Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
I have been privileged to be bailed out many times in my life. When all seemed to be lost, something or someone emerged to save me. For instance, there was this time when I was traveling at 12 a.m. one night on Highway 50 going to Lake Geneva. I was a third-year theology student on my way to visit my college seminary professor at his cottage in Williams Bay. I promised that I would help him rake leaves and cut the grass. I finished my assignment at the parish, located on the southwest side of Chicago. Closing up after the meeting was over, I made my way to Wisconsin.
Highway 50 is very deserted on a weekday evening. I had an old, yellow Pontiac with four bald tires. It was drizzling slightly, so the road was very slick. I was about four miles from my exit on a little incline when I heard that terrible pop sound. Yes, it was my left rear tire. No problem, I had changed tires before. I loosened the lug nuts on the tire, and positioned the jack.
As I began to raise the car, the slippery surface shifted the weight of the car, and the car fell on the jack. Remember, there were no cell phones at this time, so I couldn’t call anyone. There was my jack under the weight of the car. The road seemed void of any vehicles. I was totally helpless. Putting my head down, I did the only thing I could do – I said a prayer asking for help.
Now, you can believe or reject what happened next, but it’s the truth. Just when everything seemed lost, a car appeared. The driver, with his bright lights on, pulled up behind my car. He emerged from the driver’s side, and said in a loud voice, “Jerry, what are you doing here?” The gentleman claimed that he regularly attended Mass at St. Peter and Paul Parish in South Chicago, where I and a seminarian friend, Bill Eddy, had spent our summer pastoral internship. I explained what had happened. He said, “No problem,” and got out his jack to help me change my tire. I thanked him profusely, and wanted to do something for him, but he refused, saying we’d get in touch with each other sometime later. I have never seen that man again – or maybe I have?
Today, October 2, is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. The Church teaches us that every individual has an angel assigned by God to watch over him/her. The role of the guardian angel is to guard and to guide. In the Old Testament, God told Moses: “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way, and to bring you to the place which I have prepared.” (Ex. 23:20)
I don’t believe in coincidences, but I believe in graced moments. I also believe in an unseen world, as do you if you mean what you say when you are at Mass on Sundays: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.”
The ‘unseen’ is the world of spirit. Angels are necessary in the hierarchy of beings. Just ask St. Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor: “The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church: 334)
I have been bailed out a number of times, not by the same mysterious driver, but by others who I believe were motivated by my guardian angel to act on my behalf.
I know that, as a child, I have said this prayer a hundred times: “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to who God’s love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.”
To all my angels in this world, thank you for being there for me, and for helping us all to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the October 2, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.