Circular Letter: Lent 2024

Living the Mission of the Church
in Communion with the Holy Angels

Full of joy and with great gratitude, we celebrate seventy-five years of Opus Angelorum! Seventy-five years ago the Work of the Holy Angels was given to the Church as a gift, as an aid to living out her mission, which is the glorification of God, the salvation of souls and the consolidation of God’s Kingdom on earth. The first mission of the Church is always the glorification of God, which is realized in adoration and through the sanctification of mankind. Part and parcel of this mission of the Church is the evangelization of peoples, which begins with the call to conversion and to faith in the good news of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. The activity ordered to these goals is called “apostolate”.

The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving Redemption, and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, which the Church carries on in various ways through all her members. For the Christian vocation by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate. (Vat. II, Apostolicam Actuositatem 2)

Opus Angelorum participates in this mission of the Church and carries out the apostolate with the help of the holy Angels. Thus, the OA seeks to promote “the renewal of the spiritual life in the Church with the help of the holy Angels in the fundamental directions of Adoration, Contemplation, Expiation, Mission, which are to be lived and realized in all the branches of the Work” (OA Statutes 1).

The Cooperation of the Laity in the Apostolate

Although the Opus Angelorum stands under the direction of the priests of the Order of the Holy Cross, assisted by the religious Sisters of the Holy Cross, the mission of the Work attains to its full efficacy only with the participation and cooperation of the laity. Under the theological influence of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the Second Vatican Council proclaimed a more precise understanding of the role and importance of the laity in the Church, their call to strive for personal holiness of life and to participate actively in the mission of the Church.

In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world. (AA 2, citing LG 31)

What is specific to the vocation and mission of the laity is that they are present and engaged in secular affairs, bringing the presence of Christ and Gospel values into places and spheres where priests and religious normally have limited or no contact or influence: family, politics, culture, economics, the arts, medicine and other professions, international relations, etc. According to the plan of God, the laity bear witness to Christ and His Gospel by word, and more importantly, by their very lives, thus serving as leaven from within, for the increase of the Kingdom.

They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel, they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way, they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. (LG 31)

The Call to Holiness

The foundation and prerequisite for their efficacious participation in the mission of Christ and the Church is, of course, personal holiness of life, “resplendent in faith, hope and charity”, as said above. Only in union with Christ can we carry out His mission, can we be His presence in the world, the sign of His forgiveness and mercy, and of the Father’s love for humanity. When we “live” Christ, then it is He who mysteriously draws and attracts others in and through us to His Heart, to His love and mercy, which the longing of so many human hearts wandering about, lost in the darkness of this world without hope, “like sheep without a Shepherd…. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His vineyard” (Lk 10:2; Mt 9:38). Of course, the priest, the good shepherd, is the first meaning of the “laborer”, but we are all called to labor in the vineyard of the Lord, each according to his state and calling. It is especially by living the Christian, social and human virtues, which stem from our union with Christ, that we bear witness to the truth and love that is in Him. Thus the laity

…should also hold in high esteem professional skill, family and civic spirit, and the virtues relating to social customs, namely, honesty, justice, sincerity, kindness, and courage, without which no true Christian life can exist. The perfect example of this type of spiritual and apostolic life is the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, who while leading the life common to all here on earth, one filled with family concerns and labors, was always intimately united with her Son and in an entirely unique way cooperated in the work of the Savior. (AA 4)

Besides the witness of their upright and holy lives, the laity should not draw back from bearing witness to Christ also with words.

A true apostle looks for opportunities to announce Christ by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life. “For the charity of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14). The words of the Apostle should echo in all hearts, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). (AA 6)

The Second Vatican Council encourages the laity to become active in the apostolate either as individuals, or even more effectively, in groups or associations of the faithful, approved by the Church. Opus Sanctorum Angelorum is one such group, which first came into being on Mercy Sunday, 1949, and whose Statutes as a public association of the faithful were officially approved by the Church on November 7, 2008.

In Communion with the Holy Angels

Members of Opus Angelorum participate in the mission of the Church with the specific difference of joining forces with the powerful light and assistance of the holy Angels, our “fellow servants” in the vineyard of the Lord.

The nature of the Work of the Holy Angels is an intensive collaboration of creatures united to God and striving for God, of Angels and men, with the purpose and goal of a deepened knowledge of God and love for God on the part of men, as well as an especially powerful glorification of God and a united battle for the defense and securing of the Kingdom of God in creation. (Mother Gabriele Bitterlich, Nature and Purpose of OA, 1953)

The holy Angels strive to lead us along the four “fundamental directions” of spiritual activity to holiness: the adoration of God, and particularly the Holy Eucharist, the contemplation of the word and salvific works of God, expiation especially for priests, and mission in the service of Christ and His Church (cf. Advent Circular, 2023). This conscious bond and collaboration with the Angels is the distinctive spirituality of the Work, that is, the specific path by which it leads its members to holiness of life, that they may be more effective witnesses and “missionaries” to the world about them.

At the center of the Work are the consecrations to the holy Angels, through which we enter into a holy covenant with our Guardian Angel and all the holy Angels, and by which they can more effectively enlighten and lead us on the way to greater holiness and to a more conscious sense of our responsibility for the mission of the Church. Through the Church-approved consecrations of the Work, we become so to say “collaborators” or “fellow workers for the truth” (3 Jn 8) with the holy Angels, more effective instruments in their hands for the salvation and sanctification of souls. Mother Gabriele writes:

This bond – the consecration to the Angels – stands at the center of the Work of the Angels; in accordance with God’s will, it binds Angel and man indissolubly together. From then on, the soul prays together with the Angels, sacrifices with them, fights with them, forms with them the servants and followers of Mary and the Tabernacle guard. (Nature and Purpose)

Through the formation periods, which precede each of these consecrations, the candidates of Opus Angelorum are formed in conformity with the desire of the Church in this specific way of walking in communion with the holy Angels. They learn to understand and comply with the Angel’s inspirations, silent, listening and obedient, in both the joys and trials of everyday life. They grow in an ever greater love and longing for the Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration, and accompany Our Lord weekly in His Passion on Thursdays and Fridays, from which they draw the strength and love to love as He has loved us. Through the consecrations, the Angels lead the members to offer up their joys and sorrows in expiation for the great needs of the Holy Church, especially for the Holy Father, priests and Bishops.

Then the Angel instructs the soul ever more forcefully, as to how one should walk on the little way of love, the little way of expiation, the way of everyday life. [The Angel] tears open for him ever more the greatness and majesty of God and leads him to reverence, to the fear of the Lord. …The Angel himself…steps ever more into the background, for it is not about his honor and glorification, but about the honor and glorification of God and our Heavenly Queen. He himself is merely like an immense magnifying glass, so that the soul finally becomes clear about his position before God and his duty and responsibility before God. The Angel becomes ever more the helper and signpost, “fellow servant”. (Nature and Purpose)

In Imitation of the Holy Angels

Thus, the Angel can lead the soul in the way of holiness, especially through the efficacious bond with his protégé arising from the formal consecrations made with the blessing of the Church. The goal, as we can see, is not restricted to one’s personal holiness, but to become participants in the redemptive work of Christ and the mission of the Church. In this, the Angel is not only guide and teacher of the soul, but also becomes his model and example. Mother Gabriele writes,

The Holy Angels are adorers;
thus, the essence of the Work of the Angels is first and always ordered toward the goal of a profound, perpetual adoration, also on the part of men. (ibid.)

The Holy Angels’ life is one of constant, profound adoration of God. For men too, the adoration of God should take the first place and permeate their entire lives. Their whole being should become adoration. Like the Angels who continually behold the face of My Father in heaven while at the same time carrying out their mission toward men, the members of Opus Angelorum learn with their aid to walk in the presence of God, and so to say “bring God” to the temporal sphere in which they are engaged, whether in the family, the work place, the political, educational or social arenas, in the arts and sciences, or in cultural undertakings.

The Holy Angels are servants;
thus, the essence of the Work of the Angels is ordered to teaching men to serve, humility.

In contrast to the fallen angels who shouted their defiant “non serviam!” to God, the holy Angels remained faithful and dedicated their whole being to the service of God and His plan for creation. Gathered around St. Michael in his cry, “Who is like God?” they are for us examples and models of humble, undivided, unconditional, selfless service to God out of love. They teach us to say ‘yes’ to whatever God asks of us in daily trials and the greater crosses of our life. In the weekly Passio Domini, they help us to look upon and accompany Jesus in what He suffered out of love for us, that we may learn to love as He loves, precisely in and through suffering.

The Holy Angels are messengers of God;
thus, the essence of the Work of the Angels includes a proclaiming of the greatness and love and justice of God.

In order to become God’s messenger, one must first learn silence. Silence of heart, silence of one’s own words, desires and plans, silence of judgment, silence of the will. (See the newly published book by Fr. Basil Nortz, ORC, On Holy Silence available through the OA office!) Only through silence do we open ourselves for God, for His will, for His word and plans. Only when we are detached from our own self can we properly hear and understand what God wants to communicate to us, and through us, to others. Exterior silence—from undue talkativeness or gossip, from criticism or useless chatter, from excessive use of the internet, radio or television—frees our hearts so that we may learn to rest in God, and to allow God to rest in me, in my heart and will. Then, like the clear surface of a calm lake, we will both reflect God and be imbued with His sanctifying presence to the very depths of our being; in this way, through us others will sense the presence of God, that He exists and is here with us. If we want to grow in the spiritual life, every day we need to set apart a time of more intense silence and solitude, if possible, before the tabernacle, to meditate with the assisting light of the Angel on God’s word and His will for me this day, at the very least fifteen to twenty minutes. Then our words and actions will arise from Him and His Spirit, and we will be, like the Angels, His messengers of love and justice in the Church and the world about us.

Understanding God’s Silence

God speaks to us when we are silent before Him, but sometimes God is also silent before us. We complain that He does not hear our prayer, that He gives us no answer. We feel alone and abandoned. Jesus, too, experienced the silence of the Father on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?” (Mt 27:46). Through His silence, God is teaching us to know Him better, to know Him more deeply, through believing trust. If we persevere in prayer and trusting faith, God will teach us that He is with us always, that He cares for us even if He does not answer our prayers as we may have hoped or expected. He will become for us our constant companion and support, in blind faith, in blind hope. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote on this silence of God in the life of prayer.

In the Bible, Job’s experience is particularly significant in this regard. In a short time, this man lost everything: relatives, possessions, friends and health. It truly seems that God’s attitude to him was one of abandonment, of total silence. Yet in his relationship with God, Job speaks to God, cries out to God; in his prayers, in spite of all, he keeps his faith intact, and in the end, discovers the value of his experience and of God’s silence. And thus he can finally conclude, addressing the Creator: “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5). Almost all of us know God only through hearsay and the more open we are to His silence and to our own silence, the more we truly begin to know Him. This total trust that opens us to the profound encounter with God developed in silence.

St Francis Xavier prayed to the Lord saying: I do not love You because You can give me paradise or condemn me to hell, but because You are my God. I love You because You are You. (General Audience, March 7, 2012)

Mother Gabriele writes a similar meditation about how the Angel leads man to understand and accept with faith this mysterious silence of God in the face of the Cross:

They form a holy triad, both of these creatures before their Lord and God on the Cross; He is in the middle between them both. The man begins to speak first, shaken by the love of God:

“Lord, do with me what You will. Through my Angel I know: Everything is love for me. Even Your justice, which stands before my eyes, is love for me. Yes, also this mystery of apparent injustice that it goes well for the rich, the sinners and the godless is love for me, even if I do not understand it. For must I understand everything that You do? Do You have to render an account to me for everything? Even if You veil yourself, if I do not sense You – I am absolutely certain: It is love for me.”

“Behold,” says the good Angel now, “this is your way of the Cross: that you receive no answer to your questions, that none of your petitions are fulfilled, that you receive no consolation, that only the Cross looms before you, that the Cross is placed on your shoulders, that you be blind, and nevertheless faithful, that you be nothing, and nevertheless faithful, that you say “yes” to whatever the Lord calls you.

This is to be your expiation before the eyes of God and all the Angels, so that the Lord, in His love for the Church, may give to the Council [in our day, the Synod] the grace of undivided unity!” (Readings, Fall 1962)

Finally, the Opus Angelorum is a militant community, engaged in spiritual warfare. The Angels lead and protect us against the spiritual blindness of our days—gender ideology, abortion, euthanasia and the culture of death—enlightening our spiritual vision and strengthening our will always to say “no” to temptation, and a clear “yes” to God. In this sense,

the Holy Angels are fighters.
Thus, the essence of the Work of the Angels is a discerning of the causes, of the necessity of battle against the evil one, the un-spirit; it is a drawing together of all the aids for this battle against the evil one.

The battle for souls takes place not in great spiritual showdowns with the fallen spirits, but in the many small, inconspicuous trials of everyday life, where God calls us to prove our love for Him by dying to self again and again. This is the meaning of expiation for priests in the Work of the Holy Angels. Through adoration, silence and contemplation, we grow in ever greater union with Jesus Christ. Now the Angels want to train us further to become instruments in His hands for the salvation of souls.

Accompanying Our Lord on the Cross

But we cannot become instruments until we have followed the Lord on His way of the Cross and learned to die to ourselves out of love for God and for souls. In this sense, the weekly commemoration of the Lord’s Passion is so essential for the spiritual life of the members of Opus Angelorum. Every Thursday evening to Friday afternoon, we remember what Our Lord has suffered out of love for us. Especially in Lent, we want to walk with the Lord on His way of the Cross, compassionate Him in His sufferings and follow after the example of His self-giving love. In this way, when we have learned to die to ourselves spiritually, we will become docile instruments in the hands of the Angels for the salvation of souls. Mother Gabriele, who suffered the Passion with Our Lord every week, writes in one Way of the Cross:

The Lord said, “Whoever wishes to come after Me, let him take up his cross and follow Me.” Does this not mean, “Come with Me!”? The Lord does not say, “Whoever follows Me will have a long, rich life, full of honors.” He gives Himself in His love and in His Cross. And what He once said to His disciples, the same is true here. His love extends that far. He requires of you the same love and fidelity and courage in bearing the Cross as He required of His own Mother, of His closest Apostles and Saints. What counts is not what you do, but how you perform your work, whether it is out of love or out of habit, whether it is with grumbling or with joy: This is what gives it value for eternity. From being a student of love, you must become a master of the love of God.

… God alone knows where He is leading you, how long you are to follow Him and what your talent is, which you are to return to Him. But one day you will be standing at the goal, exulting! …The light in your heart never went out! Hear them singing, the Angels, in resounding exultation: Bless the Lord and praise Him, heaven and earth! The one who was called is here! (Come with Me! 11 and 12)

Especially in this season of Lent, we want to become ever more mindful of our Lord’s call: Follow Me! Come with Me! We follow because we love, and we love because we have witnessed the love “to the end” of Jesus on the Cross. Always conscious and contrite over our own sins, we love all the more in the knowledge that Jesus died for me! And the more we encounter this personal love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, the more we will open our own hearts to love, to sacrifice, to generous self-giving. And the more we will rise to a new life of grace and rejoice with Him at the Resurrection! Therefore, with the Sorrowful Mother and the holy Angels, let us enter into this holy season of Lent, ready to accompany Our Lord in His passion and death, contemplating, interceding, keeping silence and walking with Him, that we may be transformed by His Cross and bear witness to Him and His love before the world.


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