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Vol. XII, December 2006

 

The Angelic Assistance in Ministry (cf. Ez 11)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Ezekiel continues to refer to the presence of the holy angels in his prophetic mission: “The Spirit lifted me up, and brought me to the east gate of the house of the LORD, which faces east” (Ez 11:1; cf. Ez 8:3), “…brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to the exiles” (Ez 11:24).

We priests are aware of the great responsibility we have in our ministry before God and the many immortal souls with their eternal destiny. We sense so woefully the imposing presence of the world around us. The questions lie heavy upon our souls: How can I respond better? Do I fulfill the will of God? Where can I find greater clarity, security and peace in my priestly life and ministry? Let us see how Ezekiel found help in the Angel of the Lord.

1. The fourfold activity of “the Spirit of the Lord”        

The prophet received fourfold help: “The Spirit lifted me up, and brought me to the east gate of the house of the Lord…” (v. 1); then, ”The Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and he said to me, ‘Say, Thus says the Lord…’” (v. 5).

The spirit lifted the prophet up. We referred before to such acts and similar cases (cf. Ez 8:1-3; Circ. XII, Oct. 06).

The fact that on another occasion the angel “brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God” (v. 24) makes us think of a just spiritual rapture.

We may speak of “rapture” also in a broader sense and relate to this any strong spiritual or angelic influence in our mind, which takes away a certain darkness and elevates human mind by grace to “enlightenments”. Spiritual Theology “stud[ies] ecstasy under three different aspects: the physical, the psychological, and the spiritual… ‘St. Theresa lists five different types of ecstasy in The Spiritual Relations [V] … The second type of ecstasy, called rapture, ‘comes through a sudden light… with a swiftness of movement that seems to carry away the higher part of it [the soul]’. … Visions are often associated with [the fourth] type of ecstasy’.” (J. Aumann, Spiritual Theology, 348-349). The angelic influences on us are still soft and silent, begging for our cooperation, according St. John’s of the Cross teaching: “Reflect that your Guardian Angel does not always move your desire for an action, but he does always enlighten your reason” (Sayings of light and love, 34). This can easily happen to every one, more so of course, to those who have a purified heart and a faithful prayer-life. If they are stronger, one may well realize that these thoughts do not have their origin in oneself, but come from “somewhere” or from some one else. If they come from a holy angel, then it is at once a question of a grace. Psychology may tell us, that men – in contradistinction to women – are particularly prone to attribute to themselves much of what is grace. Yet, we can distinguish well if a homily is work of our mind and study or if we received it in prayerful meditation through the angelic mediation (cf. CCC 350).

The second observation of the prophet is this: “The Spirit brought me to the east gate …”

Again, this does not need to have taken place physically in the body; it can take place spiritually by directing the attention of the mind. - How often do people need a priest; few call for him actually, less pray to their Guardian Angel or to the Guardian Angel of the priest, as St. Pio always recommended his spiritual children to do. When we, at times, suddenly think of someone and then ask for God’s grace or for the holy angel’s help, this may well be the holy angel drawing our attention to different places and people. When we try to fulfill our ministry with the holy angels, we have to reckon with this kind of communication and “transport”. We collaborate by presenting the souls or the situation to the priestly Heart of Jesus and assist by sending blessing even over a distance, or we make some sacrifices as spiritual support and ask the holy angels to communicate the fruits to the indicated soul. This is all very possible, since we are all one body in Christ and the “communion of the saints” regards precisely the communion of spiritual goods.

The prophet continues to describe his experience with the words: “The Spirit of the Lord fell upon me“.

With this observation Ezekiel refers to the intensity: the inferior faculties or interior senses of the soul suffer some influence under the power of the spirit. Such a presence of “the spirit of the Lord” requires “space”, attention, concentration of the cognitive faculties and strength of the will. Even our body needs to adapt to the spiritual soul. This brings suffering or burden with it, which could be meant with “fell upon me.” This “burden,” however, has to be distinguished from an influence of the fallen spirits, who also can “reveal what they know to men;” they do it “not by enlightening the intellect, but by an imaginary vision, or even by audible speech” (St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, 172, 5 ad 2 um).

Then the prophet goes on to recount: “The Spirit of the Lord … said to me, ‘Say, Thus says the Lord…’” (v. 5), “… prophesy, O son of man” (v. 4).

The prophet receives an explicit order to speak. The reason is this: Not all knowledge gained through grace is supposed to be published. There exists a personal dialogue between God and the souls, which is supposed to be protected in its privacy by virtuous silence. The dignity of the persons requires this as does also the nature of love’s union, including the love between God and the soul. The personal character of love requires exclusivity in the measure it matures and grows deeper. This is true also for us priests. Not every thought is given to us in view of our ministry. We have to live also a personal life with God. Along these lines we may understand the words of St. Charles Borromeo: “Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul …” (Liturgy of the Hours, 2 nd Reading on Nov. 4 th).

Still, there are communications between God and us, which are for others. Here, now, the angel tells the prophet explicitly to say what he had received as a prophet in view of his mission. And just as the word of God quoted from Sacred Scripture has greater power than a quote from any human author, even of a saint or doctor of the Church, so analogically we have to affirm too: A Sunday sermon or a counsel given in confession that originates in prayer with angelic help will be more powerful than a “self-made” homily from our desk.

2. The angels’ mission in the priestly life                                         

You may have asked already, if the prophet really really refers here to the angel…

Holy Scripture speaks of “the Spirit of the Lord.” One reason for this is that a sincere and humble servant, which the holy angels are enjoys to hide himself as a secondary cause behind the principle cause. Sometimes it refers evidently to “the angel of the Lord” (cf. e. g. Acts 8:39 and 8:26). So it is here, as the context of the prophet’s description leaves no doubt (cf. 8:1-3 and 11:24).

We may recall St. Thomas’ theological reflection about the union and harmony in the kingdom of God:

“Things that are of God are well ordered. Now the Divine ordering, according to Dionysius, is such that the lowest things are directed by middle things. Now the angels hold a middle position between God and men, in that they have a greater share in the perfection of the Divine goodness than men have. Wherefore the Divine enlightenments and revelations are conveyed from God to men by the angels. Now prophetic knowledge is bestowed by Divine enlightenment and revelation. Therefore it is evident that it is conveyed by the angels” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, 172,2; see also John of the Cross. Dark Night, Bk II, ch 12,3).

Prophesies are attributed to the Holy Spirit, “Who has spoken through the prophets”, this however, as principal cause (cf. The Nicene Creed).

The Church confirms the use of secondary causes as “a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness” (CCC 306). Therefore, we need to call for the assistance of the holy angels and dispose ourselves for their help through silence, poverty in spirit, and prayerful openness.

3. The daily life of a priest in union with the holy Angels                   

Our mission is essentially a prophetic one. We may not be favored with special charismas like a physical rapture. And yet we should not think the absence of such graces means the absence of any angelic mediation in our life! Does it not happen, while you say the Liturgy of the Hours that a certain person “comes to your mind”, you think of a parishioner in the hospital, you remember an approaching event, a thought for the Sunday-homily flashes through your mind … are these all distractions you have to avoid and push aside, or can these be influences or “lights” from the helping holy angels?

When we are at peace in our Holy Hour with the Lord, and present Him the mission He entrusted to us, with love and paternal care, with surrender and detachment, with simplicity and docility and silent openness in case He wants to tell us something, … and when then there come to our mind clear phrasing of counsels, sharp formulas for the next homily, solutions of questions pondered already for some time within ourselves… shall all these not be inspirations from the Lord through His angel? It is not necessary to experience a rapture, as long as we get the message. Inspirations which are clear in our mind and prove to be from heaven “by their fruits” may be from the “Angel of God.”

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

This small and ordinary communications from heaven through our holy angels are small reflections of the Incarnation of the Divine Word which became flesh and dwelled among us. He Himself wanted to   announce His personal coming on earth by the angel, how much more He wants to speak to us through His servants in the daily matters of our life. Let us listen to them and constantly be open for their inspirations that we may fulfill more perfectly our prophetic mission to the greater glorification of GOD and the salvation of the souls.

To each one of you, dear Brothers, I wish very Blessed Christmas and the Lord’s constant presence and guidance through His holy Angels every day during the coming new year.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC