In my Catholic girlhood angels were omnipresent, rosy babies flying on the cathedral ceiling, plaster men with wings and sandals standing sentry in the church, brightly colored guardians in my prayer book , firmly guiding wayward children. They were as real to me then as the baby Jesus in the manger, the ox and the lamb, or for that matter, as flying reindeer. I was ever conscious of them, the little black and white angels who were supposed to be on my shoulder, whispering about my choices. Whenever there was trouble, I was listening for them, looking for them…Catholic education will do that to you.
I forget about angels now, one year to the next, until they reappear again at Christmas time and once again are everywhere, part of the season’s noise. Sometimes I find them charming, but mostly they are without meaning, uprooted from belief. But in contemplating this past year, personally eventful, I wonder if I failed to make the leap of understanding required to translate those childhood representations into a deeper or wider meaning. Misled by literal wings and celestial colors and alienated by the foul monolith of organized religion, I wonder if I turned it all off and in so doing, missed something valuable. Have I been blind to angels all this time?
Maybe an aging parent is an angel, enduring pain and illness with dignity, and teaching me a different meaning of the word “honor”. Perhaps one is a co-worker, wise with years, whose grace and humor lightened the daily grind and is now sorely missed. One could be a musician, talented and generous, who encourages growth and shares the joy of music, brightening and broadening my world. Or friends, bravely reinventing themselves in the face of adversity, more than one example of courage….all angels. Certainly one must be the exhausted surgeon, who gets up every day and does her best to help her patients, despite pressures and expectations beyond endurance. When I start to look for angels, I find a surprising number hidden in plain view. They enrich my earthbound life in astonishing measure.
This New Year, while making the bridge from celebrations to promises, I salute all the angels among us. Look around you. They are everywhere.
© Poets Sinews, 2014, reuse by permission only.