Angels have three basic functions or roles in the Catholic tradition. They protect, guide and announce good news, all of which are rooted in God and God’s will for humankind. The archangels who we celebrate today, the only ones named in Scripture, remind us of these three roles. Michael symbolizes protection, Raphael guides and Gabriel announces good news. All three, like all the manifestations of God’s love for the world, are given to us to be imitated.
Today, I was thinking how important it is to protect the good name of others from slander and detraction. To be sure, if we refuse to gossip, we are like angels for those who are often talked about, even in the public arena, and our silence becomes very loud. I had a classmate in grammar school who was well schooled in this kind of angelic behavior. Whenever we began to talk about others in a negative way, especially our parents or teachers, he would get very quiet, and the frozen smile on his face reminded us to be more careful in speech.
Secondly, we have all had guides, some of whom may have tried to get us to risk, to think outside the box, in order to proclaim good news. My friend, Fr. Bill Quirk (RIP) an angel for me many times over, once reminded me that I had no business preaching if I did not have at least three Epiphanies a day. When Bill first spoke of epiphanies to me, I thought he was teasing, but he was very serious. Again, his face gave him away. We were playing golf and I was getting angrier and angrier at my clubs, the golf balls, and the golf course itself without accepting any responsibility for my poor play. With an awkward smile, Bill told me it was all right to get upset, but that I wasting a perfectly beautiful day by not paying attention to the glory of creation all around me. Lesson learned, at least for the day!
Finally, we need to be grateful for all those whose lives announce good news. Capuchin friars often call these people “fratach”, brothers who always think of the community first, who pick up after others, who empty the dish washer, who make a special dessert when they notice that the friars are a bit glum. Our Jewish friends use the Yiddish word “mensch” to praise those who are full of integrity, simplicity and goodness. These angels in our life remind us every day that God is among us, thinking of us first, forgiving us and encouraging us to start each day with a fresh spirit of hope.
Today, be an angel for someone in need. Try not to use words.