St. Michael Prayer

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do, thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Power of God, cast into hell satan and all of the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Glory to God in the Highest!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Louisa, the Monks, the Walk, and the Angel: A story that Ends long After Christmas

She could hear them getting ready for the service, celebration they called it.  The monks were chanting in the background as they decorated the church.  The abbot, Father Schneider, had been over for their annual visit where she would renew their lease on the land and approve the parking that would overflow into the now barren fields.  This had been part of the agreement her great grand daddy had made with the priests who came seeking shelter in a storm so long ago. 
As long as her people would love on the land, the monks could live off the land.  When there were no more Calhoons left, the land would go to the monks.  It was required though that the land owners and the priests meet once a year.  So, they did.  The arrangement was amicable, and, according to her great grandaddy, approved.

Father Schneider came to dinner with the entire meal prepared.  He brought with him a younger priest who was to witness the transaction.  Again, this was required.  The young priest had been a lawyer at one time.  He turned his back on a six figure salary, and entered monastic life.  She never understood that.  Father Schneider donned and apron and warmed up the food.  The monks only ate vegetables, but they were delicious.  They brought her a steak which Father Schneider prepared.

The young priest brought a bottle of the wine the monks had made.  It was made from onions!  She was amazed.  It was delicious!  They ate together and drank the wine.  Father Schneider said, "Louisa, we would like to invite you to midnight Mass, again, this year."

"Father," Louisa replied with a hearty laugh, "Thank you, but you know I'm not a believer."  The young priest laughed.  "You could be," he said.  "What have you got to loose?" 

"An hour of good sleep or the time to drink some of the fabulous wines that you make.  I like being your neighbor, but I don't believe in that heeby jeeby stuff.  There's no God!  I wish I could convince YOU of that!  Ha!"

Father Schneider smiled kindly, "That will never happen, Louisa."

A silence settled on the table.  Louisa never stopped smiling as the young priest blessed the food.  "Oh, come on.  So you can't make me convert.  That's nothing to be sad about."

"Louisa," said Father Schneider, "One day, you'll know I'm right.  Anyway, the offer is always open.  Come to Mass and visit us.  We don't bite."

"Father, the day I see an angel is the day I'll be there, and since angels don't exist, except those cute ones in your bookstore, I'll never be there."

The young priest smiled at her.  He liked her spunk.  "That reminds me.  Father Ted sent you something.  It's on the porch.  He carved it just for you.  He said that you found the stump and gave it to him.  I put it on the porch.  I blessed it for you, and I'll bring it in after we eat."

Louisa laughed.  She remembered that beaten up, rotting piece of wood she found on her daily walk.  She would walk so that she wouldn't smoke any more. It took a lot of miles, but she gave up smoking!  Father Ted had given her the idea is walking. He said he had kicked the habit that way.  He told her to walk as often as she could.  He had smiled the day she brought in that stump.  She had dragged it a good quarter mile.  It wore her out, but from that day, she never smoked again.
They finished their meal, and they signed the documents.  She could see the church lit up from her window.  They walked out on to the porch.  Father Ted had carved the wood!  It was beautiful!  It was an angel about 3 feet tall bowed down in adoration.  His wings were folded, and he was offering something in his hand. It was a burned out cigarette.  You had to look really closely to see it, but it was there.

Louisa laughed until her sides ached.  She loved it!  "Please tell Father Ted, I love it!"
The unspoken question hung in the air.  "I meant a real, living angel!  When I see one of those, I'll be in the church from sunrise to sunset,"

They laughed along with her.  The young priest brought in the angel and put it next to the fireplace.  Then, they left and walked down the path to the monastery. 

Christmas Eve brought with it a gentle snow.  Louisa had watched the monks as they emptied the sheds of the Christmas things.  She would volunteer in their store when they needed help, but she never understood this need for fairy tales.  She would be alone tonight.  There was no family,  No children   When she died the land would go to these good monks. 

They had already had two Masses.  It was after 10:30.  She wasn't tired, so she put on her hiking boots, grabbed a flashlight, and started to walk.  She hadn't gotten far when she saw a man walking towards her.  He was young and clean shaven..  He wasn't very tall.  She didn't feel any fear, but if he was aggressive, she knew she could take him on and win.

He saw her, "Ma'am, I'm sorry.  I hope I didn't scare you.  I think I'm lost.  I'm looking for the church.  I'm supposed to preach there tonight."

That's odd, she thought.  Like he could read her thoughts, he said, "Father Schneider asked me to help out because of all the people who attend midnight Mass.  I was out collecting my thoughts, and then I realized I was lost, and it's getting late and colder."

"Oh, okay.  I was confused." She breathed a sigh of relief.

"My name is Michael. I mean Father Michael, and, let me guess, you are Louisa?  Father Schneider was hoping you'd join us tonight."

She laughed.  "He never gives up.  I'll show you the way. I was just out for a walk to clear my thoughts.  It's not too far."

Michael kept talking. He had an interesting personality.   "Would you mind if I preached my homily to you, right now, since you won't be there tonight?"

Louisa rolled her eyes.  He was very nice, but she didn't want to hear any fairy tales, and he had  said he had to get back.  "Maybe, tomorrow?"

"Well, then you'd have to be at Mass.  That will be tomorrow."

"How long will it take?"

"Not too long.  You're dressed warmly. You're not craving a cigarette, so we should be good."
"How in the heck did he know?"

"All right.  Make it quick."  She noticed the bench.  The monks must have put it there.  Looked like Father Ted's work.  It was exquisite.  There seemed to be a little light behind him. Must be the church. People got there early.

"For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son."  Today, we gather to celebrate His birth.  I was there when He was born. His Mother held him close to her.  She wrapped Him in swaddling garments that had been given to her because she and her husband were poor.  The garments should have been fine linens befitting a King, but they were cast offs from another woman's child.  I saw His earthly father, Joseph, hold the child for the first time.  I saw him bow down before the new born King.  I heard the angels singing praise to God, but only the shepherds were invited to meet Him.  They, who were the cast offs were called to pay Him homage.  I saw Joseph rub Mary's hands and cover the three of them with his shabby coat.  He could not light a fire in the manger, but he could love and protect them with his body.  I saw Joseph guard the Mother and child through the night. He couldn't see me, but I was sent as their protector, too.  I held the babe in my arms, just as you can do tonight when you receive the Eucharist.  Receive Him into your souls. Worship Him as the God Eternal. Adore Him.  Let the air be filled with hymns to God just as it was that Christmas morn.  Let the world be changed by your Love.  Oh, come let us adore Him. He is the King of Kings.    Amen"

Louisa had heard Michaels powerful words.  He had quite an imagination!  Michael stood looking up to heaven.  Louisa left her seat.  “An excellent discourse.  I felt like I was there.”  Michael smiled and followed.  They walked in silence.  What had just happened?  A priest would never say he was there.  He had a great imagination.  She could almost see the Babe and His parents in that stable…Wait! That was impossible!

 She thought that no matter what, Father Schneider would never miss Christmas Mass.  She could hear Michael’s footsteps as they neared the church. She turned around to show him the church, and he smiled at her and nodded.  "God bless you, Louisa," he said as he walked into the church. She could hear the choir practicing a song about Mary, the Mother of God.  Tears formed in her eyes.  She kept walking towards the church.  Where had she seen Michael before? 

The priests were gathering to concelebrate Mass.  They were vested in white garments. She saw Father Schneider.  He said, "Louisa, did you see the angel?"  She looked at all the priests. "No, but I met Father Michael.  He was lost and he practiced his sermon before we got here."
"My dear, Father Schneider said, "There's no Father Michael here."
"I saw him walk into church."
"Do you see him in church?  I think someone was playing a joke on you."
She looked around, and there on the altar was Michael.  He was kneeling down in adoration in front of the tabernacle.
Father Schneider said, "Louisa, that's a new carving by Father Ted.  Someone keeps moving him from the crèche to the altar.  I think one of our servers thinks he's being funny.  Anyway, that's Saint Michael, the archangel.  My dear, will you join us for Midnight Mass?"
Louisa was crying now.  She nodded and walked into church.  She turned,"Father, I need instruction now."  He replied, “Listen.  This will be your first lesson.”
She sat at the back of the church. She had never seen so much beauty in a service before.  So many of the townspeople were there, and they welcomed her warmly. 
She had so many questions.  What was this Eucharist?  She followed the people to the altar.  When she got there the young priest smiled and blessed her.  She wanted more, so she waited.  She must learn.

The next Easter Louisa completed her RCIA instruction and  was baptized as a Catholic.  She wept tears of joy.  She had been given a key to the church and she could be found there from morning to evening adoring God.  She knew her life was drawing to an end.  The cancer had returned and it was eating her alive.  She was in pain, but she smiled.  She knew that, soon, she would return to her love.

When she died, and her soul left her body, she saw Michael smiling and waiting near the Virgin. Then, the Mother of God grabbed her hand and took her before the Throne of the Trinity.  They poured their blessings out on her.  All of heaven rejoiced!  She was home, at last!

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