Shall we not, from the following stories, be inspired to pray to the Angel of our own country in these perilous times? God has shown his power in this last week, we must continue to pray for our country and for our leaders…and what better advocate do we have than the Angel whose holy job it is to guard and defend our country!
WHY DID THE ANGEL APPEAR IN PORTUGAL?
Although every country, every kingdom, and every province has its Angel Guardian, we know of no other nation in modern times whose Angel has appeared as in the case of Portugal. (Fatima)
Can we offer any explanation for this exceptional honor?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Portugal has had from the earliest times a very special love for the Angels, as the following facts go to show:
Her first king, Don Afonso Henriques, a man eminent not only for his military prowess but also for his truly Christian life, had a very marked love for the Angels, notably for his Angel Guardian and for St. Michael, the prince of the heavenly host.
We find this devotion mentioned in some of the old Portuguese chronicles.
The account runs as follows:
Sometime after the king had taken the almost impregnable Moorish fortress of Santarem, the Moorish hosts, under the command of their monarch Albaraque, in person, made a formidable attack on the city in the hope of reconquering it.
At the time King Afonso Henriques was suffering grievously from a wound in one of his legs so that he could not mount his horse. He insisted, however, on getting into a chariot and joining in the fight.
It was a hazardous adventure because his death or capture would have been a serious blow to his soldiers and a source of encouragement to his enemies.
However, as events proved, he was under angelic protection. A legend says he saw an arm grasping a sword and also a wing, which showed him that an Angel was with him. This sword protected the person of the king and wrought dreadful havoc among the Moors, who fled in terror, leaving the Portuguese masters of the field. The Moorish captives taken in the battle declared that they too had seen the Angel.
In gratitude the king founded a military Order which he called the “Order of the Wing” in honor of St. Michael and the Angels. Many noble families belonged to this Order, and we have seen an image of a wing and an arm brandishing a sword, on the coat of arms of one of the old families.
We have further evidence of this devotion in the fact that Don Manuel I, one of the most remarkable of the Kings of Portugal, was also most devoted to the Angels, so much so that he begged the Pope to sanction the feast of the Angel Guardian of Portugal and permit the Office and Mass to be said on the third Sunday of July.
This feast is still celebrated. We have never heard that any other country celebrates a like feast.
Vasco da Gama, the renowned discoverer who found the maritime route to India, leaves another proof of the great confidence that the Portuguese had in the holy Angels.
When starting on this memorable voyage to India, one of the most remarkable recorded in history, he called two of his ships after the Angels, one St. Gabriel, because it was he who had brought to the world the great tidings of our Redemption, and the Admiral too, had the wish to carry the same news of salvation to the pagan lands he hoped to discover.
He called the other ship St. Raphael, after the Angel who accompanied the young Tobias on his long and dangerous journey.
The Admiral rightly thought that he himself could have no better guide and protector on this perilous voyage than this patron of travelers. In modern times the Portuguese, recalling this act of Vasco da Gama, have again named two of their vessels after the Archangels.
The King Cardinal Don Henrique cherished a marked love for the Angels and built a Church in their honor in Lisbon. The feast day was kept as a Holiday of Obligation in the parish.
A second church was erected in honor of St. Michael, and his feast was also observed as a Holiday of Obligation.
In other churches of Lisbon and throughout the country we find still further traces of this same devotion. Many of the Kings of Portugal and also the royal princes took the names of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael in Baptism.
In some families the name of one of the Angels is given as a second name to all the children. In one such family known to the writer, there was John Raphael, Mary Raphael, Thomas Raphael, James Raphael and Anne Raphael.
Luiz de Sousa, O.P., one of the foremost Portuguese writers, gives us the story of the conversion of the celebrated Frei Gil or Egidius of Santarem, by his Angel Guardian.
Egidius was a man of noble birth and of a devout Christian family. He himself, unfortunately, took to the study of the black arts and went to Paris in order to facilitate this study.
On his way he was induced to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for great learning. This he did by a written bond. One night when working in his laboratory, a young man mounted on a horse dashed into the chamber and, sternly rebuking him, ordered him to desist at once from to renounce these hellish arts at once and forever.
Egidius, moved by this second apparition to the very depths of his soul, not only abandoned his evil ways but did salutary penance.
He returned to Portugal, where he joined the Dominican Order, in which he attained great sanctity.
The same chronicler cites another example of angelic visitation.
One of the Fathers, eminent for holiness, by name Father Lawrence, was accosted one day, when making a journey on foot, by an Angel who presented him with a box of relics which he had brought from a distant town recently taken by the Saracens and which he wished to save from desecration.
These relics were for many centuries venerated in the Church of Guimarães in the north of Portugal. These few incidents go to show how deeply ingrained was the love and devotion to the holy Angels in Portugal.
They furnish us with a possible reason why the Guardian Angel of the country appeared in Fatima, for the Angels generously repay all of the honor we show them.
ANGELIC APPARITIONS IN HUNGARY AND IN IRELAND
As we have already observed, we know of no other country except Portugal where the Angel Guardian of the country has appeared in recent times, but the Angels have appeared in remoter epochs in Hungary and in Ireland, both of which countries have also been very devoted to the Angels.
Olibrio, King of Hungary
This king was deliberating on making war on the Tartars, trusting to a powerful army which he had at his disposal. A holy Bishop counseled him to pray fervently before deciding on hostilities.
In answer to his sincere prayer, the Angel Guardian of the Kingdom appeared and warned him not to declare the war he had meditated on making, for said the Angel, “Your cause is not just and you will surely be defeated. Do not trust in your army, for the Angel Guardian of the Tartars will fight against you, and you will be beaten, and I cannot help you in what is not just.”
The King very readily followed this advice and made peace with the Tartars, who gladly accepted his overtures, for in this his Angel helped him.
In deep gratitude the monarch celebrated magnificent festivities in honor of the Angel Guardian of the Kingdom and placed an image of the Angel over his crown. Thenceforward it became the custom of the Kings of Hungary to ask God’s help in all matters of moment through the intercession of the Angel Guardian of the Kingdom.
The King of Ireland and the Angel
The Venerable Bede mentions that one of the Kings of Ireland had great devotion to the Holy Angels and invoked them frequently with the greatest confidence.
Unfortunately, owing to the bad advice of a false counselor, he became unpopular with his subjects who determined to revolt against him.
On learning this, the King was seriously disturbed and entertained grave fears for his life and kingdom.
However his Angel Guardian appeared to him radiant with joy and bade him not to fear, for he said, “Owing to your great love for me and the other Angels, we have obtained from God that your princes and subjects will remain loyal and faithful to you.
But do you, on your part, dismiss your false counselor and seek in all things to please our people.”
The King gratefully did what the Angel had counseled him, with the happiest results. These two incidents teach us how our Angels, though they love us dearly, will not help us if we seek to do wrong.
On the other hand, they are eager to give us every possible assistance when we seek for what is just.
We should beware of speaking ill or doing harm to others, for their Angels will defend them and avenge them.
Our Lord seems to call our attention to this fact when He warns us not to harm or scandalize children, for He says, “Their Angels see the face of My Father.”