When I lived in England I used to make my annual Benedictine retreat at the magnificent monastery of Mont St Michel. Like an embodiment of St Michael in stone–it was planted on an island in the midst of not only the sea, but surrounded by unpredictable shifting tides and miles of quicksand.
The chaotic bay with it’s sea and shifting sand was like the unpredictable and irrational forces of evil. In the midst of the chaos that could swallow you up, Mont St Michel stands on a rock and rises up like a monumental angel of stability and victory. The walls of the village at the first level, then the village itself–representing ordinary life surrounded by the security and defense of faith. Above the village rises the medieval monastery–an unimaginable glory higher and higher as if the creator himself decided to make a sandcastle that would last forever.
At the summit is a soaring Gothic church, and hidden away is the jewel of it all–the small cloister–built delicately and enclosed for the life of prayer and solitude yet open to the spiritual sky and open to the angels.
I first stayed there on my hitch hiking pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem. I could not sleep the first night in my narrow cell. Finally I drifted off, then at three in the morning–like an alarm clock–I woke wide awake and alert and aware of a spiritual entity at the foot of my bed. I could see nothing, but sensed a being some seven feet high filled with light and benevolence. I knew it was my guardian angel, and knew his presence not only then, but recognized it as being with me for a long time, and was assured of his presence on my pilgrimage.