THERE IS A story about Group Captain Cheshire who took over command of the famous ‘Dam Busters’ squadron in 1943.
For two days after he arrived his driver sat in the staff car with nothing to do, frequently watching him walk away to wherever it was he was going and apparently unaware of her existence. Eventually she took herself off to the station commander and asked if the Group Captain was indeed unaware of her existence. “You’d better ask him,” was the reply, so she did and was (in the words of Cheshire’s biographer Paul Brickhill), “… staggered when he confessed that he didn’t even know he had a car at his disposal.”
“It was fairly typical of the man,” Brickhill continues, “never taking for granted what lesser men demanded.”
I was reminded of this story when reading Francis Fernandez’s meditation on Guardian Angels on Tuesday of this week and it crossed my mind to wonder how many guardian angels are “sitting outside” waiting for us to remember or even to discover that they exist and are there for our benefit.
The Church teaches that every one of us has their own personal guardian angel appointed “to light and guard, to rule and guide” from the moment of conception to the moment of our death. Their whole purpose, if asked, is to look after our spiritual welfare, and our temporal welfare also to some extent since, as Fernandez points out, there is no reason not to ask for help even for something as mundane as being able to find a parking place! (In fact, given the congestion in modern city streets anyone who can help in that regard is well worth keeping on the right side of!)
The important phrase, of course, is “if asked”! Most of us already understand that trying to outwit Satan and his hordes on our own can only be disastrous and we seek help from Our Lord and Our Lady through Mass and the Rosary, through our daily prayers and meditations and the Sacraments — and rightly so — but how many of us bother to hold any sort of conversation with our guardian angel whose sole purpose while we live is to “hold our hand” and, again so the Church teaches, to accompany us on that final journey when we confront God to account for the life we have lived.
That conversation can never be two-way but there are times when it can come fairly close and the more we treat our guardian angel as a friend, confidant, and counsellor the more likely it is that we will be able to feel some sort of rapport.Don’t take my word for it; read any of the lives of the saints. But I will give one example because it happened to me and you are welcome to put your own interpretation on it.
One of the dangers of being retired in the computer age is that you find yourself at the breakfast table checking your e-mails on the iPad, reading the on-line newspapers, catching up on the social media (though I have managed to avoid Facebook and Twitter so far!) and finding before you know it that your shoulders hurt and your eyes hurt and it’s nearly time for morning coffee! So I made the decision that I would not do that. I would leave the table and do some definite outdoor task and on those days when there was no definite task to do I would spend a quarter-hour sitting quietly in an armchair. That’s it. I had nothing else in mind.
Until suddenly something inside me said — because these are exactly the words I ‘heard’ — “That’s a good idea. And just nice time for saying your Rosary as well.” Make what you will of it.
To return to Leonard Cheshire for a moment. After the war he became heavily involved in charitable work which in the early days was very much hand-to-mouth. In a brief description at the end of his book, Brickhill notes:
I’ve asked him several time how he paid it all off, and he always says, “I can’t really explain it. Things just seemed to work out.” He did, in fact, develop a fatalistic attitude that if he did not worry things would be all right. Peculiarly enough, they were.
He quotes three instances in which the Home he was running was within two days of being able to pay a bill only to have almost the exact amount required arrive unsolicited in the post just in time.
Coincidence? Or someone’s guardian angel working overtime?