I suppose I had known him for my whole life, but I first met him when I was a freshman in college.
I was working as a cashier at Price Chopper, the local grocery store. I was in the middle of an order, scanning away, when someone came up to me and hastily handed me a small, folded piece of paper.
"Thanks," I said, surprised, as the deliverer quickly rushed away. I opened the note to see in a scrawled script a brief message:
You will do well here.
It was signed: Morgan Deli.
I didn't recall meeting a Morgan before. During my break, I went over to the deli to do some investigating, but to no avail.
I kept the note in my cashier apron's pocket and, after a few weeks, forgot about the strange occurrence.
It was then midterm time for the fall semester. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to work the evening before my big history exam. I was a bit beside myself: I had hoped to spend the whole night finalizing my test preparation and where did I find myself, but scanning groceries. Great...just great.
During my break, I sat myself in the little eating area of the store where I lamented my lost study time and seemingly inevitable failing grade. I glanced up to see a man, sitting a few tables away, carefully watching me. He smiled and approached my table. "You look sad about something. What's wrong?"
I proceeded to tell him my troubles and he listened most graciously. As my break neared an end, I asked his name and he replied, “Morgan.”
I had found the author of my mysterious note.
We spoke several times after that initial encounter. On one instance, Morgan noticed the Miraculous Medal that I was wearing and excitedly showed me his medal, enthusiastically sharing with me his devotion to our Blessed Mother.
It came to pass that I transferred to a new store and, as such, no longer saw Morgan. Time went by and I forgot about him. I began to forget about other things, too –it was a dark time in my faith journey and my relationship with God became lukewarm as I questioned and challenged beliefs that once had shaped my whole concept of being.
My life was on a collision course and it manifested itself quite concretely a few months later during, of all times, Holy Week. Driving home one afternoon down my quiet, rural street I prepared to turn left into my driveway. As I turned, seemingly from nowhere bounded a truck that inexplicably attempted to pass me on my left as I turned.
The truck hit my car and swerved off the road while my car spun in place. Dazed and shocked, I managed to drive my car into the driveway, the front bumper dragging along the road as I numbly realized that the truck had missed the driver’s door by a matter of feet.
Shaking, I exited my car and watched the driver of the truck also exit his vehicle and then abruptly begin sprinting down the road away from me (I was later to learn he had stolen the truck). Alone and frightened I stood as another car approached the scene of the accident. The driver stopped and came toward me.
It was, of all people, Morgan.
As he walked, I saw a Crown of Thorns in his hand, which he said he would be using for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. He stayed with me as I called the police and helped me until everything was resolved.
The last memory I have of Morgan was that Easter Sunday morning. He attended the same Mass as me and I remember, driving home, watching him walking alone down the sidewalk, the sun on his back.
In retrospect, I see the bizarre car accident as a metaphor for my faith life at the time. You see, it was in danger and about to crash. This was God’s intervention at a crossroads to warn me and to encourage me to choose to follow Jesus… and Morgan was the messenger.
Do you know that the word angel means "messenger?"
I have no concrete evidence that Morgan was indeed an angel, but I also have no evidence to the contrary. Yet, what I do know to be certain is that God constantly aids us, sometimes via angels, to use our free will to accept His love and to wear our crown of thorns in imitation of Christ.
Contrary to popular imagination, angels are not the chubby little cherubim depicted in artwork. Angels are pure intellect; they lack a physical body. In fact, it may be more accurate to call them “spirits” because, unlike the human person who is a composite of body and soul, the angel is completely incorporeal. In this way, angels differ as much from us as we differ from animals.
As pure intellects, angels know fully and completely, as opposed to humans who are constantly gaining new knowledge and modifying our understanding.
At times angels may assume a physical body. Saint
Thomas Aquinas writes, “…through their assumed bodies they [angels] appear to be living men, although they are really not. For the bodies are assumed merely for this purpose, that the spiritual properties and works of the angels may be manifested by the properties of man and of his works.”
We see this occur in the Book of Tobit in the Bible when the Archangel Raphael comes to the aid of young Tobias. Raphael ostensibly appears as an ordinary human, so much so that Tobias is fully unaware that he is in the presence of a heavenly messenger.
Tobias’ experience raises an interesting notion: as we move throughout our day, interacting with others, passing strangers, traveling on public transportation, could we be visited by angels as well? The author of the Letter to the Hebrews forewarns, “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (13:2).
Certainly, there exists an entirely deeper level of existence to which we are frequently oblivious. Some angels, like Raphael, are good and endeavor to draw us closer to our Creator. Others, having utilized their free will to rebel against God, are evil angels who seek our downfall, the foremost among these being Lucifer or the devil.
Whether good or evil, though invisible to the naked eye, we are surrounded by these spirits we call angels. And sometimes these angels, such as my Morgan, directly intervene in our lives.
When God calls to you, may you listen. And when His angels pass your way, as they indeed will, may you hear their message even if you do not recognize the messenger.