Circular Letter: Fall 2002

Guardian Angel Stories

“Out of sight is out of mind” goes the saying. How often this is true with respect to our relationship with our Guardian Angel; we forget him because we do not see him. Guardian Angel stories serve as a tonic helping us cultivate a personal relationship with our Guardian Angel and bolster our confidence in him.

For the record: all are true stories, at least, with regards to the substance; names and other incidentals may have been changed. Many of the following stories were told me personally, either by the person involved or by their friends or family. Others were come across in reading. The point is not so much an apodictic demonstration that an Angel was absolutely involved in this or that case, but rather that such stories do illustrate well how the Angels take interest in our personal lives and not infrequently do intervene tangibly in behalf of their wards. (WW)

Nocturnal First Aid

This story occurred during the Great Depression in the early 1930’s in Chicago. It was told to me by a priest, Dr. Brown’s brother.

In the wee hours of the morning Dr. Brown was jarred from sleep by the insistent ringing of the phone. He remembers groggily groping for the receiver; a husky, strained voice implored: “Is this Dr. Brown?”

“Yes, I am he.”

“Could you come quickly? It’s urgent, a matter of life and death!”

“Yes, I’ll come. Where do you live?”

“Seventeen Alan Street, please, come quickly.”

Dr. Brown dressed quickly, got his things together and was soon headed off to Alan Street; how lonely it was traveling alone through the dark streets at night. The neighborhood towards which he drove was on the “far side of the tracks”, where even during the day one might not feel too comfortable walking around.

Dr. Brown found the house easily enough, a single residence; only it was peculiar that no lights were on. He went to the door and knocked; after a pause, he knocked again. Still there was no answer. His third knock, however, elicited a gruff response, “Who’s there?”

“It’s Dr. Brown. I received an urgent call for medical help. Is this seventeen Alan Street?”

“Yes it is, but nobody called you, get out of here!”

As he withdrew, he scanned the street searchingly for lights that might indicate where his help was really needed. Seeing none, he reproached himself again, thinking he had failed to jot down the right street number. Or perhaps, it was just a bad prank. In any case, there was nothing he could do but return home. And as there was no follow up phone call, he simply forgot the matter in the days that ensued.

Several weeks later, though, he received another call during the day from the emergency ward at the hospital. The nurse explained that a man, a certain John Turner, who had just suffered a severe accident and was clearly dying, was begging to speak with Dr. Robert Brown. “Doctor, could you come by quickly? He doesn’t have much time. He will not tell us why he needs to speak to you.”

Dr. Brown agreed to go, yet he was rather puzzled, for he knew no one by the name of John Turner. This conviction was verified by the patient, who said: “Dr. Brown, you don’t know me, but I just had to speak with you before I die and beg your forgiveness. You will recall having received a telephone call several weeks ago in the dead of the night.”

“Yes, I remember the call, but…”

“It was I who called you.” The dying man explained: “I had had no work for months and months. I had sold everything of value in the house, and still could not feed my family. I could not bear the imploring, hungry looks in my children’s eyes. In my desperation, I resolved to call a doctor for help in the middle of the night. My plan was to kill him, take his money and sell his instruments.”

Though horrified, Dr. Brown could not help but protest: “Yes, but I came, why didn’t you kill me?”

“I was expecting that you would come alone, but when I saw that big, powerful young man at your side I was afraid; and so I just sent you off gruffly. Please forgive me.”

“Yes, of course,” muttered Dr. Brown in a daze.

A cold chill had come over him; he had had no inkling that what had seemed to him like an irksome error or even a bad prank had been really such a close call with death. And even less had he suspected that his Guardian Angel (to whom he ever after attributed this intervention) had saved his life that night; for indeed, the “powerful young man” had appeared only to his would be assailant, who now dying, was imploring his forgiveness.

How awesome are the ways of God. How often our Angels preserve us from harm without our ever adverting to the fact.

The Camper and the Infant

Don and his wife, Doris, were getting the camper ready for vacation. After checking the motor, he started up the engine and backed the camper down the driveway. At that juncture, Doris let up a blood-curdling cry. Instinctively, Don drove back forwards, thus driving over for the second time his two year old daughter who had crawled up behind the rear tire.

The child was rushed to the hospital where it was verified that she had a good many bruises, but nothing more, no broken bones!

(Santa Barbara, California 1970’s; a news report)

Sick Calls and Close Call at the Bridge

Father John was out making the rounds, visiting the sick in his mountain parish after the heavy rainstorms; he drove from patient to patient in his trusty VW Bug. Only on this last leg of his rounds, the VW was anything but reliable, and his was the patience that was being visited with trials. The car sputtered and choked and died on him time and again. Father John would get out, fiddle with it a bit, coaxing it back to life a few hundred meters more before it would die again. Finally, it simply gave up the ghost, and no fiddling or cajoling could elicit any further signs of life from the Bug.

Under these new circumstances, Father John took a look around, considering how he might continue his visits to the sick. It was only at this point that he noticed the frightful fact—it made his heart skip a beat—the bridge over the mountain stream, a mere hundred yards before him, had been washed out by the torrent in the storm.

Since there was no going forward, he took a seat in the car to think things out. He chanced to try the ignition again; the motor leapt to life and purred all the way home. He never did need to take the car to the mechanic. After all, he thought to himself, the problem was really not with the car. That was only his Guardian Angel’s way of keeping him from driving off into the abyss.

(Told by Pastor John; Southern Tyrol, 1970’s)

The Sunday Visitor

The Carter family lived on the farm out on the high prairie in Wyoming where neighbors are few and far between; and wherefore, helping one’s neighbor or even a stranger in need, is still held to be a duty. Mrs. Carter was exemplary in the execution of this duty.

A new snow had fallen the night before. Sunday dawned bright, calm and clear. The family was getting ready to drive into town for Mass, when a stranger knocked at the door. Shivering with cold, he asked if he might warm himself a bit before the fire. Mrs. Carter graciously invited him in, showed him to the fire and began to prepare a hearty western breakfast for their unexpected gift. The boys repressed a groan realizing that this interruption meant they would have to go to a later Mass, which in turn meant that much of their playtime was being eaten up by this inconvenient stranger.

Having finished his breakfast, the guest thanked the family warmly and continued on his way. Shortly thereafter the family was able to be off to Holy Mass. A cold chill ran up their spine as they went out onto the snow covered porch, and saw to their utter astonishment that there were no footsteps in the fresh snow either coming up to or leading away from the house. Their strange guest had come and gone without leaving a footprint. Spontaneously the verse came to Mrs. Carter’s mind: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained Angels unawares” (Heb 13:2). Filled with gratitude, she explained to the children that they had received an Angel into their own home; that was God’s way of telling them that He was pleased with their kindness to strangers.

(Recounted by a lawyer friend, a friend of the family; 1970’s)

An Evil Visitor

Lou and his young wife, Edith, lived on a small farm in upper Michigan, the last mail box on the lane. It was a lonely, tough life out on the farm, but the newly married couple was happy as they had one another and their daily bread. One morning in early summer after Lou had gone out to the field to mow hay, a stranger came riding into the farm yard. He hitched up his horse at the post, as was fitting, but failed to come straight to the house. Rather he first checked out the barn, checked out the shed and rather reconnoitered all around, before he addressed his steps towards the house.

Edith had taken all of this in from the window with growing anxiety. By the time the knock sounded on the door she was terrified. Initially, she thought not to answer the door, but realizing he might break the door down, she went and opened it partially and asked fearfully, “Yes, what do you want?”

The stranger, peering at her, asked in a toneless voice, “Are you alone?”

Edith wanted anything but to be alone with this surly chap. In her fright she blurted out, “NO! My husband’s in the attic!” And to add rhetorical force to her contention, she turned and called out: “Hey Lou!”

A voice, that of her husband, responded immediately: “Yea, what is it? I’ll be right down!”

That the stranger’s intentions were less than honorable could be read both by the expression on his face and the fact he backed down the steps, jumped on his horse and high tailed it out of there!

Edith too was completely taken aback; she had thought that Lou was out in the field mowing hay. She hastened up to the attic to see what Lou was doing there, but there was no one there!

Once, when narrating this story at a day of recollection, I asked the crowd, “Whose Guardian Angel do you think that was, Edith’s or Lou’s?” A young lady responded wonderfully, saying, “I’d like to think it was the rider’s Guardian Angel, keeping him out of trouble!”

(Told by the woman’s daughter, mother of a priest acquaintance; Michigan, early 20th Century)

A Plunge into the Well

Little John grew upon on a farm in Kerala, the southernmost state in India. Helpful lad that he was, he once went to draw water for his mother at the family well in the compound. The well was surrounded by a low wall and had a roof of sorts from which was suspended the rope-pulley for lowering the bucket down to the water far below. Being only about seven years old, it took quite a stretch, leaning over the wall, to reach out and free the bucket to lower it on the rope. This time poor little John lost his balance and went plunging head first twenty-five to thirty meters to the bottom of the well. Somehow he landed feet first in the shallow water that did not even reach to his knees. He was not injured in the least, only a bit frightened.

The family heard his cry and hastened to the well, fearing the worst. The bucket was lowered, and John, completely unharmed, was hoisted up from the depths of the well. His mother, overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, assured him, “John, your Guardian Angel just saved your life!”

(Told by the man himself, a religious from Kerala; India, 1930’s)

German Missionary in China

In the early days of the revolution in China, Communists had been careful not to molest foreigners, lest world opinion be turned against them. In this tenuous state of peaceful co-existence, Father Karl, a German missionary, was able to continue his missionary activities which consisted in the care of the Catholic communities in several dispersed villages. He was fortunate enough to have a motorcycle, which permitted him to make the rounds each Sunday together with his sacristan.

On one such Sunday, while he was folding his vestments after an early Mass, a voice spoke to him in his mother tongue, “Hab keine Angst, alles wird gut gehen!” (“Have no fear, all will go well!”) He was astonished to hear his own language and asked the group of Chinese peasants that were standing nearby, which of them was it who spoke German so well! “German?” they replied, “Father, you know full well that we are all peasants and have never had any opportunity to learn any foreign language. Why do you ask?”

Evidently, none of them had heard the voice, so Father just brushed it off saying he was just curious–that it didn’t matter.

Little did Father Karl know how much it did matter; for that very day peaceful co-existence was to come to a sudden end with his demise. A local platoon of the People’s Army had received the command to liquidate Father; the Catholic Church was an obstacle to the success of the revolution. Only the execution was not to take place openly, but out on an isolated stretch of the road.

After the Mass kit had been packed, Father and his sacristan set off for the next village up in the hill country. The road was bad and full of curves, making progress slow. Rounding a hairpin curve, a platoon of Communist soldiers arose and opened fire upon him at about thirty-five to forty yards. The first volley “killed” the motorcycle, blowing it away, out from under them. They went sprawling in the dirt. To their good fortune they were able to take refuge behind a small boulder.

Dazed or simply slow-witted, Father Karl was sure that it must be a big mistake. As soon as they would see that he was a Catholic priest everything would be fine. Three times, he stood up to convince them that it was so; three times more they opened fire on him at nearly pointblank range and failed to harm him. Still, they did succeed in convincing him that they meant business, and that they were aiming at him.

At this juncture, his sacristan, who had till now been cowering behind the rock, stood up trying to make the same overture to sound reason and courtesy. Three times he rose to speak, three times their rifles spoke in return, but without effect.

Finally, the Communist soldiers advanced and took them into captivity. The better part of the “interrogation” consisted in a body search, by which it was verified that neither Father nor his sacristan had been wounded by a single bullet in seven volleys. The assassins were so overwhelmed by this that they simply let the two of them go. Of course, they had to go on foot, for the motorcycle had indeed received many a mortal blow.

On the way home, Father Karl recalled the words he had heard after Mass: “Hab keine Angst, alles wird gut gehen!” And he said to himself, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his Angel and rescued me” from the Communist death squad (to apply the words of St. Peter from a similar circumstance: Acts 12, 11).

Walking further, Father Karl asked his sacristan why he too had stood up so many times, after the Communists’ mortal intent had become clear. “Father,” he replied, “how could I ever hold my head high again in the village, after you had risked your life three times for us, unless I too had made a similar effort to plea for our safety?”

(Told by Father Karl to a group of seminarians in Rome; mid 1970’s)

St. Michael to the Rescue

What follows is a copy of a letter written by a young Marine to his mother while recovering from a wound suffered on a Korean battlefield in 1950. The Navy Chaplain Father W. Muldy, who had talked to the boy, his mother, and to the Sergeant in charge of the patrol, vouched for the veracity of the story.

Dear Mom,

I wouldn’t dare write this letter to anyone but you, because no one else would believe it. Maybe even you will find it hard, but I have got to tell somebody.

First off, I’m in a hospital. Now don’t worry, you hear me? Don’t worry! I was wounded, but I am okay. The doctor says that I will be up and around in a month. But that’s not what I want to tell you.

Remember when I joined the Marines last year? When I left, you told me to say a prayer to St. Michael every day. You really didn’t have to tell me that…ever since I can remember, you always told me to pray to St. Michael the Archangel. You even named me after him. Well, I always have! But when I got to Korea I prayed even harder.

Remember the prayer that you taught me?…”Michael, Michael of the morning, Fresh corps of Heaven adorning…” You know the rest of it. Well, I said it every day…sometimes when I was marching or sometimes resting. But always before I went to sleep. I even got some of the other fellas to say it.

Well, one day I was with an advance detail way up on the front lines. We were scouting for the Commies. I was plodding along in the bitter cold…my breath was like cigar smoke.

I thought I knew every guy in the patrol, when alongside of me comes another Marine I never met before. He was bigger than any other Marine I’d ever seen. He must have been 6’4″ and built in proportion! It gave me a feeling of security to have such a body nearby.

Anyway, there we were, trudging along. The rest of the patrol spread out. Just to start a conversation, I said, “Cold, ain’t it?” And then I laughed! Here I was, with a good chance of getting killed any minute, and I’m talking about the weather!

My companion seemed to understand. I heard him laugh softly. I looked at him, “I have never seen you before. I thought I knew every man in the outfit.”

“I just joined at the last minute,” he replied. “The name is Michael.”

“Is that so?” I said surprised. “That’s MY name, too!”

“I know,” he said…and then went on…”Michael, Michael, of the morning…”

I was too amazed to say anything for a minute. How did he know my name, and a prayer that YOU had taught me? Then I smiled to myself: Every guy in the outfit knew about me! Hadn’t I taught the prayer to anybody who would listen? Why, now and then, they even referred to me as “St. Michael”!

Neither of us spoke for a time, and then he broke the silence. “We are going to have some trouble up ahead.”

He must have been in fine physical shape, for he was breathing so lightly that I couldn’t see his breath. Mine poured out in great clouds! There was no smile on his face now. Trouble ahead, I thought to myself…well, with the Commies all around us, THAT is no great revelation!

Snow began to fall in great thick globs. In a brief moment, the whole countryside was blotted out. And I was marching in a white fog of wet, sticky particles. My companion disappeared.

“Michael!” I shouted in sudden alarm.

I felt his hand on my arm, his voice rich and strong. “This will stop shortly.”

His prophecy proved to be correct. In a few minutes, the snow stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun was a hard, shining disc. I looked back for the rest of the patrol. There was no one in sight. We lost them in that heavy fall of snow. I looked ahead as we came over a little rise.

Mom, my heart just stopped! There were seven of them! Seven Commies in their padded pants and jackets and their funny hats. Only, there wasn’t anything funny about them now. Seven rifles were aimed at us!

“Down, Michael!” I screamed, and hit the frozen earth. I heard those rifles fire almost as one. I heard the bullets. There was Michael…still standing!

Mom, those guys COULDN’T have missed…not at that range! I expected to see him literally blown to bits! But, there he stood…making no effort to fire himself! He was paralyzed with fear …It happens sometimes, Mom, even to the bravest. He was like a bird fascinated by a snake!

At least, that was what I thought THEN! I jumped up to pull him down, and that was when I got hit. I felt a sudden flame in my chest. I often wondered what it felt like to be hit…now I know!

I remember feeling strong arms about me, arms that laid me ever so gently on a pillow of snow. I opened my eyes, for one last look. I was dying! Maybe I was even dead. I remember thinking, “Well, this is not so bad.”

Maybe I was looking into the sun. Maybe I was in shock. But it seemed I saw Michael standing erect again…only this time his face was shining with a terrible splendor! He seemed to change as I watched him. He grew bigger, his arms stretched out wide. Maybe it was the snow falling again, but there was a brightness around him like the wings of an Angel! In his hand was a sword…a sword that flashed with a million lights!

Well…that is the last thing I remember until the rest of the fellas came up and found me. I don’t know how much time had passed. Now and then, I had but a moment’s rest from the pain and fever. I remember telling them of the enemy just ahead.

“Where’s Michael?” I asked. I saw them look at one another. “Where’s who?” asked one.

“Michael…Michael…that big Marine I was walking with just before the snow squall hit us.”

“Kid,” said the sergeant, “You weren’t walking with anyone. I had my eyes on you the whole time. You were getting too far out! I was just going to call you in when you disappeared in the snow.”

He looked at me curiously. “How did you do it, kid?” “How’d I do WHAT?” I asked…half-angry, despite my wound. “This Marine named Michael and I were just…”

“Son,” said the sergeant kindly, “I picked this outfit myself, and there just ain’t another Michael in it! You are the only Michael in it!”

He paused for a minute. “Just how did you do it, kid? We heard shots, but there hasn’t been a shot fired from YOUR rifle…and there isn’t a BIT of lead in them seven bodies over the hill there.”

I didn’t say anything. What COULD I say? I could only look open-mouthed with amazement.

It was then the sergeant spoke again. “Kid,” he said gently… “Every one of those seven Commies was killed by a sword stroke!”

That is all I can tell you, Mom. As I say…it may have been the sun in my eyes…it may have been the cold or the pain. But that is what happened!

Love, Michael

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