The Irish Spirit – Issue No. 4
From the book Travelling Light by Daniel O’Leary
When we find ourselves in trouble or struggling with external anxieties, our guardian angels are there to support us.
When we were children, having been beaten in a fight, or if the odds seemed too great, we would call on, or threaten the opposition with our fathers. (In actual fact, I have seen nobody to put the fear of God into even the biggest of bullies as the impassioned mother!) In all walks of life, both in professional and personal affairs, we look for help, we send for reinforcements, we call up the reserves. Even Jesus, in his final and most intense crisis, was well aware of the legions of angels waiting for his signal. This passage is about our guardian angels. Do you remember our sometimes perfunctory morning commitment to our invisible and holy minder? We were probably closer to them then than now.
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day, be at my side,
To teach and guard, to rule and guide.
Almost everyone will have had a mysterious, unexplained occurrence in the course of life. The lucky escapes, however, the unexplained little miracles, the sudden rescue against all the odds and a hundred other unusual moments that most people write off as coincidences or fortunate chance, others thank their angels for. Dismissed with the rosary, benediction and Gregorian chant, we are now witnessing a rather shamefaced reclaiming of these gifts and so many other lost graces since the Vatican Council of the sixties. Guardian Angels were among the casualties. But now they are well and truly restored.
As many people are becoming more comfortable with an increasingly spiritual and mystical dimension to life, accepting the possibilities of holy presences everywhere (as the old and new Catholic catechisms of the faith assure us), there is an immense belief springing up in the old teaching of a divinely-designated angel, appointed to take care of each one of us, all our lives long. Her task is to guard and guide us, to advise and warn us, to anticipate the dangers in our path. Sometimes we may have more than one. A very wise man in Dublin once told me that I had seven. One of them is the guardian angel of all my relationships (who is, incidentally, severely overworked!)
This is about the divine and delightful spiritual guide at our disposal every minute of the day. It is about pausing for a brief chat, a moment to ask for help, maybe to scream for it, a turning aside in private intimacy, as one might do with a tried and trusted friend. Our spiritual self has a natural affinity with angels. Many searchers are finding a new voice with which to address their heavenly companions. As with our dreams, our angels wait to be called in and called up. They will then lead us to the Holy One in the sanctuary of our souls. In this place, the external anxieties and confusions of our lives are seen in their true colours and in perspective. They become manageable.
There is a whole, beautiful world within and around the one we live in. The time and place environment we daily inhabit is, if we could but truly see, teeming with a life of energy and with astonishing beings of compassion. Do not be afraid to think in this way, to imagine such a space within and around you, and to live in it. We are surrounded by cynics who ridicule this kind of imagery and conviction. Because they often speak with the voice of ecclesiastical ‘clout’ or medical authority, they keep many needy ones from exploring, and being nurtured by, the very powerful resources and storehouses of nourishment provided for them by a compassionate Parent. Such dismissive critics are often only acting out of their own ignorance, fears and poverty of imagination.
Along with the words of the Deer’s Cry (already mentioned above and also known as St Patrick’s Breastplate) where the ‘mighty strength of the love, obedience and service of the Cherubim, angels and archangels’ is invoked at the beginning of each new day, I love to remember this verse, by John Bate, whenever I’m frightened:
You feel that dangers hold you tight;
remember, nature guards you well.
The way you are is shield all right
from horrors heaped up out of sight.
Be sure that nature guards you well;
trembling within, without so bright,
don’t doubt there was a saving spell
cast at your birth for your delight;
your very nature guards you well.
With typical brevity, Shunryu Suzuki, in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, about Right Attitude in Zen meditation, writes, ‘The point we emphasise is strong confidence in our original nature’. This confidence in original blessing is not always obvious in the emphases of other religions and of most Christian denominations. In Sitting by the Well, Marion Woodman teaches that ‘We are moving into a new paradigm, leaving the old structures behind. Where do we go for guidance? I suggest to you that we have no place but our own well. We all have this well inside. We must drink or die.’