(Our friend, Janet Klasson – better known as Pelianito – sent me this marvelous meditation, sparked originally by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. It took my breath away. Though I reserve the right to write the headline for any piece, I was so impressed that the headline remains just as Janet proposed it. The capital letters in the quotes are by Pelianito for emphasis. – CJ)
It is tempting to think of angels as almost incidental to the plan of salvation, interested observers, messengers of God who do his bidding with joy but are not really involved otherwise. Personally, I don’t remember ever giving a thought to what the angels themselves may or may not feel about the salvation of humankind. But something I read recently changed that.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, had some very interesting things to say about the angels that I had never heard before. Here are the two excerpts from his “Commentary on the Song of Songs” that caught my attention:
“(The saints and angels) each have their special care for you: the saints because they will not themselves be made perfect without you; the angels because WITHOUT YOU THEIR FULL NUMBER CANNOT BE RESTORED, for, as you all know, when Satan and his myrmidons fell from heaven, the number of the heavenly host was greatly diminished. Thus ALL THINGS AWAIT THEIR CONSUMMATION FROM YOU, SOME THE COMPLETION OF THEIR NUMBERS (angels), others the fulfillment of their desires (saints).” (Sermon 77, #4)
“When he uses the ministry of angels for the salvation of the human race, is it not so that the angels may be loved by men? For it is clear that men are loved by the angels because they are not unaware that THE LOSSES IN THEIR RANKS WILL BE MADE UP BY MEN.” (Sermon 78, #1)
I had not heard of this idea of “filling in the ranks” before, but as I pondered these words from a Doctor of the Church, it began to dawn on me that the angels must be intensely interested in the salvation of the human race. St. Bernard tells us that all things are awaiting this “filling in the ranks”, that its consummation will mark a crucial point in the plan of God. No wonder the fallen angels are so intent on the destruction of human souls! What must they be willing to do to make sure we do not have sufficient numbers to fill the ranks? Are we getting close? Is that why the evil one seems to be raging harder than ever?
The evil of contraception takes on an even more diabolical aspect in this light. Fewer souls are being born even to Christian parents. In this light, contraception may possibly be considered a greater evil than abortion because the souls of aborted babies, through the mercy of God, may still fill the ranks, but if souls are prevented from ever being conceived they cannot fill up the ranks of the fallen angels. May God have mercy on this generation!
And there is the key. Mercy is what we have been given and what will turn the tables on the evil one’s plan. Mercy is the reason we are called to the penitential way. Mercy is the not-so-secret weapon of God, and we penitents, if we so desire, may be used as instruments of his mercy in this generation. Pope Emeritus Benedict seemed to confirm this message with his encyclical, “Spe Salvi” (On Christian Hope). In it he says: “As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: How can I save myself? We should also ask: What can I do in order that others may be saved?”
By God’s grace we are called to offer sacrifices for souls, so that the numbers of souls stolen from this generation by the consummate liar and thief, may be made up through the conversion of hearts—particularly the hearts of great sinners, those the evil one counted as his own! Our meager penances, linked to the sufferings of Christ, offered with love for the sake of souls will bear fruit. God would not call us to this way if it did no good. He would not equip us to live this way if there was no point to it.
We are preparing the way of the Lord, making straight his paths to hearts by offering reparations and praying for conversions. We are servants of the Blessed Mother who is calling the world to conversion. For over a hundred years she has been specifically and unequivocally calling us to offer prayers and sacrifices for sinners. Are we listening? The angels are praying for us, guiding us, protecting us and pulling for us. Let us join their ranks now. They are counting on us.