The Feast of St Michael and All Angels
In our Order, today is the feast not only of the Archangels, but of St Michael and All Angels, including our guardian angels. That is reflected in the collect of today’s Mass, which doesn’t even mention St Michael by name. What it does say is “O God, who dispose in marvelous order ministries both angelic and human, graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us”. “Those who watch over us are obviously our guardian angels.
But what does “watch over us” mean? It doesn’t mean that we will always be shielded from anguish or defeat, from the triumph of our enemies, or even from apparently hopeless and final failure, or miserable death. Our Lord Himself stumbled and fell three times during his Passion, and thousands of Christians have led troubled lives and died as martyrs. The Cross of Christ stands as the emblem and the explanation of their lives, which fools consider madness, and their end without honor. Where then were their guardian angels?
They were there, just as they were with Elisha in the second book of Kings (2 Kings 6:8-17). Some of the saints with eyes spiritually opened have seen them, even when persecutors were flashing their weapons. The sense of God’s protection has never deserted his saints, even when, in the eyes of the world, they seemed to have been completely abandoned. Our Founders referred to early Cîteaux as “the barren one which had no offspring”, but later “God did not cease to multiply his people, and to increase their joy”. That suggests that God himself had sent an angel before our Founders to guard them on the way and bring them to the place He had prepared, the wilderness of Cîteaux.
From their experience we can see that God’s promise of a guardian angel will be fulfilled. He never promised us a heaven on earth. But so long as we heed the voice of our guardian angel and carry out all God tells us, God will be an enemy to our enemies and a foe to our foes. We will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day. God will not permit any mortal force, or any combination of forces, to hinder the accomplishment of the task entrusted to his servants. It is the sense of this truth which enabled the early Cistercians to face insuperable difficulties, and achieve impossible dreams.
But even if it had turned out otherwise, if the early Cistercians had died of their austerities, God’s promise would still have been fulfilled. The guardian angels are still there, and are there for a purpose even greater and more eternal. Their mission is not necessarily to deliver the perishing body, but to carry into God’s glory the immortal soul, after protecting and encouraging us throughout our life. May we be attentive to all the promptings of our guardian angels, who surround us with loving care, so that we too may one day share with them the vision of our heavenly Father.