The Angels

 The Angel Guardian at Death

God having entrusted the care of our souls to our Guardian Angels, these Heavenly friends are animated with the sincere desire of procuring us a happy death. There is no means they do not employ to encourage us and to prepare us for it; especially do they urge us to lead good lives. When they see that the moment of death is approaching, they redouble their care and attention. They awaken the vigilance of those who surround us. Our Lord allowed St. Philip Neri several times to see Angels suggesting to those who were around the sick the words they should address to them. In fine they spare nothing that we may depart this life only after having "washed our robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb."

"We read in the lives of many Saints that their holy Guardian Angels were visibly present at their last hour, comforting them in their final struggle, strengthening them against the redoubled attacks of Hell, announcing to them the hour of their death and giving them the assurance that they would be heirs of the kingdom of Heaven. Not a few of the Saints at their death were seen being carried by exultant Angels into Paradise. [See the Gallery for an image of St. Mary Magdalen and the Angels.] Frequently, too, the holy Guardian Angels have procured for their protégés the grace of a happy death by calling a priest to administer the last Sacraments.

"In the acts of Blessed John Avila of Spain, we find the following incident, the Saint himself vouching for the truth of it. In the year 1575, the Rev. Father Centenares, a member of Blessed John's Community, was awakened one stormy night and requested to take Holy Viaticum to a dying person. At first the priest hesitated and thought to wait until morning, as he did not know the way and the night was very dark. But love of God triumphed over fear and he started out, taking with him two consecrated Hosts. But scarcely had he left the church when two youths of Heavenly appearance placed themselves at his right and left side. They held burning candles, which were not extinguished by the falling rain and accompanied the priest to the sick person and back again to the church. When he had placed the sacred Host in the tabernacle they vanished as suddenly as they had appeared. While the good priest was wondering in astonishment at this occurrence, he received a message from Blessed John which contained the words: 'Do not be astonished at what has happened to you this night. It is quite certain that the two youths whom you saw were Angels sent by God to reward your zeal . . .'."

They also inspire the sick with good sentiments and their ministrations continue even after death. "One of the most beautiful and consoling features of the Church's teaching concerning the Guardian Angels is the fact that the mission of the holy Angels does not terminate with the earthly life of their charges, but only upon the entrance into Paradise of those souls committed to their care." "Assist him, ye Saints of God," the Church prays as the soul is separated from the body, "come forth to meet him, ye Angels of the lord, receive his soul and present it in the sight of the Most High." Surely the Guardian Angel must then play an important role. Accompanied therefore, by still other Angelic spirits, the Angel Guardian bears up to God the soul of the just at its departure from this life, while he sings:

"My Father gave
In charge to me
This child of earth
E'en from his birth.
To serve and save, Alleluia,
And saved is he.

"This child of clay
To me was given,
To rear and train
By sorrow and pain
In the narrow way, Alleluia,
From earth to Heaven."

-----Cardinal Newman

"Should it happen that at the moment of death a soul in the state of grace is not yet worthy to behold the Face of the Most High, the Angel Guardian conducts it to Purgatory-----the place of its purification-----and thereafter is most zealous in procuring for it all the assistance and consolation in its power." Most touchingly Cardinal Newman describes the entrance of the soul into its new abode:

"Now let the golden prison ope its gates,
Making sweet music, as each fold revolves
Upon its ready hinge. And ye, great powers,
Angels of Purgatory, receive from me
My charge, a precious soul, until the day,
When, from all bond and forfeiture released,
I shall reclaim it for the courts of light."

And as he takes his leave, the Angel sweetly consoles his protégé:

"Softly and gently, dearly-ransom'd soul,
In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,
And, o'er the penal waters, as they roll,
I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.

"Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
Shall tend and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;
And Masses on the earth, and prayers in Heaven,
Shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most Highest.

"Farewell, but not forever, brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow."

Meanwhile, however, during its shorter or longer sojourn in Purgatory, the Guardian Angel will often visit the soul to bring it relief and comfort. In the writings of the Holy Fathers, it is revealed that the Angels descend to the altars of earth, and drawing the Precious Blood of Jesus from the golden chalices during the thousands of holy Masses daily celebrated, they shower it like a beneficent dew upon the flames of Purgatory. "What untold happiness," exclaims Father Walz, "this daily offering of the Precious Blood through the Angels is capable of producing in Purgatory. The suffering souls whom we have made blessed spirits in this manner, truly become 'priests' in Heaven, and 'reign on earth' according to the words of the Apocalypse, by ministering to our needs through their intercession at the Throne of God."

When at last the soul is freed from every stain and debt of sin, at "Mary's bidding, the Queen of Angels and of Saints, the Guardian Angel will fly with it to the celestial Jerusalem, escorted as the Church so beautifully sings, by the jubilant company of the Martyrs and the choirs of Angels, all exulting with him, for the crown is won," the Precious Blood has finally triumphed. Happy and blessed shall we be, if by our devotion to and love of our Heavenly companion, we deserve to be particularly assisted by him at our last hour. May he offer for us then to the God of mercy, the Divine Blood, our ransom and our passport to Heaven's eternal joys.