“September 29. On the feast of St Michael the Archangel, I saw by my side that great Leader, who spoke these words to me – ‘The Lord has ordered me to take special care of you. Know that you are hated by evil; but do not fear – Who is like God!’. And he disappeared. But I feel his presence and assistance.” (Diary of St Faustina, para.706)
The Catholic Church has always believed in the existence – and the activity – of Angels, those heavenly beings who live in the presence of God. The Church tells us that every single one of us has a Guardian Angel. And every year in the month of September, the Church celebrates the feast of the holy Archangels, Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael, all of whom appear in the Bible.
And so I thought it may be worth taking a moment to look at Angels with reference to something very specific – the message of Divine Mercy.
Now, when we think of Divine Mercy and the devotion we have through the writing of Saint Faustina, Angels are probably not the first thing we think of. Be that as it may, Angels are mentiuoned numerous times throughout the Diary of St Faustina and they seem to have several specific roles – sometimes, to direct the young Sister Faustina and to call her to prayer, and at other times, to protect and guard her.
It is quite easy to overlook the place of Angels in the Diary of St Faustina. But regardless of that, they feature many times in her writing. Perhaps most often, she writes about her own Guardian Angel, such as on this occasion when he tells her to pray –
“When I went to the garden one afternoon, my Guardian Angel said to me, ‘Pray for the dying’. And so, I began at once to pray the Rosary with the gardeners for the dying. After the Rosary, we said various prayers for the dying.” (Diary, para.314)
There are other occasions, in Notebook II, where St Faustina’s Guardian Angel again directs her to pray, this time for a particular soul, who is close to death (Diary, para.820 and 828). On other occasions, her Guardian Angel is the one she prays to for protection from evil spirits –
“I fell asleep as soon as I lay down, but at about eleven o’clock, Satan shook my bed. I awoke instantly, and I started to pray peacefully to my Guardian Angel.” (Diary, para.412)
And on various occasions, her Guardian Angel appears to her in visible form, such as on this occasion –
“A great multitude of demons blocked my way.. seeing their great hatred for me, I immediately asked my Guardian Angel for help, and at once, the bright and radiant figure of my Guardian Angel appeared and said to me, ‘Do not fear, spouse of my Lord, without His permission these spirits will do you no harm’. Immediately, the evil spirits vanished, and the faithful Guardian Angel accompanied me, in a visible manner, right to the very house. His look was modest and peaceful, and a flame of fire sparkled from his forehead.” (Diary, para.418-419)
At other times, St Faustina would hear the Angels but without seeing them –
“Today is the renewal – that is, the profession of vows in the course of a solemn celebration. As the Sisters were making their vows, I heard Angels singing in various tones, ‘Holy, Holy Holy’, with chanting so delightful that no human tongue could ever match it.” (Diary, para.1111)
On some occasions, the Angels seen by St Faustina seem to be other than her own Guardian Angel. In Notebook I of her Diary, St Faustina describes having a deep longing for God, at which moment –
“I beheld a Spirit of great beauty .. This Spirit is very beautiful and his beauty comes from close union with God” (Diary, para.471)
Looking upon him, the Angel told her –
“I am one of the seven Spirits who stand before the Throne of God day and night and give Him ceaseless praise” (Diary, para.471)
These seven Spirits are mentioned in another passage of St Faustina’s Diary –
“Then I saw one of the seven Spirits near me, radiant as at other times, under a form of light. I constantly saw him beside me when I was riding on the train. I saw an Angel on every Church we passed, but surrounded by a light which was paler than that of the Spirit who was accompanying me on the journey, and each of these Spirits who were guarding the Churches bowed his head to the Spirit who was near me.. I thank God for His goodness, that He gives us Angels as companions.” (Diary, para.630)
Perhaps the most singular mention of Angels is in Notebook I, where St Faustina records the occasion on which she was given the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This took place on Friday 13th September 1935 –
“In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw an Angel, the executor of Divine wrath. He was clothed in a dazzling robe, his face gloriously bright, a cloud beneath his feet. From the cloud, bolts of thunder and flashes of lightning were springing into his hands; and from his hand they were going forth, and only then were they striking the earth. When I saw this sign of divine wrath which was about to strike the earth.. I began to implore the Angel to hold off.. and the world would do penance. But my plea was a mere nothing in the face of the divine anger.. At that very moment, I felt in my soul the power of Jesus’ grace, which dwells in my soul.. I found myself pleading with God for the world, with words heard interiorly. As I was praying in this manner, I saw the Angel’s helplessness; he could not carry out the just punishment which was rightly due for sins. Never before had I prayed with such inner power as I did then. The words with which I entreated God are these – Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” (Diary, para.474-475)
You may recognise here marked similarities to the third part of the Secret given to the children at Fatima; there, too, an Angel is sent as the executor of the wrath of God, but his efforts are thwarted by means of the Most Blessed Virgin, who intercedes for humanity and obtains God’s mercy for the world.
This would appear to bring together the theme of reparative prayer, strongly present both at Fatima and in the message of Divine Mercy, as a means of staying the just anger of God. In the Diary of St Faustina, we are explicitly given the very prayer with which to do this – the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Angels play a significant part in both the message of Divine Mercy and also in the message of Fatima; on both occasions, they prepare the way for what will follow, they direct those to whom they are sent and solicit prayer, and they are portrayed as the executors of the just anger of the Most High. And yet, this reparative prayer prevents them from fulfilling this part of their mission. There is a lesson there for every one of us.
May we – like St Faustina and the children of Fatima – listen to the direction of the Angels and offer reparative prayer for our sake and the sake of all the world.
Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael and our holy Guardian Angels, pray for us.