With today being the Feast of the Archangels, Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and Saint Raphael and Monday the Feast of the Guardian Angels, why not tell you a true story about angels. Okay, I will.
It happened in June of 1991...the morning of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But I should start at the beginning of the story. A local church had been open all night to allow people to come and pray in reparation for all the sins committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I had never tried to pray all night before and did not know if I would have the stamina to do so or be able to stay awake. I usually need seven hours of sleep. Scripture tells us that Jesus spent whole nights in prayer. His desire to save us was so strong. Therefore I decided I would make an earnest effort to pray all through the night.
Needless to say, by the time 3 am came, my head was nodding up and down as I struggled to stay awake. I knew that if I remained seated in the pew, I would definitely fall asleep completely. So I forced myself up out of the pew and to the back of the church where I could pace and not be a cause of distraction for others. My mind and body, demanding rest, were numb and felt like mush. But I wanted to give the Lord that sacrifice for the salvation of souls. The best prayer I could muster was saying over and over: "Jesus, I love You! Please save souls."
Eventually I could concentrate only on four words: "Jesus, I love You!" Over and over again I repeated those words. On occasion I would say: "Jesus, I don't know how good my prayer is. I feel so dry and numb, but please, at least let my physical presence and effort be a sign of love for you and my desire to give you souls."
Finally, 7 am came. I thought, "Hurray, I can go home and get some sleep." I stopped pacing and walked up to the front part of the church where my brother Joe had stayed all night, too.
I nudged him. "Are you leaving?" I asked.
"No," he replied, "I'm staying for Mass!"
"Mass!" I thought. "I want to go home. I'm beat!"
Struggling against the temptation to be irritable, I figured that surely it would not kill me if I stayed another half hour. Besides, Mass meant receiving Jesus because of Whom I spent the night. Again, I do not know how well I prayed. But when I received Jesus in the Eucharist I hoped He was pleased with me and would bless me. Did He ever!
I remember clearly leaving the church after Mass, walking to the car, unlocking it, getting in, starting it, driving out of the parking lot and going east on Grover Street. I remember the road, the street lights, the stop signs. I remember clearly coming to what I think are the roughest railroad tracks in Omaha. I always go over them very slowly to save on the shocks. I clearly remember going over half of them and then I remember absolutely nothing until 2 miles later I felt a nudge on my left arm...the kind of nudge one gets when someone is trying to wake you.
I immediately realized I was in front of my mother's house and I awoke in the exact instant necessary to park the car at the curb. I had a very strong sense of the presence of my guardian angel unlike anything I had ever experienced. At the same time I was in a state of intense wonderment: "How had I arrived safely? How did I get here?"
I didn't remember anything the last two miles! I didn't see the road, the curves, the stop signs, the street lights! I had to cross 24th and Vinton...a very busy street at 7:45 am. I shuddered and gave thanks at the same time that I hadn't run into anything or hit anybody. The thought of my guardian angel came to my mind and I noted a strong sense of his presence. ("Pacis," I've named him...a Latin word that means "of Peace." Hence, my "Angel of Peace."
"Pacis," I prayed, "You drove me home!" I went into the house and exclaimed to my mother, "Ma, I think my angel drove me home!"
"He probably did," she responded with great faith as though it was nothing about which I should be surprised. (My mother loves angels. As a matter of fact, it was because of her that I wrote music to Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St. Michael.) You would think I would have just fallen into bed dead tired, but instead I paced the house for the next hour in wonderment.
The clincher came about a month later. Had I had the slightest doubt about my angel driving me home, it was eradicated when I was reading a book about Padre Pio by Father Alessio Parente, OFM CAP, entitled "Send Me Your Guardian Angel". Fr. Alessio was a constant companion to Padre Pio and privy to much first-hand information about him.
In a short chapter entitled, "Angel at the Wheel" I read the following account on pages 105-108: "A friend of mine, Mr. Piergiorgio Biavati, since gone to his Heavenly reward, told me the following story:
He was traveling from Florence to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to attend Padre Pio's Mass and go to confession to him. Due to heavy traffic on the 'Autostrada del sol" (Motorway), he lost a good deal of time. He had calculated being in San Giovanni Rotondo at sunset, instead, at that time, he had only succeeded in reaching Naples.
With his nerves in pieces and feeling very tired, he decided to make an overnight stop there and travel to San Giovanni the following morning. He stopped at a snack-bar on the autostrada and went in for a cup of coffee. Afterwards, he hung around for another few minutes and felt the urge to have another. Some time passed and he went to have a third cup! (Dear reader, if you would drink even one cup of our strong Italian coffee, you would be awake for three days and three nights...maybe that's what I needed that night in Omaha!) Having finished the third cup, he felt so relaxed and wide awake that he decided to continue his journey and thus avoid an overnight stop, even though by then it was getting very dark.
Here I quote Mr. Biavati's own words: "I remember only one thing; I started the engine, put my hands on the wheel and after that, I have no recollection whatsoever! I don't remember any second of the three hour drive. Not only that, but when I reached the square in front of the Friary, someone shook me by the shoulder and said: 'Come on, now, take over!' "
You can imagine his astonishment; he must have driven for about three hours, yet he could not remember so much as one single second of the whole journey. Gripped by fear, he went to park the car and have a rest before going up to the Friary to attend Padre Pio's Mass. After Mass he approached Padre Pio and said: "Father, I drove here from Naples but I don't remember driving my car at all."
And Padre Pio smilingly replied: "Yes, you are right. You were sleeping all the way and my Guardian Angel was driving for you!"
The 'little man' (as Padre Pio often referred to his angel) was lucky that he wasn't stopped by the police as I'm sure he didn't have a license!!! But if he protected one person so well on a long journey, I think we should all remember to say that well known prayer as we set out, and perhaps the time is ripe having just celebrated the feast of the Guardian Angels last week, to print that little prayer and to suggest to all that they utter its beautiful words as often as they can:
"Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here;
Ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen."
Padre Pio knew what he was talking about. That I can assure you. Thank you, God, for your angels. If you think the angels are in cahoots, you're right! And thank God they are or I wouldn't be here today!
Praise Him for steering us all in the right direction and may God bless you!