The holy angels, especially our Guardian Angels, are involved in every aspect of our spiritual lives. "From its beginning to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession" (CCC 336). The Opus Angelorum has been publishing for many years spiritual meditations considering different aspects of the spiritual life lived in union and collaboration with the holy angels.
As shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks in the darkness of night, "the angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear" (Lk 2:9). These poor men, living on the outskirts of society, watching in the night, are an image of the Christian vocation in the world today. The darkness is growing all around us, the darkness of spiritual confusion and blindness, the darkness of sin and coldness of heart, a society without God and therefore with no moral foundation. Yet God sends His angels even today with the light of His love, as messengers and mediators of His presence among us, of His mercy and help in the darkness of the world around us. "A Child is born for us, a Son is given!" Christ has come as announced by the angels, and He promises us: "Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of time!" (Mt 28:20).
This darkness stems from sin, from the rejection of God and the light of His love. The world today is becoming ever more godless, loveless and hopeless in its drive for "freedom", independence, money, power and pleasure. In 1995, Pope John Paul II prophetically warned against the trend of society: ).
The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. Here too we see the permanent validity of the words of the Apostle: "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct" (Rom 1:28). The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of one's own material well-being. The so-called "quality of life" is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions – interpersonal, spiritual and religious – of existence. (Evangelium Vitae, 23)
This trend recognized already 25 years ago has borne fruit in ever greater darkness in our times. Bishop Athanasius Schneider aptly describes the state of the world today in his most recent book, Christus Vincit:
Now we have reached a peak of secularism, of this complete independence of man, of this enormous anthropocentrism where everyone decides for himself what is true and what is good or evil. Such secularism brings us a horrible and cruel society. We are witnessing this—it is cruel. And what is the result? Egoism. Secularism leads to egoism. We have now reached a peak of egoism—and egoism is cruel: only I and no one else. … It is Hell. 'Only I'. Ultimately, this means, 'When someone else is impeding or hindering what I want to do, I will kill him, I will destroy him.' And so, they began to kill the innocents in their mother's womb because these babies are hindering them from achieving what they believe is their self-realization through pleasures, a false freedom, and worldly success. Then they eliminate sick people; then the handicapped, for instance, those with Down Syndrome, and so on. This is the path of the new dictatorship, patterned after the Nazi dictatorship in Germany and the Communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union. This is a process which leads ultimately to an exasperated egoism, to a cruel and inhuman society. (CV, p. 53)
Besides abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, under the influence of the Freemasons, secularism and egoistic materialism have also paved the way for the rapid advancement of today's gender ideology. Bishop Schneider writes:
With the rise of Freemasonry, Gnostic thinking entered in, and this is ultimately Satanic thinking, where man puts himself in the place of the Creator….and declares himself to be God, the Creator, though not formally, to show that "I am equal to God, I am able to create something." This is demonstrated in the so-called gender ideology. But this leads to insanity. So, society has arrived at a mad, insane way of thinking that is tainted with blasphemy, because gender ideology and homosexuality are an enormous blasphemy and a rebellion against the wisdom and majesty of God the Creator. . . . This is a detachment from reality because they say that we decide what reality is, what creation is, what man is, and so on. They seize on what is in some way the most mysterious part of creation, human sexuality. It is a very mysterious and holy area, given by God for participating in the transmission of new life, and life is a mystery. This is the means to continue mankind, to transmit life—God gives life, but the parents transmit life as co-participants. Secularists want to appropriate this domain to themselves. They say, 'We, and no longer God, say who is male and who is female.' This is blasphemy, rebellion, and insanity at the same time.…
In so many nations, by law there can now be a valid and legal marriage between persons of the same sex, which is clearly madness and contradicts all reality, all evidence. We have arrived at this point, and it is all a movement which grew out of anthropocentrism and the elimination of God from society. Therefore, we have arrived at a new pagan society... (Christus Vincit, p. 52)
Yet despite this distressing state of affairs, the Christian can and must live in a spirit of hope. For, as we contemplate year for year in the stable of Bethlehem, it was into this same darkness of sin, egoism, selfishness and rebellion against God that God sent His Son: "He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:2-5). Even though many did not receive Jesus and many more reject Him today, nevertheless, Jesus remains with us as Emmanuel, GOD-with-us. He is the Light of love and selfless self-giving that scatters the darkness of evil and sin, and over this Light the darkness has no power.
The light of Christ continues to be present in the world through the Church. Just as the Apostles were sent to preach the Gospel to all nations, so too today, as Catholics, we are called ever again to encounter this Light in the person of Jesus, to unite ourselves with Him and to be His light for the world around us. We are to hand on the faith in what St. John Paul II named a new evangelization of the neo-pagan world around us, a new way of reaching those who have lost basic human values. This task seems daunting given the great opposition of our secularized society. But it would be a temptation, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, to expect "immediately to attract large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods. No—this is not what new evangelization promises. …Rather, it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mark 4:26-29)" (Homily, Dec. 12, 2000). Relying on grace rather than our own efforts, we want to become witnesses to God's love and truth in the way God wants us to be.
In order to be witnesses for Christ, it is necessary that first we ourselves have a firm, knowledgeable, devoted, selfless and joyful faith, filled with zeal and the courage to confess it before others, without concern for personal consequences. Only he who knows and loves his faith will have the courage to bear witness to it and the zeal to share it with others. Moreover, more powerful than any words we might say, is the witness of our lives. As Pope St. Paul VI makes clear, "It is…primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41). Holiness of life, therefore, is the foundation of all evangelization.
Holiness of life is in itself a daily struggle, given original sin, the lures and pressures of the world around us, and the temptations of the devil. Added to this, in evangelization we are faced especially in our times also with the challenge of exterior impediments from secular and ultimately demonic influences on the minds and hearts of those without faith. This has produced a hardening of heart that is not open for the truth, and often not even for the light of reason. Furthermore, the "culture of death" has advanced rapidly and the world around us is changing by exponential leaps and bounds. Gender ideology, for example, has reached such a peak, that starting with very small children, this ideology is forcibly taught in our public schools; parents fear losing custody of their child if they deny him the right to have a gender changing operation. In state universities especially, any brave student who voices opposition is openly repressed and persecuted. There is a great blindness which has descended on society, an infernal obfuscation of the truth about God, about man and his inherent dignity, natural rights, moral obligations and eternal destiny.
Given this dire situation, how can we continue to hold on to our hope to effect any change at all? How can we face up to such enormous challenges? First of all, we must see this situation from the light of faith. Mother Gabriele writes, "The purpose of darkness in our life is so that we look up all the more intensely to the light: GOD. For it is by this light alone that we should take our bearings, not by the deceptive lights of the world" (Maxims). God allows evil and darkness, so that man's choice might remain free and that the good may shine forth even more brightly and gain greater merit, given the more difficult trial. Trials and spiritual darkness – all things work for the good of those who love God (cf. Rom 8:28). Yet, though we can take comfort that God is watching out for us and does not abandon us, this does not alleviate our distress over so many souls who are being deceived by militant secularists and, consequently, being lost.
Here we must not succumb to the temptation to think that the conversion of sinners depends on our efforts alone. This would quickly lead us to discouragement! The darkness of the world is "the mysterious ground for God's miraculous power, to raise up life by the grace of Redemption even from hard, dead stones (and how many human hearts are petrified, withered, stiffened!)" (Mother Gabriele, Readings). Despite all the obstacles, God still works miracles of conversion today, which redound to His even greater glory, given the extent of the iniquity all around us. The gift of faith, the Sacraments and all the aids we receive from Holy Mother Church are our comfort and our strength to be used in a spirit of humility and service. They lay upon us an obligation and a grave duty to work for souls, while trusting solely in the grace of God and the Holy Spirit working within us.
Especially in the Work of the Holy Angels, the angels want to form us to be instruments in the hands of Jesus for the salvation of many other souls. They want to transmit to us the light of Christ, so that we ourselves be this light for a world plunged in darkness. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that because the fallen angels have retained their natural powers, they are much more intelligent than man and have greater force of will. Therefore, "that the contest should not be unequal, men get some compensation, first, through the help of God's grace, and second, through the guardianship of the angels. Thus, Elisha said to his servant: 'Do not be afraid, for there are more [holy angels] on our side than [fallen angels] on theirs'" (Summa Theol. I-II, 114,1, ad 2).
Herein, then, lies one great source of hope, that God has sent forth His angels as our helpers. It is clear that the powers of evil have risen up enormously in our days, to such an extent that Satanists no longer work hiddenly, but publicly acknowledge their pact with the evil one and insidiously influence morals, laws and culture. It is therefore equally clear that we can no longer remain indifferent, going on with life as normal, concerned only with our own salvation, our family and friends. Rather, we must join forces with the holy angels in the battle for souls.
The holy angels are windows, lenses for the light of Christ. In the moment after their creation, God allowed a spiritual darkness to come over all the angels in a trial of faith and fidelity to Him. Those who proved faithful were confirmed and received a much brighter light than their natural light, the light of glory; those who were unfaithful in trial lost even the light they had, and "God separated the light from the darkness" (Gen 1:4), and cast the fallen angels from heaven. Indeed, they became themselves darkness in their whole being, forever. St. Augustine writes that the eternal WORD is the light of the holy angels:
"The true Light, which enlightens every man that comes into the world" (Jn 1:9), this Light enlightens also every pure angel, that the angel may be light not in himself, but in God; from Whom if an angel turn away, he becomes impure, as are all those who are called unclean spirits, and are no longer light in the Lord, but darkness in themselves, being deprived of the participation of Light eternal. For evil has no positive nature; but the loss of good has received the name "evil". (City of God, XI, 9)
The shadow of sin, consequent upon the fallen angels' definitive, sinful turning away from the source of light and life, darkened also our first parents, Adam and Eve, as they were seduced by the serpent. Yet because of the weakness of the flesh, God did not damn them immediately, as He did the demons. Each human person must struggle his whole life long, wavering between light and darkness, choosing with every decision to be either for God or against God. The angels, both the good and the evil ones, are involved in this contest: the good angels mediate the light and love of Christ, while the demons try to draw man into their own darkness. Mother Gabriele, the foundress of Opus Angelorum, writes,
At the side of the People of God stands the luminous angel. He protects and guards, he leads and opens the way, he fights and helps us to take the victory, he throws light upon the right path and the future.
At the side of the heathens, however, gather a thousand demons, inciting them, tempting them to a thirst for power and malice, to pride and brutal violence, to idolatry and treachery. Their temptations: "Do not fear God! You will not suffer any harm at all if you do not obey, on the contrary…" always have the serpent as their origin, which we know today as the god of money, the god of greed and self-seeking. (Christmas, 1958)
The struggle plays out from moment to moment as we are put before choices in the simple events of everyday life.
Each of us has his own personal vocation, each his own way to God. Our Guardian Angel shares in this vocation, for he communicates to us the light of our vocation. Further, we and our angel were created to fulfill our mission together. The angel can help us to carry it out more effectively, if we work consciously with him and implore his help in our pursuit of God's will. Some are called to battle in the field of the word, using truth and integrity of character as weapons against the lies and deceptions of the evil one. They work in schools, in writing and publishing, in politics, in teaching or preaching, in forming culture through Catholic films, theater or art. Another may work by living an active Catholic life, faithful to his duties of life, giving example by his discipline, self-denial and fidelity to the Church. They support the life of grace by raising children in the faith, influencing youth and being faithful to Christian family life. Others may be active in charitable works, giving generously of their time and treasure, and drawing others to works of mercy and to abandon the idolatry of gold. All, of course, are called to a deep, interior life of prayer, sacrifice and expiation, generously giving themselves to God for love of souls. Mother Gabriele writes,
Each is light in his own field, at the side of each stand legions of Angels, all orientated towards the one goal: GOD! If each of us has a different goal in mind – to forward his own opinion, to attain nothing but his own personal sanctification, his legal position, his success, the advancement of his own personality, of his influence – there would be no unity and, consequently also no victory. Therefore, we may not let ourselves split off from one another. "Divide et impera!" Divide – and then you can easily conquer! That is the experience already of ancient Roman warriors.
At the heart of every vocation is love. The Little Way of St. Therese, the "little way of love" is the way on which the holy angels lead us to the manger. It is not a way for those who do not want to work, rather, it is a way of little works of love and self-renunciation which bring us increasing strength, so that we might eventually reach the heroic virtue of St. Therese. "True love feeds on sacrifice and becomes more pure and strong the more our natural satisfaction is denied" (Autobio., ch.10). In little things, she denied herself: not having the last word, fulfilling the wishes of others over her own, doing little acts of charity hiddenly, etc. She did all these things out of love, simply to please God and to win souls for Him. She quickly learned the most efficacious means to save souls: suffering out of love for God. She writes, "As Jesus had made me realize that the Cross was the means by which He would give me souls, the more often it came my way, the more suffering attracted me" (ibid, ch. 7).
In her Last Conversations, it was recorded that she regretted mentioning to her sister a small sacrifice she had done, because she thought she might lose the merit for it. Her sister, Mother Agnes, asked, "So you want to gain merits?" "Yes, she replied, but not for myself, for poor sinners, for the needs of the Church; finally, to cast flowers upon everybody, the just and the sinners" (August 18). To her same sister she also said, "I would not want to have picked up a pin to avoid purgatory. Everything I did was done to please God, to save souls for Him" (July 30). This was the degree of selfless self-giving love she had attained by the end of her short life. ).
Here we would like to emphasize the major importance of the family, the "domestic church", in the work of evangelization and saving souls. The family is the first school of love, of self-giving and sacrifice, of harmony and unity. Pope Benedict XVI writes:
In our time, as in times past, the eclipse of God, the spread of ideologies contrary to the family and the degradation of sexual ethics are connected. And just as the eclipse of God and the crisis of the family are linked, so the new evangelization is inseparable from the Christian family. …Just like the Church, it is called to welcome, radiate and show the world the love and presence of Christ. ).
...The Christian family, to the extent it succeeds in living love as communion and service, as a reciprocal gift open to all, as a journey of permanent conversion supported by the grace of God, reflects the splendor of Christ in the world and the beauty of the divine Trinity. ...The family is one of the fundamental places where you live and are educated in love and charity. (Address, Dec. 1, 2011) ).
Above all, our strength against the forces of evil is prayer. At every apparition of Our Lady, her message is the same: Pray the Rosary! Do penance, pray and make reparation, or else I cannot hold back the hand of God! If we had followed the pleading of Mary at Fatima, the world could have avoided World War II. Not through politics, programs or methods, but through prayer (the Rosary) and sacrifice. Prayer, especially the Rosary in the family, will convert the world. John Paul II writes,
...I repeat what I said to those families who carry out their challenging mission amid so many difficulties: a great prayer for life is urgently needed… Jesus Himself has shown us by His own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). As He taught His disciples, some demons cannot be driven out except in this way (cf. Mk 9:29). Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil of practices and laws which are hostile to life. (Evangelium Vitae, 100)
As we kneel before the manger this Christmas, let us make this our prayer to the Child Jesus: that we may choose to live for Him alone and follow His way of love. In joy we want to follow His way of self-giving sacrifice, from Bethlehem all the way to Calvary. Then in Him, with Mary and the holy angels, we too will be a light to scatter the darkness of this world, opening for many souls the way home to God. Mother Gabriele points out the way:
The admonition of God is clear, but He does not force us. Yet we know: It will always come to a choice for us, and with every voluntary choice we will become poorer or richer, weaker or stronger, darker or more luminous. Let us consider it well! The light which we bear must become living; our faith must be living, such that it pulls along others; our love must be living, otherwise it cannot storm Heaven! Our direction comes from the love of Jesus in the manger as on the Cross; they are one. True love must always be founded upon sacrifice. Only the love of one who is sacrificed sees the palm of victory in suffering, sees fullness in poverty, sees in renunciation the gift of love for God. Holy renunciation is a being-allowed-to-give-to-God out of love! When we have come thus far, then we will be cheerful of heart, then we will learn like the angel to see through people and their deeds and grasp things at the root, in order to help and to heal. ).
The task lies before us, here and now and before the manger: We must become vigilant and be a light ourselves, if we want to divide, penetrate, conquer this darkness, and turn it into light through grace. As bitter hard as the word about darkness may be, which means both blindness ("and the world knew Him not") and coldness of heart as well ("yet His own received Him not"), we must always stand on the side of the WORD-made-man and give love anyway, irradiate kindness anyway. We must have such living hearts, that also living life full of love and strength can be raised up, in order to win over darkened, cold hearts again for Christ. That is what the Lord means when He says to us: "I want to send you, to gather in the lost, the fallen away. That is your work, together with the angels; it is the most difficult spiritual work. It demands total expiation, total love. For that, you must be free in your heart, strangers in this world, only at home in My Heart". (Readings, Christmas, 1958) ).
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IMITATION OF MARY