On this Memorial Day I give thanks for those who have answered the call and protected many they did not know. Those who have swallowed their fear and have run toward danger. Those who have internalized and made reflexive the sacrifice of the self for an ideal. I acknowledge how very deeply I am in their debt, and that we share a very powerful protector.
A few years ago, angels were all the rage. It seemed that no matter where one looked, there were books, films, and music where angels figured prominently. This did not appeal to me. On the whole, I have no real dislike of angels. It just seemed that they were forever portrayed as…well, sops. Real Marvin Milquetoasts, beaming beatifically and playing their harps. Nothing like the angel I prefer, the angel I most admire, nothing like Michael the Archangel.
When I was little the nuns used to tell us to ‘leave a little room on our desk chairs for our guardian angels’. Most of the kids scootched just a bit to the side. After all, wings do take up some space. I moved way over to the edge because my angel wore armor and HAD A SWORD. When the good sister asked me why I was half out of my seat, I made mention of this need for weapon space. She smiled that beatific angel smile and told me that, most likely, my guardian angel was not the aforementioned Archangel. I told her that if, as she had instructed us, my soul was being protected by my guardian angel–I needed the ONE WITH THE SWORD.
As I stood in the corner that morning, my knuckles still stinging from the ruler, I promised Michael that I would always be certain that he was mine no matter what anyone said. And, as I have been saved improbably from many scrapes and jams, (and most of my own making) I know he has always been there, protecting me, protecting them…with his sword.
And my favorite pew at St. Alban’s is the one on the Gospel side, under St. Michael’s window. His sword is clearly in view, in his role as a champion in struggles against the devil, which we all have. Keeping St. Michael as a guardian angle is worth a few swats with a ruler.