Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels
Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with World Apostolate of Fatima
“The Lord has put angels in charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.” We sang these words from Psalm 91, the liturgy’s Responsorial Psalm today, the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels. God, our loving Father, has given us angels, the pure spiritual beings He created and who praise and worship Him in heaven, to guard and protect and guard us on the way to salvation. Every one of us has his own special guardian angel. St. Jerome once wrote: “how great is the value of the human soul that every single person has from birth received an angel for his protection.” Today the Church celebrates these Holy Guardian Angels. I am very happy to celebrate this feast with you today. I encourage you, as members of our diocese’s chapter of the World Apostolate of Fatima, in your mission to be devoted to the angels. This is natural for you since the children of Fatima were prepared to receive the apparitions and messages of Our Lady by the Angel of Peace who identified himself to the children also as the Angel of Portugal. He was the guardian angel of Portugal. It is the common teaching of the Church that not only does each individual have a guardian angel, but so do entire nations, as we read in the Old Testament book of Daniel.
In the first reading today from the book of Exodus, we heard God telling the Israelites that He was sending an angel before them to guide them on the way through the desert to the promised land. God tells them to be attentive to this angel and to heed his voice. He promises that if they do, He will be an enemy to their enemies. The same in our lives. God has sent us each an angel to guard us and to guide us on our journey through the desert of this life to the promised land of heaven. The Catechism quotes St. Basil, who said: “Each member of the faithful has at his side an angel as a protector and shepherd to lead him towards life.” Our guardian angels walk with us to keep us on the right path. We should be attentive to our guardian angels and heed their voices. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, says the following: “Our angel is a friend, a friend whom we do not see but we hear, a friend who will be with us in heaven, in eternal joy.” Of course, we must be careful that we are listening to our guardian angels and not to the lies and temptations of the bad angels, the demons, who are also present in our lives. Pope Francis goes on to say: “God sends the angel to free us, to ward off fear, to distance us from misfortune. He asks us only to listen to Him, to respect Him… Respect and listening to our traveling companion is called obedience. The Christian must be open to the Holy Spirit, but openness to the Holy Spirit begins with yielding to the advice of this traveling companion.” Many today are disobedient to the Church and to the Magisterium. This disobedience does not come from the Holy Spirit. We need to call upon our guardian angels and listen to them. They will keep us on the right path of obedience to God and His Church. How many times the Israelites during the Exodus were disobedient to God; they even worshipped a golden calf. They did not listen to the angel God had sent to guide them to the promised land.
In the Gospel today, Jesus warns His disciples not to despise the little ones. He says to them that these little ones have angels in heaven who always look upon the face of His heavenly Father. These supernatural beings, our guardian angels, have intimate access to God’s presence and behold the face of God. They help us on our journey towards our destination which is to behold the face of God, the beatific vision, heaven. The angels who are with us on our journey already see God. They accompany us and help us so that at the end of our lives, we may also see God in the glory of heaven.
It is good on this First Saturday, to which you are very devoted in the Fatima apostolate, to reflect on how God prepared Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco to receive our Blessed Mother. He sent them the Angel of Peace. These beautiful children truly listened to this Angel and heeded his words. Thus, they became ready for Mary’s appearances. As you know, the Angel of Peace appeared to them three times. The Angel made a profound impression upon their minds and hearts. They received from this messenger of God a catechesis of grace and sacrifice that disposed them to receive the coming of the Blessed Virgin and her message with a depth of commitment and maturity that far exceeded their years of education. In the first appearance, the Angel instructed them to pray with him. They prayed with him the beautiful words that I’m sure you know so well: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love thee! I ask pardon of Thee for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.” The Angel instructed them to pray those words and assured them that the Hearts of Jesus and Mary would be attentive to the voice of their supplications. I imagine that many of you pray this Pardon Prayer every day or maybe many times during the day. When we pray the Pardon Prayer, we are praying for faith, hope and love to be renewed in the world. How much we need these virtues today as desperately as they were needed in 1916 when the children of Fatima were taught this prayer!
A few months later, the Angel of Peace made his second appearance to the children. The angel stressed the need for the children to pray even more than they had been praying. The angel reminded them again that Jesus and Mary had a plan for their lives so they needed a strong prayer life to have the courage and generosity to respond to those plans. We all need a strong prayer life to respond courageously and generously to God’s plan for our lives. The Angel then added something. Not only did they need to pray, they also needed to offer sacrifices. The angel instructed them in these words: “Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offend, and in supplication for the conversion.” If they did, the angel told them, they will draw down peace upon their country. These are some of the basic elements of the Fatima message, as you know. First, sacrifice. Just think of the many opportunities we have every day to make sacrifices by surrendering our will, our preference, our desires and our comforts – to give them to God and offer them up for others as an offering of love. Yesterday was the feast of St. Therese. He said: “The food of real love is sacrifice!” Sacrifice expands our heart’s capacity for love.
The angel taught the children to offer their sacrifices to God in reparation for the sins by which He is offended. Reparation is an act of love to God to help make up for someone’s failure or refusal to love God. How often we can be tempted to judge and condemn other people. Instead, we should offer so good deed or act of self-denial as reparation to God for our sins and the sins of others. That’s what Jesus did in His sacrifice for us on the cross. We share in His act of reparation when we unite our sacrifices with His to atone for the sins of the world. The angel also taught the children to offer these sacrifices as a prayer or petition for the conversion of sinners. One thing that increases in us when we grow in our spiritual lives, when we grow closer to God, is a desire for the conversion of sinners, including our own conversion. The more we love God, the more we must love those for whom He suffered and died. The fruit of sacrifices in reparation for sins and in supplication for sinners is peace, the angel told the children. We need peace in our hearts, in our families, in our nation and in the world. There is so much conflict and division. Also in the Church. We need peace and unity in the Church. It is through prayer and sacrifices that we will attain peace. After this appearance, the children of Fatima became enthusiastic for offering prayers and sacrifices. May the Lord bless us with such enthusiasm.
The third and final appearance of the Angel of Peace brought the children a very special gift: Jesus in the Eucharist. And here we are this morning receiving this amazing gift. This apparition instilled in Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco an ardent devotion to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
As you know, the angel appeared to them holding a chalice in his left hand and over the chalice a Eucharistic host. Drops of Jesus’ Precious Blood were falling from the Host into the chalice. Leaving the chalice and Host suspended in the air, the angel knelt down beside the children and taught them another prayer which they repeated with him three times. The angel then gave them Holy Communion, the Host to Lucia and to Francisco and Jacinta, who had not yet received their First Communion, a drink from the chalice.
The prayer the angel taught the children had deep meaning. Like the Pardon Prayer, it is a beautiful prayer for us to say every day. I imagine many of you do. It is a prayer to the Most Holy Trinity. “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, and I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.”
As you may know, the bishops of the United States have decided to begin next year a three-year Eucharistic revival in our country. I am a member of the group of bishops planning and organizing this revival. As chair of the USCCB Doctrine Committee, I am also working with my committee to prepare a document on the Eucharist to present to the whole body of bishops this November for approval. I ask for your prayers for this effort. The prayer that the Angel of Peace taught the children during the third apparition has particular meaning and personal inspiration for me. We need a revival of Eucharistic faith and devotion throughout the Church. The majority of Catholics in our country do not attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. Many have doubts about the Real Presence and consider the Eucharist to be a symbol. And many do not recognize the need to be in a state of grace to receive the Eucharist worthily and fruitfully. The angel’s prayer speaks of the Real Presence, the Eucharist as the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world. Essential to the Eucharistic Revival in our country is increasing faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The angel’s prayer is a prayer of adoration of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. And it is a prayer of offering the Eucharist in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which Jesus is offended. There are serious acts of blasphemy and dishonor in regards to the Holy Eucharist, what the angel calls “outrages.” Sometimes we read about desecration of churches and tabernacles by satanic groups, for example. And sometimes consecrated hosts have been found after Mass on the floors of churches. We are called to make reparation for such outrages, but also for sacrileges, for example, when people knowingly and deliberately receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. As we need a revival in Eucharistic faith and devotion, we also need a revival of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. We will be teaching about this in the document I am preparing with the Doctrine Committee. And there’s also indifference. Some may go to Communion as kind of a rote action, without devotion, with a casualness that reveals what seems to be an obliviousness to the sacred act of receiving Holy Communion. We must all guard against this spirit of indifference in approaching the Lord in Holy Communion.
I am sorry my homily has gone on so long, but these are such important matters that I wanted to share with you whom I count on in helping in the task of evangelization through your witness in word and deed as members of the World Apostolate of Fatima. I thank you for your commitment. We all need our Guardian Angels to assist us on our journey. We need to listen to them and to receive their protection. And, of course, we need the help and protection of the Queen of Angels, our Blessed Mother. May Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of Fatima, intercede for us and for our diocese!