Association of Priests

Year of Priesthood XI
Vol. XI, June 2010

Priest - like and with the Angels
Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

We approach the end of the Year for Priests. Consider how many countless souls have been praying for us; how many graces God has granted us. With the help of our heavenly Mother and the holy angels we have been up until now faithful to our calling from the Father; we have dedicated ourselves to the priestly ministry in persona Christi – in the person of the Son, with the love and zeal of the Holy Spirit. Let us conclude this Year with humble and profound gratitude! And at the same time, let us restart anew in the likeness of the holy angels and in union with them. To this end, a few thoughts.

1. Like the holy angels
Like the holy angels, we live in His presence, He is with us and we with Him (cf. Mt 18:10; Jn 12:26; 17:24) in a silent happy testimony of life:

—in recollection and adoration (cf. Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 18; Is 6:2-3),
—in contemplation and dedication to the Divine Revelation and Church teaching (cf. PO 19; Ex 25:18-22; Mt 18:10),
—in cheerful readiness for whatever service His Holiness wills and which the salvation of souls requires; such alacrity is characteristic of all the holy angels (cf. PO 6; Heb 1:14)!

The reflections we made during the Year with the grace of God have shown us that priests are the “happiest people” among all “professionals” (cf. 10th Circular of this year): They live like the angels ascending in prayer and sacrifice and descending with the Word and graces of God (cf. 1st C.); they are ministers of the word like them (5th C.), listening like Mary (6th C.) and serving like her and them (7th, 8th C.), especially in the absolution from sins (9th C.) to the joy of the angels (cf. Lk 15:7,10).

2. With the holy angels
But it is not only the similarity to the angels which causes our special enthusiasm. More important is the fact that they act with us. We imitate the exemplary life of the Saints and enjoy their intercession, but the angels are at our side and act with us even before we call upon them. We saw them acting even at the beginning of our vocation (cf. 3rd C.). They accompany us as they have accompanied many leaders before (cf. 2nd C.). They are especially, yes always, with us in prayer (4th C.). Let us hear some testimonies (cf. petition in the 2nd C.).

a) The prophetic ministry. With regard to our prophetical ministry, a Dutch priest working in Portugal tells the story:
He agreed to give a conference on a Saturday afternoon. On the way to give the talk, he recalled a commitment he had made to hear Confession at the same time. Reflecting over the matter shortly, he resolved to go hear Confessions and entrust the problem of the conference to his Guardian Angel: “Please, take care of this; perhaps noboby will show up, or, maybe they have changed the schedule…whatever.” He was at peace with this solution. – Next morning he met a person who had been at the conference. She complemented on the wonderful talk he had given. – He silently turned to his Guardian Angel and thanked him for this totally unexpected solution to the problem.

b) The administration of the Sacraments or priestly ministry. An American priest in Russia gave this testimony:
I was awakened during the night by the guard at our church in Vladivostok, Russia. A lady was calling to say that her father had been taken to intensive care and perhaps wouldn’t live until morning. He was a Catholic but had lived many years in the Eastern Soviet Union where there were no priests. I told her that I didn’t know where that particular hospital was, I had no car, and no buses or streetcars were working during the night. She said she would send her husband to take me to the hospital. Knowing Russian hospitals, I knew it was practically impossible that they would let me in at night, let alone into the Intensive Care Unit, because there was, of course, no tradition of chaplains at hospitals in the Soviet Union. I prayed to my guardian angel that he and the sick man’s angel should make all the arrangements to let me in. Surprisingly, I had no problem getting into the hospital, but was met with a stiff “No!” at Intensive Care Unit. The physician in charge said I wasn’t medical personnel, and he couldn’t let me in at all without the permission of his supervisor—whom he couldn’t dare approach until morning. I argued that in my country a priest is considered medical personnel because of spiritual healing. But it was “No, no, no!” The dying man’s son-in-law, my driver, argued for a long time too, to no avail. As I turned to leave I asked my angel why he couldn’t make the deal, and suddenly behind me I heard the doctor’s voice: “Uh, how long would it take?” “One minute!” was my answer. He said, “Well, if that’s all—Go ahead!” and I went in to anoint the dying man.

c) In the pastoral service. A German priest in the Philippines remembered this:
The date was approaching on which I had to hand in a document concerning the parish school at the Educational Department. In the mess of many papers, I could not find the document. At first I remained tranquil with the hope that it would appear in time. Finally the day arrived on which I had to hand it in, and it still had not fallen into my hands. I asked my Guardian Angel to show me the document as he certainly knew where it was. I even promised to offer a Holy Mass in his honor if he would just place the document in my hands. While nervously beginning to look for it, the superior of a religious community called and asked if I would be willing to celebrate Holy Mass for his community that day. I answered him that it would be very difficult as “today” I was under special pressure due to a deadline. He understood and withdrew his petition. In closing, he added: “By the way, the last time you were here, you left an envelope. It is still waiting for you in the sacristy.” It immediately became clear to me that that was the document I was looking for! So I told him, “I will be right over, and I’ll be able to say Holy Mass as you requested, too”—the Mass I had just promised my Guardian Angel!

3. And now and in the future?

These examples encourage us to be attentive and heedful to these angelic helpers, and so be better prepared for the future.

a) Angels as companions in the priesthood. Recall the book of Daniel and the help the angel Gabriel offered him, along with the support that St. Michael (cf. Circular Letter XIV, 3). Beyond the explicit promise to Moses: “I send an angel before you” (Ex 23:20), the prophet Zechariah seems to have enjoyed a similar assistance by “the angel who talked with me” (Zech 1:9,14; 2:2). This and a similar case in Malachi 3:1, serve to corroborate a long tradition which speaks of a “Companion Angel” (not another “Guardian Angel”, but still one who always lends assistance). Concretely, one famous testimony of such help is reported by St. Peter Canisius. In his Confessions and Testament he prays to God:

Your glorious Mother gave me her blessing for this new beginning [the religious profession], and this came through the angel, who was given to me before from the altar of Sts. Peter and Paul. He admonished me to get accustomed to having him at my right side and to render him the attention which is due to a venerable person. This should strengthen in me my remembrance of the presence of the messenger of God; for it is greatly useful to have them always before one’s eyes. …It seemed to me that at the profession of vows in the Society of Jesus one receives a special spirit even as they were given to the Apostles at Pentecost.

The religious profession establishes the individual in a permanent state of life like the ordination to the priesthood. Accordingly, priests rightly can count on also receiving a permanent angelic companion.

b) Angels of “my family”. There is another tradition which gives us so much hope and confidence. No one less than Benedict XIV wrote in his treatise on The Doctrine on the beatification of the Servants of God and the Canonization of the Blessed: Theologians agree with St. Bonaventure in the sense that the Guardian Angels are destined not only to individual men, but also to kingdoms and providences. St. Thomas even specifies with reference to Dan 10:13 and 12:1 that these angels come from the choir of the Principalities (cf. Summa Theologiae, p. I, q. 113, a.1). This recommends that we offer “respect to our patron, to the Angel of our country, to the Saintly protector of our parish” (Card. Suenens, Theology of the Apostolate of the Legion of Mary).

It is easy to understand that the angels, as ministers of the Holy Spirit, assist leaders in fulfilling their ministry or stimulate founders to accomplish their work. Consequently, all those who are associated in some way with a particular leader or join a certain group place themselves thereby under the inspiration and influence of the same angel. This means for a priest that he can also confidently turn to the angel of the diocese, of his bishop, of the “parish-family”, to the angels of the individual families in his parish, to the angels of the religious communities in his parish, etc.

Recall Elisha’s prayer when his servant was fearful: “‘O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). May this be our spiritual vision of the vast heavenly help placed at our assistance, and may it, first of all, draw us closer to God and free us from fear and worldly cares. The angels will resolve many problems for the priest, save him much time, and fill his words and sermons with conviction, hope and the presence of God.

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!
Nothing in this world is accomplished without battle, because the enemy in his state of reprobation is tirelessly engaged so that we too all lose divine grace and hope. Therefore, when in this Year for Priests the devil instigated a new attack on the priesthood, we need not be surprised or get upset. His anger is a positive sign that we are on the right way to heaven; were we, contrarily, on the path to perdition he would lull us to sleep and hide. Hence, as we recognize his anger with tranquility, we recognize also God’s help coming to us through the faithful and attentive presence of His angels, as the examples demonstrated. Let us therefore develop a more conscious devotion to the particular angelic helpers in our priestly ministry and continue faithfully, serving with the holy angels and in their likeness, day and night, at every moment of our priestly existence.
Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC