Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Yesterday’s blog about angels brought in responses from several readers who have pondered this subject and even taught courses about the angelic realm. Dr. Lisa Graley, a professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, wrote that the blog gave her something to contemplate and provoked theological questions. Lisa taught a class at ULL entitled Angel Encounters in the 20th Century, including the art, literature, music, and film (Angels in America) in which human beings imagine encounters with angels. She says that many of the angels her class encountered in 20th century literature, art, and film were bungling angels or angels who weren’t exactly what their constituents were expecting. “Quite often,” she wrote, “this said as much about the ones visited as about the angels visiting. Writers couldn’t seem to help putting ‘humanity’ on them.”

In Lisa’s class, her students also read Rilke’s Duino Elegies, in which the poet imagines angels listening to humans – but not necessarily understanding them. The students viewed Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (German version) in which an angel visits humans. Lisa says that “It was refreshing to learn that artists and writers found the topic of angels worth considering. People always complain that artists do injustices to religion, angels, etc. – that they blaspheme and degrade these subjects. I feel that the time to worry will be when artists and writers are no longer interested in religion or angels – when they think these things aren’t worth considering.”

My sister-in-law Lori, who is a Christian Scientist, says that Mary Baker Eddy described angels as “God’s thoughts passing to man and that they are spiritual intuitions, the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, and they counteract all evil, sensuality, and immorality.”

The most commonly-held belief about guardian angels being assigned to watch every individual originated in Greek thought and is derived from Zoroastrianism. The belief is also alluded to in Judaism: in the passage in which God says to Moses: “my angel shall go before thee.” In Acts 12:12-15 another allusion is made to the belief that a certain angel is assigned to protect each individual when Peter was escorted from prison by an angel. In Zoroastrianism, angels sometimes volunteer to descend to earth to stand by individuals throughout their lives.

When I was compiling the book, MEDITATIONS OF MY HEART, written by members of the women’s writing group at the Church of Epiphany in New Iberia, my friend Vickie contributed a story about her guardian angel. She wrote: “An angel of which I was unaware saved my life. Several years ago, while teaching at ULL, I began to feel very uncomfortable and had a nagging pain in my side that I had ignored for some time (angel’s first intervention). I called my doctor who responded with alarm and scheduled me to see him that afternoon. After examinations and tests, he found uterine fibroids that had grown quite large and were crowding other organs. This accounted for the pain. The doctor suggested several courses of action: 1) wait for full-blown menopause); 2) undergo a hysterectomy; and 3) schedule a D and C operation. I opted out of waiting and chose a D and C, knowing that the situation would be temporary and more than one procedure would be necessary. Prior to that procedure the doctor scheduled a CA125 (blood test for ovarian cancer) and a sonogram. Only then would he feel 99 percent certain that I had no undiscovered problems and would be safe not having the hysterectomy.

Meanwhile, I began to feel strongly that I did not want a temporary solution, but wanted to get rid of the problem (angel’s second message). So even though the tests were favorable, I called the doctor back to schedule an operation. My decision was made in the face of publicity about doctors doing too many hysterectomies and a friend (who had battled the same problem and won) sending me scary literature, not to mention my terror of anesthesia.

I had the operation and all went well. The doctor told me that biopsies of ovarian and uterine tissues showed no cancerous cells. However, the day after I came home from the hospital, the doctor called to say that the biopsy lab had taken another look at something suspicious in the ovary. They found a cancerous growth, so small that it was undetectable with the CA 125 test, sonogram, or any other non-direct observation. In six months the cancer would have been inoperable and, in a year, fatal. Every time I see my doctor, he asks me why I decided to have the operation. Next time he asks, I’ll suggest that my guardian angel told me to do it.”

Whether you believe or disbelieve in angels, the fact remains that sixty-eight percent of the people in the U.S. do believe in these ethereal beings.

Note: This angel, rendered by Paul Schexnayder for MEDITATIONS OF MY HEART, is a boy angel.

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