Calling All Angels

"I need a sign to let me know you're here,
All of these things keep falling from the atmosphere.
I need to know that things are gonna look up,
Cause I feel us drowning in a sea spilled from a cup."

Friday I had the pleasure of talking to an angel.

This past week has been rather hectic. With the preparation of Transitus, as well as the day-to-day "grind" of Novitiate, I found myself feeling rather empty. My prayer and meditations were clouded by darkness, mostly thoughts of jealousy or superiority with regards to my novice brothers. While I thought confession would be the answer, I found myself still distracted, so much so that I found it hard to find God either in the prayer or even in myself.

Friday morning, as the entire community sat in meditation , I knew of no other solution but to simply pray for some kind of help. "I can't do this alone," I prayed with my eyes closed and my head in my hand. "I need help to get through know that you are still here in all of this." Somewhere between frustration and sadness I offered my prayer in the chapel, hoping only that my ministry trip that day would provide some sense of purpose.

We arrived at the assisted living home as usual. During the drive, I made the great effort to hide my feelings of darkness; I didn't want to share those feelings with the people at Villa de Merillac, nor did I want to burden them with my own problems. As we entered the door, I uttered a small prayer, hoping that being with others would be the grace I needed to get my soul into a better place.

As we visited the residents during the day, I made a stop at Rose's room. Rose is actually Presbyterian, even though the facility is decidedly Catholic. Rose is about 90, but is still aware of her surroundings, and she remembers our names when we visit each Friday.

While talking with Rose, she asked me about the timeframe of becoming a priest. I described the schooling needed, the time at seminary, as well as the year of being a deacon. "I've got about 9 years to go," I told her, feeling the weight of my pain in that comment.

Either sensing my distress or through intuition, she pointed a finger at me and started to lift up my spirit:

"Don't let the time bring you down, Br. Vito. I'm sure it's a long and rough process, but you stick with it! Life is hard; trust me, I know. But there are times you have to put faith in God that when things get rough, you're gonna be alright. Even when you don't want to keep going, you gotta remember that what you're doing is something great, and He'll help you along the way."

Struck by her statement, the fact that her words were what I needed to hear, and the realization that she was the answer to my prayer that morning, all I could do was smile and say "Amen!"

We talked for a little while longer then I continued the rest of my day. Since then, I've not let things bother me as they used to. I feel that I am in a better place, my thoughts are less distracted, and once again I feel great to belong to a community so wonderful as the Capuchins. But most of all, I felt blessed to have celebrated the Feast of Guardian Angels by getting the chance to hear from one of them.

Fighting the urge to sensationalize this event or to create some hagiographical account, I learned 3 important things from last Friday:
  • Sometimes our image of what an angel is can be skewed. Reflecting on my life as a Capuchin, the greatest messengers for my vocation have been from people not often listened to: the homeless, the elderly, or people of other faiths.
  • It's ok to recognize it: faith and community life can be a struggle. If this life were easy, it wouldn't take 7 years until someone makes vows. To acknowledge the work involved in discerning a vocation is to be honest with myself and God. Just like any relationship, to make it work requires me to be invested, and to not only be present in the good times, but to work through the hard times as well.
  • While theologians and scripture scholars differ on the concept of what a Guardian Angel actually is or whether we each have one, perhaps the reality is that we are supposed to look out for each other. That when we sense that another is in need, we respond with kindness, love, and solidarity. It's a wonderful insight to think that each one of us has a special guardian who is looking out for our well-being; I think it's a greater insight to think that we learn from those protectors and become angels ourselves.

Facts about "Rose" have been altered to protect her privacy.
Photos from Kh2rac and thomashawk

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