler’s Lives of the Saints:

Of the good angels, we are called upon to give thanks to God for the glory angels enjoy and to rejoice in their happiness; to thank Him for His mercy in constituting such beings to minister to our salvation by aiding us; to join them in worshipping and praising God, praying that we may do His will as it is done by those blessed spirits in Heaven; and lastly, we are invited to honour them and implore their intercession and succour.  —September 29, from the entry for Michael the Archangel

Is this a blessing, as a result of being one of Christ’s own? Or is it nonsense, as some of our separated brothers and sisters would maintain? “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). If our memory and honor of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael impels us to more perfectly seek to “do His will as it is done by those blessed spirits in Heaven,” let me be nonsensical! One is reminded of John 13:8-9.

Even more beautifully, one is reminded of the The Anima Christi. Our prayers matter. They say a lot about who we are as Christians. Read Amy Welborn’s The Words We Pray. Then we can rejoice that on this September 29 day of celebration, we can conclude The Anima Christi with the words (translations vary):

In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to Thee.
That, with Thy Angels and Saints,
I may praise Thee
Forever and ever.  Amen


¹ Psalm 91:11, from the translation I memorized years ago, though other translations don’t differ in meaning.

² See also the first three posts about Community, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. In a very definite and fitting way, today’s post could have easily been titled “Community, Part 4.”

³ Hebrews 1:14

Community, Part 3

In Christianity on September 23, 2014 at 7:09 pm

In January 2014, I wrote two posts on community for Christianity RichlyCommunity, Part 1, and Community, Part 2. In those posts I began to explore how Our Lord used community as one of the means by which He drew me into the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The importance of community, the degree to which it is integral to the Church, has become increasingly clear—so clear I now consider it a vitally important sixth reason why I am a Catholic Christian.

In some ways community is the visible manifestation of unity, one of the five original reasons I embraced the fullness of the Catholic faith. But community and unity go far beyond the visible unity that Christ intended for His Church on earth. Community also includes the invisible but very real unity we have with in Communion of Saints, “the greater part of the Catholic Church . . . beyond the grave where lies our ultimate destiny.”¹

We are very much part of a family that includes the Mother of God—the Mother Jesus Christ gave to be our Mother, too (John 19:26-27). We can be sure of her love and prayers for us today, just as her love and prayers were offered for the Apostle John, into whose earthly care she was given. Our family also includes the Saints of the Old and New Testaments. We are encouraged to honor them (Hebrews 11) and imitate their holiness (1 Corinthians 11:1). We are able to offer “loving and constant prayer for the departed,” our family and friends who have preceded us into eternity (2 Maccabees 12:38-46, 2 Timothy 1:16-18). All of this reflects “the truth that we are in communion with those in the world to come . . . that the Catholic Church is the one body on earth which is always adding to its members by Baptism, but never losing them by death . . . the heart of it is a community of love.”²

Should any of  this surprise us? No. As Kenneth Noakes writes:

In recent decades, there has been a recovery of the sense of the Church as communion, an understanding which was prevalent in the early centuries of the Church’s life when the sacramental sense was so strongly developed.  The goal of human life is communion with the Father in Jesus Christ . . . We are united with one another in Christ within His Church [those on earth and those alive in eternity], as we are united with the Blessed Trinity—we experience communion horizontally and vertically, as it were—when we share the Eucharist.³

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Amen!  Christianity Richly.


¹ From an essay by Graham Leonard titled “By Whose Authority?” in The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church, edited by Fr. Dwight Longenecker and first published in 1999 by Gracewing (Herefordshire, UK), p. 31.

² Ibid.

³ From an essay by Kenneth Noakes titled “Echoes of the Early Church: The Testimony of the Church Fathers,” in The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church, edited by Fr. Dwight Longenecker and first published in 1999 by Gracewing (Herefordshire, UK), p. 69.