Today is the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. Paul V was the first Pope, in 1608, to authorise a feast day in honour of guardian angels. Pope Clement X changed the date to October 2nd and Leo XIII, in 1883, upgraded the date to a double major feast. There is a proper Office in the Roman Breviary and a proper Mass in the Roman Missal, which contains all the apposite extracts from Sacred Scripture bearing on the three-fold office of the angels, to praise God, to act as His messengers, and to watch over mortal men. "Let us praise the Lord whom the Angels praise, whom the Cherubim and Seraphim proclaim Holy, Holy, Holy" (second antiphon of Lauds). "Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice of him, and hear his voice" (Exodus 23; capitulum ad Laudes). The Gospel of the Mass includes that pointed text from St Matthew 18: 10: "See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." Although October 2nd has been fixed for this feast in the Roman calendar, it is kept, by papal privilege, in Germany and many other places on the first Sunday (computed ecclesiastically) of September, and is celebrated with special solemnity and generally with an octave (Nilles, II, 503). This feast, like many others, was local before it was placed in the Roman calendar. It was not one of the feasts retained in the Pian breviary, published in 1568; but among the earliest petitions from particular churches to be allowed, as a supplement to this breviary, the canonical celebration of local feasts, was a request from Cordova in 1579 for permission to have a feast in honour of the Guardian Angels. (Bäumer, Histoire du Breviaire, II, 233.) Bäumer, who makes this statement on the authority of original documents published by Dr. Schmid (in the Tübinger Quartalschrift, 1884), adds on the same authority that "Toledo sent to Rome a rich proprium and received the desired authorisation for all the Offices contained in it, Valencia also obtained the approbation in February, 1582, for special Offices of the Blood of Christ and the Guardian Angels."
My mother introduced me to St Teresa of Avila and, later on, to St Thérèse of Lisieux. Her death on the day following the feast of the latter was the most difficult moment of my life. Her last breath came at twenty minutes past five o’clock on the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels 1992. All I can remember is my father’s distant voice proclaiming: “She’s gone.” Two little words that were of themselves devastating ― yet I knew in my heart she had not gone at all, but had passed into the Lord’s safekeeping where she would be for eternity. Like her favourite saints, my mother remained as fragrant as flowers in death, resisting decomposition until the last; even when I replaced the lid on her coffin in the stone chapel for the very last time. She became the “first person I would anoint and on whose behalf I would recite the prayers for the newly dead, since receiving the mitre.” [The Grail Church, Holy Grail, 1995, page 102.] My mother’s funeral was also the first I would conduct in my episcopal office. It was held at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery on the feast day of St Teresa of Avila, one of the two saints my mother was most close to; the other being St Thérèse of Lisieux. I also conducted a funeral service in the same cemetery chapel some eight years later for my father.
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.