That was the prayer taught to me by my first grade teacher, Sister Mary Constance. She taught me all about angels. She taught me that my very own Guardian Angel was assigned to me by God the moment I was created. My Guardian Angel took special care to try and guide me in making the right decisions. He stood over my right shoulder and made note of all my good deeds...and bad.In my first grade class at St. Albert the Great we had over 60 students in one classroom. It was a combined first and second grade. To accommodate our classes, we sat in bench seats with the bench being attached to the seat behind us. There were usually two students to a bench. However, there were a few of us who had the bench to ourselves. We were required to sit as far to the left as possible...to leave room for our angels. Of course, with so many children Sister was often out of the room. As she would leave she would turn to the class and say, "Just remember, I may not hear what is going on when I leave, but your angel certainly will." When she returned, the class would be quiet...sometimes. Other times, a few rowdies would start talking and before long the whole room would join in. Sister would return. She'd say not a word. Just look at us with a pained expression that said, "Oh, how we disappointed our angels!"Sister warned us about the "other" voice, the one over our left shoulder, the one who told us to do naughty things, the one who told us not to listen to our good angel. We all knew who that voice belonged to...one of those legions who fell from God's grace in the great "angel war." St Michael had valiantly fought with the good angels to honor God, but some decided to follow Lucifer. Now, they hung around trying to get first graders to fall from His good graces. But, our good angels were there to help. We must listen to the good voiceSister also told us that our very own angel was also there to listen. If we had a problem, the angel listened and gave us guidance. Or, if we wanted something special, we should ask our angel. He had a special relationship with God, and if it were in God's plan, our prayers would surely be answered. Sometimes, we might not get what we prayed for, but our prayers were always answered. I didn't quite understand that as a child. It was only later that I found out what she meant.As I went through my eight years at St. Albert's, I learned all sorts of things about angels. I learned that there was a divine order to angels. First there were those who were closest to man - the angels, archangels, and principalities. Then, governing the cosmos, were the dominions, virtues, and thrones. Finally, the holy of holies were the cherubim and seraphim who exist to worship God. I grew spiritually reading my St. Joseph's Missal, saying my Rosary, and talking to my angel.But as I grew older, I no longer talked to my angel. My skeptical mind relegated angels to beliefs in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Then something happened to bring angels back into my life.In 1991, my friend and fellow storyteller, January, gave me a book by Sophie Burnham called "The book of Angels." January was so impressed with the book that she bought nine copies and gave them away to friends. I was so impressed that I bought a copy and gave it to my mother. With that, the collecting of angel stories came to pass.My mother, Vera, was a writer. She never, in some eighty-odd years, ever stopped talking to her angel. She began to research personal stories of those who were touched by angels. Soon she had a file full of angel stories. One angel story seemed to beget another and another. She wrote a compelling article and had it published in our local diocesan newspaper.My experience was different. After reading "The Book of Angels", I was invited to January's house for her annual birthday party. She always has some unusual twist to her party and this year she asked everyone to bring something to share. This could be something you could hold in your hand or some song, poem or story to share. She also requested...no gifts.After a repast of homemade soups and breads, we started up the stairs. On the way up one of the guests saw the "Book of Angels" on the ledge. She told January that she wanted to read the book. To January's distress, this copy was her last, but she wanted to give it to her anyway. She thought a moment and then handed her the last copy. "Here, you take this. Consider it my birthday gift to you." We, then, walked up the stairs to her room. We sat in a circle and one by one we took out those little treasures to share. We sang songs; we listened to poems; we saw rocks collected from some distant mountain and feathers of unusual birds. And we heard stories.
Three of the stories that night concerned angels. The first story was Donna's:* “My life has had such twists and turns. I believe I've been blessed by some kind of divine guidance. There was one night in particular that I feel my life was literally saved. It was raining in torrents and I was in a hurry to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. In my rush I didn't have on my seat belt and this was in the days well before seat belt laws were in force. I reached the exit off the interstate. Because the rain was so hard, I nearly missed it. I turned sharply and started down the ramp, when I heard a voice distinctly say, ‘Seat belts don't work, if you don't put them on.’ I reached over and secured the belt. It wasn't but a few moments later that I was in a terrible car accident - one that left me with broken bones and a concussion, but one that would have surely killed me, if not for the seat belt."As is often the case, one angel story begets another, and this time January told a story:"It was Christmas eve a couple years ago when I received a phone call from an old friend. I was recouping from the flu, and this day was the first that I felt that I was actually among the living. My friend asked if I'd like to go to Midnight Mass with him. Not being Catholic I hesitated, but then I thought of how beautiful the church would be with priests in their vestments and candles burning. Perhaps, it would be just the thing to relieve my doldrums and inspire a bit of the Christmas spirit."I was not disappointed. The mass was beautiful. Our voices echoed in harmony as we sang familiar Christmas hymns and wished each other 'Peace on Earth.'"After the mass we were all standing in the vestibule chatting about the holidays, when I spied a rather tall man. From across the room I took note of his dress. He seemed to be an artist of some sort with longish red hair and artsy-looking clothes. After a few minutes, I found myself standing next to him. I couldn't help but overhear his conversation. He had obviously met up with an old acquaintance who had just asked him where he was now and what he was doing. The red-head answered that he was still in California since he had graduated from Stanford. He was a practicing attorney but had decided to go back and get his doctorate in mythology."The man looked mystified, 'I don't get it. You have a degree in law and now you want to study mythology! I don't get the connection.'" 'Neither do any of my professors. It's just something I've always had an interest in pursuing. Finally, I just decided to do it and I'll let the fates dictate what I'm suppose to do.'" 'What spurred this interest?'" 'I'm often asked that. It all started back in U. City where I went to grade school. I had this art teacher. Mrs. Sanders was her name.'“When he said, 'Mrs. Sanders', my ears perked up." 'She was great. She had these wonderful art projects and often told some myth that went with the project. I can remember sitting there in my fourth grade class completely captivated as I listened to those stories. Those stories have never left me. I can still hear her tell them.'“I couldn't keep still any longer. I looked up at this tall stranger and suddenly I recognized him so I said, 'My name used to be Sanders. I used to teach art at University City.'“He looked down at me, and the first words out of his mouth were, 'Why it’s you, but how did you get so short!'"We both laughed, and then hugged, and then marveled at the coincidence of it all. Finally, I said, 'Do you know that you just gave me the best Christmas present ever...a confirmation of what I've been trying to do for the past twenty years. I wish you all good things as you study mythology.'"After I got home, I started to reflect on what had just happened. I know there are coincidences, but this was more. It happened at a time when I began questioning my life as a story performer - perhaps, I wasn't meant to do this. I had spent time meditating and praying over this. And I was given an answer."As I listened to Janet's story, I thought of the sequence of events. It was as if she were guided to be in that space at that particular time to receive her message.Now, it was my turn to share. I thought back to my mom's collection of angel stories, and I told one that she had collected about a young mother's experience:"I've always believed in angels. But none so much as one day, when I took my young daughter out to the grocery store to pick up some things for supper. Of course, back in those days, we didn't give a second thought to leaving a child in the car while we 'ran in to just get a few things.'"I was hurrying down the aisle when I heard a voice as clear as day say, 'Get back to the car, now!’ I dropped all the groceries in my arms and ran outside. There, peering into the car was a filthy, drunken man. He was trying to get the attention of my daughter. My daughter was hunkered down in the back seat crying, 'No, go away!' When I got to the car, I told him to leave her alone and go back under the rock he had crawled from. I took my child in my arms and vowed I'd never let that happen again."It was only later that I remembered the voice. I realized who it was immediately. It was my guardian angel. All those years of talking to my angel, and now my angel had talked to me. Words I'll never forget."After I finished telling the story, I told them the reason I felt compelled to tell it. "You see, my mom not only collected this story, she lived it... I was the little girl in the back seat."Soon we had completed our round of sharing, and the guests brought out the gifts. Yes, we knew the rule of "no gifts", but what is a party without gifts, right? And, if I do say so, January relished each and every one. She got to the last package, and opened it. There, inside, was "The Book of Angels". By letting go, it had come back becoming a part of yet another story.It was some time after the party when I started to tell "Angel of God". With each telling, the angel stories kept coming. My mother wrote them; I told them. And when I hear an angel story, I always remember the words of that little prayer taught to me by my first grade teacher..."to light, to guard, to rule, to guide." AMEN!