Our Heavenly Friends
George Elliot, an English novelist, was one
of the leading writers of the Victorian era.
In one of her books, she realistically writes,
"The golden moments in the stream of
life rush past us and we see nothing but
sand; the angels come to visit us, and we
only know them when they are gone."
I remember when I first travelled to Canada
and United States in 1993, I was very surprised
to realize that the angels are not out of
fashion, on the contrary they are very popular,
if one were to form an opinion on the amount
of books and trinkets available for sale.
Well, they deserve to be popular because
they are just great friends of mankind.
The desert Fathers relate that once there
was a novice who was suffering terribly because
of his temptations of lust. The temptations
were great and he felt he could not bear
them anymore. So he went to his Abba - his
spiritual director - and told him: "Abba,
I reckon I had better go back home. The devil
of lust is breaking me to pieces. He is ruining
my life. I will never succeed in being a
good hermit." The Abba, an expert in
the struggle against the devil, looked at
him and said: "Come, let us go out for
a walk." The novice just followed him,
even though he did not understand the reason
for this walk.
Whilst they were walking, the Abba exposed
to him in a dramatic way an important key
to sensible living. He told him: "My
son, look to the left". The novice looked
to the left… and he was terrorized. To the
left he saw twenty vicious dogs, full of
rage, foam coming out of their mouth, all
set to attack him. "What are these?"
stuttered the novice to the Abba. "My
son," replied the Abba, "those
are the devils that God disposed to attack
you, because, as Abba Anthony says, no one
can be saved without temptations. It is the
temptations that keep us awake and ready
for the struggle."
The novice, who used to think that he had
only one devil - the devil of lust - was
now petrified. If just one devil was giving
him a hell of a time, what would twenty do?!
The Abba, being a wise and holy man, immediately
read his thoughts and so he told him: "My
son, why are you so quickly disheartened?
Look now to your right." He looked to
the right and his face lit up with joy, because
to his right he saw twenty thousand fine-looking
and physically powerful angels. He did not
need to ask who those angels were. He realised
that those angels were planned by God in
his infinite mercy and great wisdom, to defend
him. He realised that he was not alone in
his struggle. Never.
So the novice could go back to his hut, strengthened
by the new light he had received. He had
the angels to defend him.
God said it. "See, I am sending an angel
before you, to guard you on the way and bring
you to the place I have prepared." They
are our friends, and as St Bernard says,
"they keep their word, they are wise
and strong." So what do we have to be
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
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