OA Information Letter

How did the "Work of the Holy Angels" come into existence?

In his last audience, shortly before his death, Pope Pius XII paternally admonished the pilgrims "to awaken and sharpen your realization of the invisible world about you, ... and to foster a certain familiar acquaintance with the Angels, who are so constant in their solicitude for your salvation and holiness." (Oct 3,1958, at Castelgandolfo). Faced with the needs of the time, a similar thought had occasioned some ten years before in Innsbruck, Austria a group of priests and theology students from different nations to join together. They were thus strengthened by the Holy Father's admonition to become even more conscious of the help of the Angels along their personal path to God and especially in their pastoral work, calling upon them for help in the manifold needs of the present hour. By means of regular circular letters the members were led more deeply into the spirituality which was oriented after the model of the holy Angels and which simultaneously provided a deepening in the mysteries of the Catholic Faith.

The bishop of Innsbruck, Paul Rusch, gave his "imprimatur" to these letters. Due to his esteem for this spiritual movement, he wanted to consolidate it canonically and integrate it into the life of the Church. To this end he erected the Confraternity of the Guardian Angels on April 20, 1961. In the course of the years the Work of the Holy Angels, called Opus Angelorum [Work of the Angels] grew steadily; not so much through publicity and human proficiency, but rather, as we believe, through the initiative of the holy Angels themselves. They were the ones who guided, directed and showed the ways; who opened the doors to the hearts of the faithful, to priests and bishops. Many became interested in the Work. Especially in retreats offered by the Opus Angelorum, the faithful found the needed strength and help they were seeking for their Christian lives. Thus the Work of the Angels developed into a world-wide movement.

To whom does the Work of the Holy Angels address itself?

The Work of the Holy Angels rests wholly on the Faith taught by the Catholic Church. It addresses itself to all the faithful, inviting them to a conscious and profound life in union with the holy Angels. To be sure, those who do not believe in the existence and activity of the holy Angels will have a hard time with all this. But whoever takes his Faith in the Church's teaching on the Angels seriously will find the evidence for the existence and activity of the holy Angels throughout Sacred Scripture, from Genesis to the Apocalypse. The Lord's coming is always preceded by the holy Angels, whether it is His coming in the flesh (Lk 1,26) or His second coming in glory (Mt 25, 31; Lk 9, 26: Apoc 22,6). From the Acts of the Apostles we see clearly that for the first Christians, faith in the Holy Angels and the experience of their intervention was a reality beyond question (cf. e.g. Acts 12, 15). For the saints throughout the history of the Church the existence of these powerful, pure spirits was a truth of faith quite concrete, which they could experience for themselves time and again. A great many saints were united in a very special manner to the Angels, above all to their Guardian Angels, by means of an extraordinary veneration and love, at times even by means of a unique familiarity with them. Certainly the words of the famous dogmatic theologian and cardinal, Charles Journet, also hold true: "Yes, the Angels manifest themselves, but only to those who love them and invoke them." (cf. G. Huber, "My Angel will go before you" Christian Classics. MD, 1983. ch. 7, p.100).

What is the Essence and Goal of the Work of the Holy Angels?

The goal of the Work of the Angels, like that of every Angel who remained faithful to God, is to serve the Lord always and to lead men to the praise of His glory (Eph 1,12). The Preface of the Mass in honor of the holy Angels emphasizes that we can recognize God's power and grandeur in the glory of the Angels. The priest gives praise to God the Father in the name of the people: "In praising your faithful Angels we also praise your glory, for in honoring them, we honor you, their creator. Their splendor shows us your greatness, which surpasses in goodness the whole of creation."

The holy Angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to help those who are to obtain salvation" (Heb 1,14). Therefore, they can and want to help us grow in the knowledge and love of God. But this requires that they be better known and loved as powerful servants of God and that they be invoked more insistently for help in the pressing needs of our time. Hence, the members of the Work aspire to a conscious collaboration with the holy Angels for the glory of God, the salvation of souls and the sanctification of the entire creation. Jesus Christ wanted to visibly continue these essentially priestly tasks in His Church by means of the ordained priests, those totally consecrated to God. For this reason, concern for the sacramental priesthood of the Church is a characteristic feature of the Work of the Holy Angels. Expiation for priests, especially for those who have become unfaithful to their vocation, pertains to the ardent solicitude one should have for the threatened priestly state. The promotion of healthy Christian families as the most promising seedbed for priestly vocations is another objective of the Work. Further characteristics of the Work of the Holy Angels are: guiding the faithful to the adoration of God, the promotion of Eucharistic worship and of Marian devotion, and fidelity and obedience to the Vicar of Christ.

On October 23, 1968, priests from four nations, who were actively engaged in the Work of the Holy Angels, spoke with Pope Paul VI. The Holy Father said to them: "Beloved sons, your Work is a great work of love for our brothers in the priesthood with an important missionary mandate in the Holy Church!" Further, he expressed the urgent appeal that wherever they might go, they should exhort the faithful to pray even more intensely for priests.

These aims are not exclusive to the Opus Angelorum. What is proper, though, is the manner in which they are realized: by attentively heeding the Angel it is easier for man to discern the will of God and to fulfill with the Angel's help his God-given mission in life ever more perfectly. Further, through the particular devotion to the holy Angels and a conscious orientation towards the holy Guardian Angel, apostolic and contemplative vocations are being fostered and lived more fully. Innumerable individuals have witnessed to this Divine guidance with joy and gratitude.

How does the Church judge the Activity and Spirituality of the Work of the Holy Angels?

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith subjected the doctrine and practices of the Work of the Holy Angels to an examination that lasted for several years. The results of the examination, a document dated September 29, 1983 (Prot. Nr. 1005/69), were communicated to the Procurator of the Work of the Angels on October 5, 1983. In the cover letter the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger writes among other things: "In this document you will find those decisions which will help the Opus Angelorum to develop along the lines of the ecclesial orientation. I wish you and your fellow workers a fruitful activity in the service of the only Lord Jesus, in full fidelity towards the directives of the Magisterium of the Holy Church, and I avail myself of this opportunity to assure you of my sincere esteem."

With the Roman decree of June 6, 1992, a second examination of the Work was brought to a close; the use of the private revelations on the holy Angels, to the extent that they do not correspond to the universal tradition of the Church, was prohibited. In an official declaration, the directors of the Work of the Holy Angels noted, first of all, that the decree was addressed directly to the Opus Ss. Angelorum as an "association of the faithful" recognized by the Church. "Consequently, it cannot possibly be a question of a prohibition of the Work of the Holy Angels, as such" (Press release of June 22, 1992, point 1). Concerning the directives of the decree, the same declaration stated:

2 "The Opus Angelorum may and should foster and spread devotion to the holy Angels in the Church. The restricting measures of the Decree affect the use and dissemination of precisely specified parts of the writings of the Work, containing a particular angelology, which is not reducible to the written or transmitted word of God, but is known only through private revelations; these measures also affect practices linked with it.

3 The Work of the Holy Angels confesses itself to the Word of God, as it is presented to the faithful in Holy Scripture, in Tradition and by the living Magisterium of the Church (cf. Dei Verbum, 10) as the foundation of all Christian spirituality and especially of the consecrated life. The Work stands in fidelity and obedience to the Holy Father and to the directives of the Decree from June 6, 1992, even as every member promised at their admittance into the Work of the Holy Angels.

4. The interpretation and implementation of the several determinations of the Decree will follow in agreement and in collaboration with the Holy See."

What is the Order of the Holy Cross? What is its Task and Relation to the OA?

In many members of the Work of the Holy Angels, especially in young people, there arose the desire to consecrate their lives totally to God. For this reason priests who had devoted themselves to the growth and development of the Work of the Angels undertook the foundation of male and female religious communities. At first, the "Societas Fratrum a Cruce," a community for men, was established in the Archdiocese of Aparecida, Brazil. For women, the "Societas Sororum a Cruce" was established. Both groups see themselves as communities that pursue a religious life in the classical sense. Further, the community of the "Mission Helpers" was established; they dedicate themselves both to the apostolic and to the social and charitable mandates of the Church in a form that responds to the needs of the Church in the modern world.

In their further efforts to found a religious institute recognized by the Church, the leading members were counseled not to found a new community but rather to restore an old Order, whose religious ideals were in harmony with those goals that the Opus Angelorum seeks to realize. In their search they came upon the Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross. This Order had been founded in Coimbra, Portugal, in 1131 and had applied itself particularly to the proclamation of the holy Gospel and to the solemn liturgy. The first prior was Saint Theotonius, the first canonized saint of Portugal.

The seal of the Order, a large Cross with two Angels in adoration, already showed that this ancient Order cultivated a special veneration of the holy Angels. The Order flourished for 700 years, until it was violently suppressed by the liberal government in 1834.

Further amazing coincidences with the ideals pursued by the Work of the Holy Angels finally led to the ecclesiastical restoration of this Order of the Cross by members of the Work of the Holy Angels. This was finalized by a decree of the Holy See of May 29, 1979.

One of the principal tasks of the old Order of the Cross was the direction of the medieval University of Coimbra. For centuries, indeed, up until the suppression of the Order, it provided the Rector of the University. Shortly after the restoration a diocesan bishop from Brazil came to Rome and asked Pope John Paul II in a personal audience on July 4, 1983, whether he might engage theologians from the Work of the Holy Angels for the purpose of building up his seminary. The Holy Father gave his consent. The Order of the Cross saw this invitation as a mandate and took up the old teaching tradition of the Order anew. In the meantime, the Order's "Institutum Sapientiae" as a center for priestly formation could be established in the diocese of that bishop.

The spirit of adoration, the spiritual and ascetical training of the candidates to the priesthood, the celebration of the solemn liturgy and a deepened prayer life form the foundation for the education at this Institute. Objectives of this education are an unconditional following of the Cross, an ever more intimate love for the Lord in the Most Blessed Eucharist and for His Mother Mary, the Queen of the Angels and Mother of all priests. Solid scientific studies of philosophy and theology in fidelity to the Magisterium and to the living Tradition are aimed at providing the Catholic Church with well-trained, zealous priests who are devoted to the care of souls and whose hallmark is obedience to the Holy Father and to the legitimate ecclesiastical authority. The formation is accompanied by the fervent prayers of the faithful.

Students to the priesthood hail from many different nations, members of diverse religious communities and dioceses are presently attending the new faculties of philosophy and theology. From 1983 to 1996, 60 seminarians, who had received their formation at the Institutum Sapientiae, were ordained priests.

In addition to this special apostolate dedicated to the formation of priests, the Order seeks to help deepen the spiritual life of priests and consecrated souls, and engages in the pastoral ministry in general. The canonical life in community, following the pattern of our Lord's life together with His Apostles ("Vita apostolica") and in accordance with the Rule of St. Augustine, serves the purpose of mutual support and provides principally for the solemn celebration of the liturgy. The Church explicitly recognizes the Order of the Cross and the Work of the Holy Angels as two autonomous institutions, which may enrich one another spiritually.

This brief information is designed to offer only a generic overview of the Work of the Holy Angels. A more comprehensive introduction, orientation and further direction are available to those who participate in retreats or days of recollection conducted by the priests of the Work and the Order of the Cross. Further information may be sought on an individual basis.

With the approval of the Delegate of the Holy See
August 18, 1997
Rev. Fr. Benoît Duroux,OP


All texts of the Circular Letters are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without written permission except for personal use.
© 2008 Order of the Holy Cross