Our vocation is to join the angels in their spiritual battle against evil. Our call is to share in their work. St. Paul exhorted the Ephesians to remember, that “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers…against the spirits of wickedness in high places.”
Our work to defend and promote religious liberty is not merely a political battle. It is not even a cultural battle, primarily. Our work today as Christians is most especially a spiritual battle, and our enemies, as Peter Kreeft recently put it; are “…demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.” Those people, our fellow citizens, who threaten our religious liberty, or slaughter the unborn, or seek to destroy the Church are not our real enemies. Our hope for them is redemption in Jesus Christ. Our enemies are the demons who entrap them. And who seek to entrap us. Our enemy is sin, and the father of sin, the evil one.
He went on to say:
We need cultural healing in this country. We need to build up a culture redeemed by Jesus Christ. If we find the good and use it for God’s glory, we will be “Divine Healers.”
Gabriel is a messenger. Gabriel appears to Daniel, to Zacharias, to Elizabeth, to St. Joseph, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary for one reason, one reason only: to proclaim the Word of God. To build up the Kingdom is to proclaim the Word of God.
In fact, our forefathers were enthusiastic to proclaim the Word of God in this country. Many, if not all of them, came to these shores seeking religious freedom. Among them Protestants in New England, Catholics in Maryland, and Jewish people in the Carolinas — and they expected that America would be a place where the Word of God was sacrosanct and could be freely lived and proclaimed.
As we pray together for religious liberty, let us recall a simple fact. The role of religion in America will be respected when religion is lived with enthusiastic and infectious vitality. When we proclaim Jesus Christ with joy, in authentic freedom, the world will listen. Let us imitate Gabriel the messenger.
I interviewed Bishop Conley about the novena and the upcoming election and religious liberty a few days ago, here.
As Fr. Dwight Longenecker mentioned on the feast of the Guardian Angels, we don’t talk a lot of angels, in part because of New Age connotations (also in part because we’re not always palpably spiritual people). “We shouldn’t let abuses undo right uses,” he advises. “Our guardian angels are there to help and guide us. We should not be worried about co-operating with them any more than we should be worried about praying to the saints and being aware of their presence. I’m sure if more of us were aware of our angelic guides and asked them to pray for us and guide us that we would make faster spiritual progress. I think we should especially ask their help when we are overwhelmed with temptation and the cares of the world.”
I was struck, as he was, by St. Bernard’s urging yesterday of a cultivation of an acknowledgement of angels in our lives:
We should then, my brothers, show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father. We are God’s children although it does not seem so, because we are still but small children under guardians and trustees, and for the present little better than slaves
Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear? They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray. They are loyal, prudent, powerful. Why then are we afraid? We have only to follow them, stay close to them, and we shall dwell under the protection of God’s heaven.
Part of the reason we are where we are today, trying to educate people about what a gift religious liberty is, how essential it is to all freedom, to our civil society, to our integrity and flourishing and truest freedom, is because we just don’t always live Christian lives in unmistakably joyful, graceful, witnessing ways. And when we see such witness, we’re not always celebrating it, or for the right reasons. When we are examining our consciences as people of faith with civic responsibilities, the angels, the basics of understanding what it means to know and love and serve God and our brothers in Him, are every bit as much about the election as the economy.
Catholic University president John Garvey provided a good and instructive meditation on this –- not the angels so much as where our consciences and votes meet and why when he spoke to the Catholic bishops’ conference about the freedom to love God a few months back.