Tuesday 25th November 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Angels And Christmas

December 23, 2013 Frontpage No Comments

By MARIA J. CIRURGIÃO

In preparation for this Christmas 2013, many of us will have engaged in traditional decorating — strings of lights, green trees, candles and pine cones, elaborate Nativity scenes. Certainly not forgotten are the angels, those celestial creatures we delight in visualizing as bridging the great divide between Heaven and Earth on a pair of wings.
We know better, of course. “Angel,” from the Greek angelos, means simply “messenger.” There is no mention in the New Testament of celestial messengers equipped with celestial wings to navigate Earth’s atmosphere. (I’m excluding here the Book of Revelation, or Apocalypse, as best left to trained exegetes.)
It is also worthy of notice that when, in her mature years, Sr. Lucia of Fatima was asked to set down in writing her account of the well-known events of 1917, she acknowledged three preparatory visits to her and her cousins — Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta — by a luminous youth who said, “I am the Angel of Peace.” They saw and heard him, imitated him by prostrating themselves on the ground, and repeated and retained the prayer he taught them. But they saw no wings.

“I’ll Pay!”

To set aside all thought of wings is necessary. If, common mortals that we are, we also set aside the need to be dazzled by luminosity, we are then free to ponder whether we may have in fact encountered our share of angels, clothed in human flesh and blood. I am certain that I have, and it is of one such angel that I wish to write this Christmas.
I was about 13 when I knew Ana Maria; if she had a last name, I did not learn it. Neither a playmate nor a schoolmate, she was already “old” when I first met her — which means that she was perhaps 20. Ana Maria was an orphan, maybe a foundling, and had been raised and educated by the Servants of Our Lady of Fatima, a 20th-century religious order.
The Servants, as they were popularly known, had a number of houses throughout Portugal, including a Center of Social Assistance in the town in which I was born. Not knowing where Ana Maria came from was entirely irrelevant. She lived with the nuns and was an essential part of their presence in town. Exercising the function of cook, she shouldered a colossal responsibility since the nuns operated both a day-care center and a soup kitchen. Like other employees at the center, Ana Maria worked for wages. Very humble wages in her case, certainly, since room and board were taken care of.
Ana Maria looked like no other 20 year old. She was, to put it bluntly, rotund, and her blond hair was closely cropped. Instead of shoes and stockings, she wore durable, wooden clogs on bare feet — no doubt to spare expense — and her bulky skirts descended almost to her ankles. Her gentleness and ready smile kept us teenagers from even thinking of giggling, let alone whispering any comments.
I have two very special memories of Ana Maria. There was one summer day, a particularly hot day, when I answered a knock on the door of our home and there she was. She was passing by on some sort of errand, and asked for a glass of water. I invited her in and handed her the water.
She stood in the kitchen doorway, illuminated from behind by the midday sun — the door faced south — and she sipped her water slowly, watching me as I returned to my occupation: feeding my younger brother. He and I were the only persons in the house, at that moment.
Hardly an event worth remembering? Perhaps. But that non-event left in me an indelible impression of having been visited.
The other memory is of a truly dramatic incident, and I cannot account for the privilege of having witnessed it. I was in the nuns’ reception room, where two of the sisters were dealing with an emergency that had arisen: A little girl had been dropped off for day care who shouldn’t be there; she should be in the hospital. (There was a hospital some 12 miles away, for those who could get to it.) Obviously the little girl’s mother knew how ill she was, but was too poor to do anything about it.
Having examined the child, the Sister Infirmarian greatly feared that the onset of tetanus was eminent. A specific shot was called for, and promptly. Yes, she had all that was required in stock, but her stock must be self-replenishing. Bandages she could give away without charge, but not expensive injections. Mother Superior could lift that restriction, but Mother Superior was absent.
As the two nuns stood there watching the little girl and wringing their hands in true affliction, a clattering of wooden clogs against wooden floors was heard and Ana Maria burst into the room:
“Give her the injection, Sister; please give her the injection,” she implored. “Eu pago. . . . I’ll pay!”
Angelical Words

I’ve had many years to reflect on those words — “I’ll pay, I’ll pay!” — and they grow more significant with the passing of time. The orphan, or foundling, could not remain at her stove, safe in her kitchen, and allow death to claim that little girl, whom perhaps she did not even know. And how did she hear, in the kitchen, of what was taking place in the reception room? How many months’ worth of wages did she forfeit? It’s a safe bet that Ana Maria would not be buying any stockings for a long while.
Whether translated into English as “I’ll pay!” or retained in the only language Ana Maria spoke, “Eu pago! Eu pago!,” her words of intervention at that moment tore asunder the dark cloud of death that was closing in on an innocent life and, by extension, paralyzing two well-meaning adults. The two sisters sprang into action, fetching and administering the injection.
Do angels dwell among us, disguised as common mortals? I’m certain of it. Those were angelical words that Ana Maria spoke, evocative of the timeless “I’ll pay!” that purchased eternal life for sinful mankind.
For what is the lived journey from Bethlehem to Calvary but the fulfillment in time of an eternally spoken “I’ll pay”?
Mere mortals raise all manner of opposition to such words, favoring instead the addictive “I’ll take,” or the contentious, doubly addictive “You’ll pay!” The dark core of human history bears unrelenting witness to such a propensity for exacting payment. If the “fittest” are to prosper, the “unfit” must bear the cost of that prosperity. This age-old confrontation has acquired new respectability by appeal to Charles Darwin, a name that Ana Maria would not have been able to spell. She knew nothing of the prerogatives claimed by “science,” but was entirely clear-headed on the subjects of love and life.
This Christmas, I will set up again in the front yard a weather-beaten, metallic “angel,” holding a trumpet to invisible lips and equipped with wings powered by electricity; it’s cheerful. But I shall also thank God for having been born in a rural Portuguese town, where it was perfectly acceptable for a thirsty passerby to knock on a door and ask for a glass of water.

At Mass

One of the few details I once knew about Ana Maria, and have retained, both complements and illumines what I’ve related above. Those who, for some special reason, attended Mass on a weekday, at 7 a.m., could not miss the presence in the virtually empty church of a rather robust female figure, clothed in long skirts and wearing wooden clogs instead of shoes.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Pope Appoints New Bishop For Gary, USA

(Vatican Radio) The Holy Father has named an Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, Donald J. Hying as the new Bishop of Gary, USA. He succeeds Bishop Dale J. Melczek, whose resignation Pope Francis accepted upon having the age limit. On Monday…Continue Reading

TOP CATHOLIC BISHOPS AIDE ON EXECUTIVE AMNESTY: OBAMA’S ‘LAST CHANCE TO MAKE GOOD ON PROMISE’

In a statement last Friday in the New York Times, the top aide on immigration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said that executive amnesty is President Barack Obama’s “last chance to make good on his promise…Continue Reading

Catholics Want To Learn More About Their Faith, Bishops Report

BALTIMORE – For three and a half years, members of several U.S. bishops’ committees have been trying to pinpoint what Catholics in the pew are thinking and why they accept or reject church teachings. To this end, they have conducted…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal: Catholic charity ‘is not only giving food … but giving God’

The Vatican cardinal who oversees the Church’s charitable initiatives has emphasized again that Catholic charities cannot be satisfied with meeting the material needs of those they serve. “Charity is very linked with the proclamation of the Gospel, and doing charity…Continue Reading

Prof at Catholic university tries to justify same-sex ‘marriage’ acceptance from Scripture

Professor Gerald Schlabach of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently published a piece for The Christian Century utilizing the writing of St. Paul to create an argument legitimizing acceptance of same-sex marriage. In light of Schlabach’s article, The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Group: “We Will Not Obey the Obamacare HHS Mandate, Not Today, Not Ever”

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Court Says Obama Admin Can Force Pro-Life Group to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Where Are Our Young People Going?

During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for…Continue Reading

US Bishops Elect New Secretary, Discuss Health Care Ethics Guide

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2014 / 08:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Tuesday on several committee leadership positions, also considering several liturgical proposals and moving forward with a New York canonization cause. At their fall…Continue Reading

Fidelity to Bishop of Rome crucial to evangelization, US bishops say

Baltimore, Md., Nov 10, 2014 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Pope Francis on Monday, the U.S. bishops vowed fidelity to the Holy See and voiced hope that Pope Francis will attend the World Meeting of Families…Continue Reading

Nation’s Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore Monday

Nearly 300 bishops from across the nation will determine the coming year’s agenda for the American Roman Catholic church when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops begins its annual fall meeting Monday in Baltimore. The bishops will spend four days…Continue Reading

Pope names new ‘foreign minister,’ prefect of Apostolic Signatura; Cardinal Burke given new position

The Holy See Press Office announced on November 8 that Pope Francis has named Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, as the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Archbishop Mamberti replaces Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has served…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope at Santa Marta: Everything For The Lord And Others

pope669

(Vatican Radio) When the Church is humble and poor, then “it is faithful” to Christ, giving all it has for the Lord and others, leaving nothing for itself said Pope Francis at morning Mass in  Casa Santa Marta Monday. Pope Francis based his reflections on the Gospel of the Day which recounts the episode of the poor widow who gives…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Homily For Christ The King Canonization Mass

pope670

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at the Mass celebrated in St Peter’s Square on Christ the King Sunday, during the course of which he canonized six new saints: Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal, Amato Ronconi, Giovanni Antonio Farina, Nicola da Longobardi, and Ludovico da Casoria. Below, please find the full text of the official English translation of the…Continue Reading

Pope: All Christians Called To Be Missionaries, ‘Not Just The Few’

pope668

(Vatican Radio) All Christians and “not just the few” are called to intensify their missionary spirit and go out to proclaim the joy of the Gospel, said Pope Francis.He issued the call on Saturday in speaking at the Vatican to a group of more than 700 participants in Italy’s National Missionary Congress, which was organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Pays Tribute To Blessed Paul VI’s Devotion To Mary

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis paid tribute on Thursday to Blessed Pope Paul the 6th and his great love for the Mother of God, saying he always turned to Mary at crucial and difficult moments for the Church and humanity. The Pope’s words came during a message which was read on his behalf by the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin…Continue Reading

Changing Their Tune

By PHILLIP DEAN (Editor’s Note: Music has always been especially important to Phillip Dean. Gifted as a singer and musician, the high school sophomore leads a Wednesday night youth band at his Rock Hill, S.C., church. And, though he completes his academic coursework online from home, he played for the last four years in the…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “The Birth Control Pill: Unintended Consequences”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For a CD containing hundreds of patient information pamphlets showing that the most common methods of birth control are abortifacient in their actions, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have seen…Continue Reading

The Synod And The New Evangelization

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Detailed Studies Of Galileo

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Finocchiaro, Maurice. The Trial of Galileo: Essential Documents, translated and edited by Maurice A. Finocchiaro. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2014. Pp. xii+160. This book draws upon Finocchiaro’s previously published works, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (1989) and Retrying Galileo: 1633-1992 (2005), at once making those masterful works more readily accessible,…Continue Reading

Reconnecting With Mary . . . The Apparitions At L’Ile Bouchard

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 1 This is first of two articles about the Marian apparitions at L’Ile Bouchard, in northwestern France, near Tours, which took place from December 8-14, 1947. The situation in postwar France was very serious, and there was a real threat from Communism, and even of civil war, but, unknown to…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . Some Bishops Are Beginning To Find Their Voice

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK In recent weeks the Pope hosted the “Humanum” conference in Rome. In his remarks of welcome he clearly reiterated his commitment to the right of children to have both a mother and a father while stating that marriages and families cannot be redefined by or subject to manipulation by ideologies. (See p. 4B of this…Continue Reading

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 The visit I received from two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs, for short) gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that repetitive prayer — especially the rosary — is entirely in line with Sacred Scripture. When they walked into my living room and did not miss the sight of my rosary on the mantelpiece, I knew…Continue Reading

Reading And Interpreting Scripture

By DON FIER We ended last week’s installment by launching into a discussion on a question of critical importance: “How is Sacred Scripture to be read and interpreted?” The significance and the relevance of this question become apparent if one examines findings outlined in the 2012 “Status of Global Mission” report, a publication of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. We recently celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Why does the Church celebrate a church building in Rome? — P.R., Massachusetts. A. Because the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest church in Christendom and is the church of the Pope, not St. Peter’s Basilica. The Lateran Basilica was built in the fourth century…Continue Reading

Be Watchful And Alert

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7 1 Cor. 1:3-9 Mark 13:33-17 In the first reading today we hear of the conflict that has tormented humanity from the very beginning. The problem is that we blame God for everything. Isaiah cries out to God in a lament, “Why do you let us…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes… St. Cecilia

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church has thousands of saints. For the last two millennia, people of great holiness, exemplifying heroic virtue, have been honored as saints, members of the Church Triumphant in Heaven giving honor and glory to God. Some have been formally declared saints by the Church, while others have been so honored from the beginnings of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

By CAROLE BRESLIN Since the United States is a relatively new country compared to the rest of the world, we do not have as many canonized saints as do France, Italy, or Spain. Elizabeth Ann Seton (died 1821) was the first person born in the United States to be canonized, although she lived many years after Kateri Tekakwitha (died 1680)…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading