I’m having to write the log a bit earlier this week, as I will be heading to Dublin for meetings, and away for most of the week until the weekend. As I write, it’s the Feast of the Guardian Angels, which always gives me pause for thought as to the number of times in my life when I have felt somehow protected and kept safe, and indeed rescued from harm. The sceptic might say that these mundane occasions had nothing to do with angels, that I was just very lucky, but it will take more than a sceptic to deprive me of my belief in God’s loving protection.
One of my childhood memories is of being on holiday with my family in Saltcoats, at the same house we went to every year for the Glasgow Fair. I went into one of the bedrooms in the boarding house, and decided to try and reach something on top of the big, old-fashioned, heavy wardrobe, by stepping on to the lower ledge of the wardrobe and reaching up. Unfortunately, as I did this, the wardrobe began to tip over, I fell backwards and watched in horror as it came crashing down towards me. Just when I thought my time was up, the top of the wardrobe caught on a low table behind me, and stopped just inches from my face. My guardian angel had saved me! Again, in childhood, my older cousin took me to the swimming baths for the first time, to begin teaching me how to swim. She, being a girl, went to a different changing room. I came out first and, having seen it done on television, decided to just swallow dive off the deep end. I have a vague memory of floating around under water, flailing my arms, not waving but drowning. Thankfully, a lifeguard spotted me, pulled me out, and gave me life-to-life resuscitation at the edge of the pool, as my poor cousin looked on in panic. I never did learn to swim but, thanks to that lifeguard, and to my guardian angel, I am still alive. A memory in later life was when I was living in Botswana, in our Novitiate House at Forest Hill, near Gabarone. One Easter Sunday, I took a notion to climb Kgale Hill, not too far away from the house. There was a path marked out with crudely drawn white arrows leading to the top of the hill, which I followed, sometimes through very dense growth, until it opened out at the top to a beautiful panoramic view. After a time spent taking in the view, watching these strange creatures called rock rabbits running around, and giving thanks to the Risen Lord, I began to make my way back down again, by following the arrows backwards. Somehow, I lost the track in the dense growth, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t find may way back on to it. It was getting near sunset, and I knew there would be two dangers. One would be snakes, as I knew there would certainly be some poisonous snakes lurking in the bushes. The other would be the baboons. At sunrise near Forest Hill, the baboons would come streaming down the hill in their hundreds to level ground, and then at sunset they would go streaming back up again. The thought of being trapped on the hill as the baboons came swarming back, and perhaps perceiving me as a threat, was not a pleasant one at all. I remembered having read somewhere that, in such circumstances, it was better to go up than down, so I tried to make my way back up the hill. After about half an hour, I miraculously caught sight of a white arrow. Breathing a sigh of relief, and thanking my guardian angel profusely, I carefully made my way back down to safety.
As a final thought, even today, when I see cyclists on the road and how precarious that can be, I look back with amazement that I survived nearly 10 years, both as a student, and later as a priest, cycling in Dublin, with utterly chaotic traffic, and even more potholes than Glasgow, while being a truly terrible cyclist. I ask pardon now for any road rage I caused to drivers. Only my guardian angel could have got me through that, and live to tell the tale. As we invoke the Holy Spirit to guide the bishops on the next stage of the Synodal Path, which begins this week, let’s also invoke the angels, and God’s providential care, always.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.