NCRegister: Chastity, for Each and All, is Central to the Life of Holiness

I know I am not alone in my sorrow over the reports of sexual immorality among the clergy of the Church from the scandals of abusive priests of the early 2000s to the more recent revelations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s notorious predatory behavior, the letter of the Honduran seminarians about homosexual activity in their seminary, the stifled report of priestly abuse in Pennsylvania, and so on. The actions of abuse of children and clergy using their power to intimidate those below them into sinful actions and to covering up immoral acts are sins that cry out to heaven for justice.
The words of Jeremiah to the unfaithful Israelites in the readings recently ring true to us today:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ […] ‘Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Ba’al, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’ — only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 7: 3-4, 8-11)

Clergy and lay people in the Church have covered up these sins for too long. One of the many things that need to be improved is the understanding of the virtue of chastity as central to a life of holiness. I think it is not too much to expect that ordained clergy actively seek holiness, and along with holiness comes the formation of all the virtues. We are all called to live chastity; but it looks different in different states in life.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

NCRegister Blog: Cosmetics and the Objectification of Women

She came back from the job interview with a job offer in hand. As I talked to her about the student work position on our college campus, she mentioned that her new boss told her that she would be expected to wear makeup at her job. While I knew that women often wore makeup to work, I had never been required to wear it to work. I felt a little upset for my friend who sat through being told by a man that she — a young, pretty woman — had to wear makeup while men who worked in the same workplace had no such requirement.

Up to this point it had seemed normal to me that one would choose to wear makeup in a professional or formal setting, but when it was imposed on my friend I started to feel that there was a problem with it. With so many women coming out with their stories and accusations of men treating them with impropriety, we need to dig deeper into the causes of this problem. The expectation that women use cosmetics is just one of many contributing factors our society’s tendency to reduce women to objects to be used rather than human persons to be loved.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

NCRegister Blog:What It Means to Entrust Children Who Die Without Baptism to God’s Mercy

The burial of our Léonie (named for Servant of God Léonie Martin).

 A statistic that I have been hearing a lot is that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. In my case it has been 3 in 7. So, as you can imagine, I have spent a good amount of time trying to come to grips with the fact that we all come into existence with Original Sin, and that Baptism is necessary for salvation, and that I was simply unable to baptize three of my children because they died inside me.

The Church says nothing certain about what happens to these children after they die, only that “as regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them.” (CCC 1261)

What exactly does it mean to entrust these children to the mercy of God?

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Christ Did Not Say this Call was Easy…(BIS and NCRegister Posts)

Today is my devotion day over at Blessed is She. When I wrote this devotion about making sacrifices and the challenge of living out the Gospel in our daily lives, I did not know that would have also written about a very challenging application of it in loving our enemy and those in need at the Register this week.

I am seeing that what it comes down to is radical love and a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. Here are the posts and links to them:

The Temple of God

Every moment of even the slightest suffering that we bear, we can unite to His One Sacrifice. We can choose in our daily lives to habitually participate in Christ’s One Sacrifice, and through His suffering our suffering can bring grace into our lives and the lives of those for whom we pray. For we are temples of God, and as temples, we are a place of sacrifice.

In the Gospel today Christ asks of us some very hard things: turn the other cheek, give away your cloak, go the extra mile, give to the one who asks of you, and love your enemies. These decisions are sacrifices. These choices unite us to Christ…

I think about the kind of nation I would want my children to live in, and while I would love for them to have peace and prosperity, I worry more about their immortal souls than whether or not they will be persecuted. I know that they will be. There is no denying that. Christ told us so: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Christian has always been persecuted. The model of radical love is one that I want them to follow rather than that of cowering in fear behind the secure borders of our country.

It is time to overcome our fears and meet those different from us with radical charity, so that we might hope to be among the righteous.

Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’
And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.‘ (Matthew 25:37-40)

The Wine-Press of the Wrath of God

Today, in the Traditional Roman Catholic calendar, is the octave day of the Nativity of John the Baptist and the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. The professor recently came across this website which has the Divine Office dating back to the pre-Tridentine church. This morning, since the Feast of the Most Precious Blood is not in the New calendar, the professor suggested we pray from the old breviary. And in the old office was this beautiful hymn to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. The professor wrote his own thoughts about the feast and the hymn on his blog.

This hymn speaks to one’s soul about the mercy of God, the out-pouring of the Blood of His Son for us. The part that particularly struck me, but all of it is so, so, beautiful, is the stanza towards the end: 

In full atonement of our guilt,
Careless of self, the Saviour trod—
E’en till his heart’s best blood was spilt—
The wine-press of the wrath of God.

The stanza evokes an image of the crushed Body of Christ, His Blood gushing forth, and for what, for us. And then there is the image of bathing in that precious Blood which is gushing forth, and receiving healing and mercy. 

Come, bathe you in the healing flood,
All ye who mourn, by sin opprest;
Your only hope is Jesus’ blood,
His sacred heart your only rest.

What more can I say, my only hope is Jesus’ blood.

Di Guillaume Courtois (called “Il Borgognone”) after a Bernini’s drawing – [1], Public Domain

Here is the full hymn:

alvete Christi vulnera

Hail, holy wounds of Jesus, hail,
Sweet pledges of the saving rood,
Whence flow the streams that never fail,
The purple streams of his dear blood.

Brighter than brightest stars ye show,
Than sweetest rose your scent more rare,
No Indian gem may match your glow,
No honey’s taste with yours compare.

Portals ye are to that dear home
Wherein our wearied souls may hide,
Whereto no angry foe can come,
The heart of Jesus crucified.

What countless stripes our Jesus bore,
All naked left in Pilate’s hall!
From his torn flesh how red a shower
Did round his sacred person fall!

His beauteous brow, oh, shame and grief,
By the sharp thorny crown is riven;
Through hands and feet, without relief,
The cruel nails are rudely driven.

But when for our poor sakes he died,
A willing priest by love subdued,
The soldier’s lance transfixed his side,
Forth flowed the water and the blood.

In full atonement of our guilt,
Careless of self, the Saviour trod—
E’en till his heart’s best blood was spilt—
The wine-press of the wrath of God.

Come, bathe you in the healing flood,
All ye who mourn, by sin opprest;
Your only hope is Jesus’ blood,
His sacred heart your only rest.

All praise to him, the Eternal Son,
At God’s right hand enthroned above,
Whose blood our full redemption won,
Whose Spirit seals the gift of love.

Seven Quick Takes, April 11

1. We have a walking one year old! F at 17 months has been our latest walker so far. She is a bit of a perfectionist, I think, and did not want to commit to walking until she was sure she could do it completely. She is now walking about 95% of the time, a huge difference from about 2% of the time. It is pretty cute to see her stand up, get set to waddle, and walk with her elbows at her side and her hands sticking out to each side with her fingers spread wide. It does make life a little more complicated since she wants to spend every second she is awake “‘side” in the backyard waddling around after her sisters. When she is not out with them, she stands on the kitchen nook bench and watches longingly. Occassionally, while watching she will get down and go to the door demanding, “Socks! Shoes! ‘Side!” And becomes angry when she is refused.

2. Last night F woke up around 1:30am with an awful cough, wheezy breath, and a hot little body.  I nursed her and put her back to bed only for her to wake up again 30 minutes later. The poor girl was so sad and could not even say words without talking. We decided to give her some pain relief and I finally got her comfortable after nursing again. She slept until 8am, but was still coughing ans wheezing, so we skipped gym co-op and went up to the doctor instead. I am maybe a little over cautious when it comes to breathing issues, but we do have a family history of asthma on both sides, and L has already had episodes. By the time we saw the doctor she was acting a lot better and did not cough for him once. He said it would be okay to nebulize her until the wheezing goes away even though her lungs sounded clear. I do wonder if maybe she is developing seasonal allergies, and they were triggered by the crunchy leaf bath she received from L in the backyard yesterday.

3. To encourage the big girls in our outing to the doctor this morning, I promised them fried cheese curds from Culvers, if they were good. There is a Culvers just past the highway we take home from the doctor, and since we realized that they have this delectable wonder of a food, it has always been in the back of my mind. We might have to make it a tradition. First of all, they are meatless, so they are okay on Friday. Second, they are cheese not potato, so healthier because of protein. I can’t believe I never stopped there while pregnant with F. I just always went to Burger King across the way for fries and a milkshake. Now it is Culvers all the way. Thirdly, a large is just the right size for the girls and I to split, and once they cool a little bit they squeak! I am going to try using my HSA card next time, because I am pretty sure the necessary stop at Culvers is a medical expense that counts towards our deductible. Just saying…

4. The best fried cheese curds we have ever had are not from Culvers or the State Fair, but from a family restaurant in Albert Lea, MN called The Trumbles. They have typical family restaurant fair and quality, but when we saw the cheese curds on the menu, we knew that they would be done to perfection. And they were. We have stopped there twice on our way home from St. Louis, but usually we just stop at a Culvers 30 minutes from Minnesota, because it makes a perfect second and only stop in the 8 1/2 hour drive. If we waited for Albert Lea, we would have to make three stops.

5. Today at lunch, L (3) told me her understanding of Hell and Purgatory:

L: “If you are just a little bit bad and a little bit good, when you die, you go to Purgatory for a time out, and then you go to Heaven. If you are really bad, when you die, you go to Hell and stay there forever!”
Me: “That’s right. Where did you learn that?”
L: “G told me!”
G (5 and in a matter of fact tone): “Daddy told me all about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory last summer.”

 6. For those of you not in Minnesota, I just want to let you know that, while we have snow on the ground in some places still, Wednesday was sunny with a high of 75! It was glorious. Next week does not promise to be as warm, but anything about 30 is okay with me! Above 40 is even better, and I dare not hope too much for 50s, since this is April in Minnesota after all. M is going to build a garden box this weekend, and we might get some things in the ground next week. And since F is finally walking and loves to run around the yard, I can spend a good amount of time gardening.

St. Gemma in her final resting place in the Sanctuary of St. Gemma in Lucca, Italy. M took this photo when we stopped in Lucca for a couple of hours.

7. Finally, I want to wish you all a happy Feast of St. Gemma Galgani. She is my Confirmation saint, and had a really intense life in sickness and in prayer. Here is an account of her last months of life during which she experienced the Passion on Good Friday with Jesus and passed away on Holy Saturday. To celebrate I made some hot cross buns, using this delicious recipe:

Leftover after breakfast.

For more Quick Takes head on over to Jen’s Conversion Diary!

Both Mass of the Roman Rite are Tradition

Photo by Lawrence OP.
As is usual in articles about the liturgy, there was division in the comments on my articles about devotion to the old Mass and about participation in the Mass from people who prefer the Extraordinary Form and from those who prefer the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This is my attempt to find a balance between the two sides, and be open to the whole of the Church’s traditions.

The novel A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. begins 600 years after a nuclear war that destroyed the bulk of civilization. The story opens upon a monastery were books are being hidden and preserved. They are being hidden because after the war, there had been a movement known as the Simplification, where masses of people went around destroying books and killing anyone who tried to keep books hidden. They were afraid of knowledge, because it had led to the awful war. A man, Leibowitz, started a secluded monastery to preserve surviving books and history. The monks spend their days copying and memorizing the books and trying to relearn much of what was lost. Many of the books are so piecemeal, that they cannot understand them. Catholicism has developed over 600 years in a world hostile to knowledge and shaking from the effects of mass destruction. The traditions that have been passed down must be interpreted for the people of their present time. Some of the old traditions they cannot make sense of and some of them are very exaggerated. The sense of liturgical time and the liturgical ceremonies are much more intense than they were before the war, but they suit the people of the time.

Photo by Lawerence OP.Photo by Lawerence OP.

I sometimes feel, as a generation that is rediscovering old traditions, that we are doing the same thing. There are things in the Church that were simplified, and when we discover the more ancient traditions and try to take part in them, it is different than it was 50 years ago. There was something lost in all those changes that we cannot get back, but that does not mean that we cannot carry the traditions on. We are relearning them, and applying them to our lives now.

Thanks to Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificam in 2007, which allowed wider use of the old Mass, now called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, following up on Pope Blessed John Paul II’s allowance in 1988, many more are discovering the older traditions that are such an essential part of the liturgy. Many have hoped that the old traditions would have an effect on the new traditions, and that the new Mass, the Ordinary Form, would be reworked to be less unlike the EF. Lately, on the New Liturgical Movement, there has been a lot of discussion on whether this “Reform of the Reform” is dead; those who hold this position believe that organic growth, the way that the liturgy developed from the time of Christ to Vatican II, of the new Mass is not possible. I would propose that the Church will not remain stationary when it comes to the liturgy, but that the changes will continue to happen slowly. They will take time, much more time than many would like. (There is an informative and interesting five part discussion of the state of the Reform of the Reform by Joseph Shaw on his blog.)
We were given the new Mass, put together by some Council Fathers, a little over 40 years ago. It was a break from the organic development that the old liturgy had come from, but the new Mass is a part of our tradition now. It is all that two generations have known, and only recently, have these generations been exposed to the older traditions of the Mass. Some have embraced it and seek out the Extraordinary Form, but most younger people go to the Ordinary Form. Those born since 1970 have been formed by and in the new liturgy; it is apart of their formation as Catholics. Even those born in the late 50s and 60s have very little memory of the old Mass. The New Mass is now rooted in the body of the Church.

The changing of the liturgy is not going to happen now; it is not going to happen next year. Those who prefer the Ordinary Form, need not fear that it is going to be taken forcefully from them, and those who prefer the Extraordinary Form are being given a chance to attend it in more and more places. They are both available to the faithful.

Is having the two forms in one rite necessarily a problem? Is it a situation that is harmful to the Church? I say not. While maybe it is unprecedented to have two Masses in one rite, a diversity of liturgies is nothing new to the Church. And as Pope Benedict XVI said in Summorum Pontificum, the old Mass was never juridically abrogated. The tension of the two forms of the Roman Rite was put there from the earliest implementation of the New Mass. In the earliest centuries of the Church, there was a different rite in most cities. The Ambrosian Rite of Milan still exists to this day, not to mention all of the Eastern Rites and their unique liturgies. In the Middle Ages up to Vatican II, many Roman Rite religious orders had their own liturgical rites, for example, the Dominicans and the Franciscans. Now we have the Anglican ordinariates in the Roman Church, which have their own liturgy. We are living in a time of liturgical tension, but we must carry on and see what traditions stay with the Church over the next several centuries. Maybe in 500 years, every city will have its own rite again, and the liturgies will be variations of the two Roman Rite Masses. It will still be the Sacrifice of the Mass united with Christ at Calvary.

My husband and I often look at all the Church traditions, the various spiritualities, and the many liturgies and want to take part in them all. We make a point to attend Eastern Rite liturgies occasionally, and read a variety of spiritual books. Why not let oneself be influenced by all of them? I think of the story told by St. Thérèse of Lisieux in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, where her sister Léonie offers a basket of playthings to Thérèse and Céline:

“One day Léonie, thinking no doubt that she was too big to play with dolls, brought us a basket filled with clothes, pretty pieces of stuff, and other trifles on which her doll was laid: “Here, dears,” she said, “choose whatever you like.” Céline looked at it, and took a woollen ball. After thinking about it for a minute, I put out my hand saying: “I choose everything,” and I carried off both doll and basket without more ado.”

St. Thérèse applies this to her call to give herself entirely over to God; it can also be applied to the Church and her liturgy. The Church can have all of the traditions, and live with them. They may, in time, merge together into one liturgy, or maybe having two forms of a rite will not be seen as such a problem in the future. I cannot predict what will happen. Only God knows.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI seemed to have a similar thought in Summorum Pontificum when he said:

I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide.  You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.  In return … widen your hearts also!” (2 Cor 6:11-13).  Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject.  Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.

There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.  In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.  What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.  It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. “

As Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 called his bishops to open their hearts to allowing for the use of the old Mass, Catholics now can see this as a call to open their hearts to both Masses. Whether you prefer one or the other, they are both apart of the Church’s tradition. The universal nature of the Church allows for this. While there are many kinks to be worked out, for example, the differences of liturgical calendars of both forms, it is okay to have the tension. It does not mean that the Church is divided; it just means that she has opened herself up “for everything that the faith itself allows.”

Originally published at Truth and Charity…

Dies Irae: The Feast of All Souls

Today is the Feast of All Souls. With M at a conference and my mom visiting, I went to an Extraordinary Form Missa Canta at St. Agnes this morning by myself. The music was Cristobal de Morales’ Missa Pro Defunctis (Mass for the Dead).  It was beautiful and haunting in a way, but not as haunting as the Dies Irae chant:
The day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the Sibyl!
How much tremor there will be,
when the Judge will come,
investigating everything strictly!
The trumpet, scattering a wondrous sound
through the sepulchres of the regions,
will summon all before the Throne.
Death and nature will marvel,
when the creature arises,
to respond to the Judge.
The written book will be brought forth,
in which all is contained,
from which the world shall be judged.
When therefore the Judge will sit,
whatever hides will appear:
nothing will remain unpunished.
What am I, miserable, then to say?
Which patron to ask,
when [even] the just may [only] hardly be sure?
King of tremendous majesty,
who freely savest those that have to be saved,
save me, Source of mercy.
Remember, merciful Jesus,
That I am the cause of Thy way:
Lest Thou lose me in that day.
Seeking me, Thou sat tired:
Thou redeemed [me] having suffered the Cross:
let not so much hardship be lost.
Just Judge of revenge,
give the gift of remission
before the day of reckoning.
I sigh, like the guilty one:
my face reddens in guilt:
Spare the supplicating one, God.
Thou who absolved Mary,
and heardest the Robber,
gavest hope to me, too.
My prayers are not worthy:
however, Thou, Good [Lord], do good,
lest I am burned up by eternal fire.
Grant me a place among the sheep,
and take me out from among the goats,
setting me on the right side.
Once the cursed have been rebuked,
sentenced to acrid flames:
Call Thou me with the blessed.
I meekly and humbly pray,
[my] heart is as crushed as the ashes:
perform the healing of mine end.
Tearful will be that day,
on which from the ash arises
the guilty man who is to be judged.
Spare him therefore, God.
Merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen. 
Our pastor, Fr. Moriarty, gave a very beautiful homily. He talked about how death is a mystery, and how we cannot really know where the dead are, whether they have been judged for eternal life or damnation. In fact, the Church does not ever say that specific people have been damned, but unless a person is a canonized Saint, then we should hope and pray for their soul. I always pray for the repose of the souls (when they leave purgatory and enter Heaven) my friends and relatives who have passed away, but especially on the Feast of All Souls. It also gives me hope for myself, when I pray stanzas that say: “Thou who absolved Mary, and heardest the Robber, gavest hope to me, too.”
Eternal Rest give unto them, Oh Lord;
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

When a Place Becomes Home

Late October evenings and afternoons (the times I normally write) are always taken up with costume sewing (my only sewing in two years) and playoff baseball. That is why I have been fairly silent on my blog these days. But we have been going full steam ahead with life and discovering that we are fairly busy. I have a lot of random things I am thinking about writing, but I a hoping to come up with something that is not random. 

When I wrote about traveling a lot the other week, I did not mention the idea that my husband and I have about “home places”. A home place is a place that feels like home for some significant reason; most of my home places are places I have close family that I visit frequently or places I have lived. My first home place was St. Louis, which was followed closely by my grandparents town on the West side of Cleveland. Every time I drive into there neighborhood, I am flooded with the familiar feelings of being somewhere that I know and love. We have a lot of home places. In college, Steubenville became a home place. I did not plan on spending two summers there when I first arrived, but because I did I spent the bulk of four years living there. While I was in college my husband’s (then boy friend and then fiance) home town in Michigan became a home place. Then together Buffalo, NY became our first married home place; going back again was like going home. But when we came back to St. Paul, approaching the city, and coming into our driveway, we found home again.

As a kid I never thought I would want to live anywhere, but St. Louis. When friends moved away, I always thought that I would never want to. Then I decided to go away to college, and now I live in Siberia Minnesota. Sometimes I get my life confused with the second sister in Fiddler on the Roof.

“And he asks you join him in that frozen wasteland?” 
“No, Papa, I want to go! I want to help him in his work.”
I wonder what makes a place home? Is is being with the people there, or is it the actual place? Maybe it is both. The places that I think of as home are places where I have spent meaningful time. The places are only great places in my mind and meaningful to me, because they have been made meaningful. Buffalo is meaningful because it is where my first two children were born, where I was a newlywed, and where I made my first friends as an adult. We are body and soul, and when we live in places our whole person lives there. I love St. Louis, because of the physical place, but also because it is where I was formed as young girl. 
Sometimes when I think about Heaven, I have a hard time imagining being there, especially as a separated soul. We are meant to be both body and soul, and I think that our Earthly homes must prefigure our Heavenly Home to some extent. And then today is the Feast of All Saints, and at Mass there was a description of Heaven:

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.” -From Revelations 7

 Heaven is being united in love to God and others, so places that are our homes are where we have experienced love. Does that sound right? I cannot exactly grasp what Heaven will be like, but if I God in His great mercy takes me to Heaven, it will be the best home place I have ever experienced.

Under the Charge of the Angels

Yesterday was our family’s first trip to the Emergency Room. Little L (2.5) hit her head while playing and she must have hit it hard because she started howling more than her normal dramatic crying. When she still exhibited abnormal symptoms over an hour later I conferred with her doctor and took her to the ER. She changed for the best, and the doctor said she may have had a mild concussion but that we could not know for sure. I started to wonder after the hospital visit, if it might have been a lot worse had I not gotten into the habit of praying to my children’s guardian angels several years ago.

G (4.5) has been really excited about angels since the summer when her Vacation Bible School theme included angels. We started praying the “Angel of God” prayer everyday with the kids at that point. On Saturday, we went to an evening Mass at my grandparent’s parish, St. Raphael’s. They were given permission to celebrate the Feast of the Archangels even though it fell on a Sunday this year. There was a nice homily on St. Raphael and his acts in the book of Tobit.

As we drove from Cleveland to St. Paul on Sunday, I asked M to explain what St. Thomas says about angels. A few things about them stuck with me.

1. There are more angels than the sum of all material beings that have existed or will ever exist: that is a lot of angels!

2. Angels can control the material world. They have a real impact on us.

3. St. Thomas says that angels guard over individual humans, but also all of nature.

Today is the Memorial of the Most Holy Guardian Angels. The Gospel at Mass is from Matthew:
           At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
          “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
         “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

          “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-10)

 I was wondering where angels came into that reading, since the theme throughout the readings had been angels. It did not surprise me that the Gospel started off being about little children, because since I have been a parent, angels have always been associated with little children. I think that children are more open to the promptings and protection of their angels. The Baltimore Catechism, in the chapter on sin, says that children are given a special grace to not commit a mortal sin. But then God gives us angels to guide all of us.

Here are two excerpts from St. Thomas on the Guardian Angels (P.1, Q.113, A. 1):

By free-will man can avoid evil to a certain degree, but not in any sufficient degree; forasmuch as he is weak in affection towards good on account of the manifold passions of the soul. Likewise universal natural knowledge of the law, which by nature belongs to man, to a certain degree directs man to good, but not in a sufficient degree; because in the application of the universal principles of law to particular actions man happens to be deficient in many ways. Hence it is written (Wisdom 9:14): “The thoughts of mortal men are fearful, and our counsels uncertain.” Thus man needs to be guarded by the angels. 


As men depart from the natural instinct of good by reason of a sinful passion, so also do they depart from the instigation of the good angels, which takes place invisibly when they enlighten man that he may do what is right. Hence that men perish is not to be imputed to the negligence of the angels but to the malice of men. That they sometimes appear to men visibly outside the ordinary course of nature comes from a special grace of God, as likewise that miracles occur outside the order of nature. 

 Our angels are always urging us on to do the good, but since we are weak and deficient we often do not do good. Even so, we are still under the charge of the angels, and today is a good day to remember them and to remember to pray to them to help us be mindful of their urgings. And also to pray for the angels of the humans in our own charge.