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This is a book we'll recommend for Christmas. It's a classy one -- gold-leafed and leather-bound, with a tassel bookmark, perfect for bedside or the coffee table, and certainly for a daily meditation.

It's called A Year with the Angels: Daily Meditations with the Messengers of God, by Mike Aquilina, published by the venerable TAN/St. Benedict Books. It's just what is says: a book of daily meditations. Every page has a passage from saints and the great Catholic scholars concerning the origin, nature, and workings of angels.

Mostly, it is St. Augustine, along with St. Jerome, St. Gregory ("Wonderworker") Thaumaturgus , St. John Chrysotom, St. Gregory the Great, Dionysius, Origen, St. Basil, and -- well, you get the point.

Angels are powerful and quick to do God's Will, noted St. John of Damascus. "Their nature is so speedy, that as soon as the Divine orders them to go somewhere, immediately, they are there," he said.

Indeed! As these astute men observe, the Holy Spirit presides over angels and is far more pervasive and of course, as part of the Trinity, far superior, but angels are entrusted with much in the realm of the supernatural that invisibly surrounds us -- and are greatly underutilized.

This book will hopefully cause those using it as a reflection to get in closer and more frequent contact with angels anxious to help.

It is the time of year to invoke them.

There are guardian angels and angels over families and angels over communities and regions and countries; there are angels over "principalities." This we know from Daniel! The Church fathers reiterate it.

When were they created? Was it the fourth day of Creation -- as one scholar opines?

We know they were created before the incident in the Garden. It was an angel that cast Adam and Eve away.

And much before that, it was an angel -- Michael -- who cast Satan -- the serpent -- out of Heaven.

"It was the fourth day that He made the visible luminaries of Heaven," argued Augustine. "And it is also a question whether these bodies were made at the same time as their light, or were somehow kindled from the light made already."

It takes a year to contemplate such issues! Meanwhile, again, it brings us closer to them because we are contemplating. Look at their role: announcing the birth of the Savior, informing Joseph that Mary had been faithful, alerting the shepherds, warning Joseph to flee Herod, ministering to Jesus in the desert.

In our own lives, they intervene in ways we don't recognize but will when we come face to face with them -- suddenly can see them -- as we pass from this fleeting world. We can know this: they watch over us, orchestrate major events in our lives (and "coincidences"), and whisper to our intuitions [see feedback at end of this article].

They are the source of inspiration.

There is a hierarchy: As we know, there are archangels, angels, thrones, dominions, powers, cherubim, and seraphim. They communicate with each other, have different roles, and -- according to the Church fathers -- teach each other from their various perspectives.

"Human knowledge is like a feeble twilight compared to the angels' knowledge," said St. Ephrem.

The author quotes such men and then gives a brief reflection and prayer. Great for just after a Rosary.

It is through deduction, speculation, and rumination. Above left is a photo taken by a security camera at a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, just before a 14-year-old girl on that floor miraculously recovered from life-threatening pneumonia. In our time, we are blessed with many who have reported encounters with "mysterious strangers" -- another form of angels, and a form discussed in this beautiful book.

But it is upon old intellectual rumination that Church tradition has long relied and fascinating is the concept presented by St. Augustine that in the afterlife, in eternity, saints will take the place of the fallen angels.

"The other part of the rational Creation, mankind, had completely perished through its own sins, both original and personal, and the punishments for them," said Augustine.

"But God decided that a part of mankind would be restored, and would make up the loss of the disaster that the disaster of the devil had made in the society of the angels. For this is the promise to the saints: at the resurrection, they will be equal to the angels of God (Wisdom 11:20)."

Maybe this is why demons fight so hard to drag us down! It parallels the reputed revelations of a man from Colombia named Marino Restrepo who was abducted in 1997 and experienced what he describes as a miraculous encounter with God during that kidnapping believes he was "infused" with the reason why evil spirits are at war with humanity.

"By being thrown out of Heaven, they turned from light into darkness and were separated from the light at the beginning of Creation," says musician-turned-missionary Marino Restrepo, now of California, upon whom we reported years ago [see story]. "The fallen angels knew that man would occupy the spaces they lost in Heaven." This, he writes in a book, From Darkness into the Light, causes extreme demonic rage -- the attempts at keeping us from attaining Heaven.

Claims Restrepo, who now preaches around the world, "If a saint occupies the place of a fallen angel, then that explains their ferocious battle not to be replaced. The celestial army, by Divine design and through the action of the messenger angels, is in charge of fighting the ongoing battles being waged shoulder to shoulder with the saints here on earth in order to help them achieve celestial glory. The spaces left empty by the fallen angels will be filled by the saints to complete the salvific plan of restoring paradise," Restrepo writes. "St. Paul states in the First Letter to the Corinthians (6:3): 'The saints will judge the angels.'" It is one of many potent observations during Restrepo's conversion after he was imprisoned in a cave for 15 days. Bound and hooded, the Colombian, who had worked in Hollywood merchandising and had lived a life in the fast lane prior to his abduction by former drug lords, suffered bites from insects and bats before he was released months after his conversion in the cave. That occurred, he says, when the Lord came to him in an incredible Voice and showed him his entire life in a series of lucid visions. He was saved, in effect, by the Lord and His angels. Another woman who nearly died, Sondra Abrahams, said when she was shown her life in review, she was stunned at how many times she had encountered angels in her life without recognizing them as angels.

We hear so many accounts in our time!

Can angels see God?

One scholar said they are constantly able to do so (even while ministering to us on earth), while another -- Ephrem -- theorized that no mind, not even an angelic one, can absolutely reach the "mighty height" of its Maker.  Thus, angels see God in whatever way He presents Himself, as a manifestation.

They are spiritual. They are counselors, but limited. They are not to be worshipped.

And they know God best like we do:

Through that Infant born in Bethlehem.

[see also: Video: the forgotten archangel Uriel]

[resources: A Year with the Angels: Daily Meditations with the Messengers of God, From Darkness into the Light, and In the Arms of Angels]

[see also: Christmas book specials]

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[Feedback: "I used to be a heating and a/c mechanic and on Jan 15,1989, I was on my way to fix a heater on that Sunday morning," writes John Mueller of Falconer, New York. "It was about 6 a.m. and all I knew was the family had been without heat that night and they were very cold. Philadelphia is very quiet on weekends especially since it had been sleeting and the roads were very slick. Once on my way I was sitting at a red light when a voice said 'put on your seatbelt.' I didn't know who said it and nobody was in my truck so I figured I was tired and didn't pay attention to it. Once again, I heard the same voice say 'put your seatbelt on' and it was a bit louder this time. I didn't know what to think so I sat there feeling a bit uneasy wondering what was going on. Then in a very lout voice I heard 'PUT YOUR SEATBELT ON!' I really was shaken up by this so I put my seat belt on. I was a little scared  and I started praying and driving to my destination. I didn't recognize the voice and the last time it was as though someone sitting in the passengers seat had said it but no-one was there. As I approached the intersection at 5th and Arch Street the light  turned green and I started to go through when a van came out of nowhere at a high rate of speed ran the red light he had and I ended up hitting him in the side. All I remember is seeing the van coming at me and then I was sitting in my truck -- it was in park and the ignition key was off and I didn't remember doing it. I realized if I didn't have my seatbelt on I would have been killed. I ended up having to get three bone fusions in my neck but I was alive. I do strongly believe in Guardian Angels and that is who I believe told me to put my seatbelt on."

Notes another viewer, Blossom DíSouza: "I read your article on angels with great interest and recall a similar incident that occurred with me in 2005. My friends parents were visiting us here in the UAE, we decided to his take his parents to a small oasis where fresh water flowed and one could enjoy a dip in these waters. The ride was rather bumpy for my old car, we had to drive on unpaved roads, sand and gravel and each time we negotiated a bumpy spot, I asked Mary Help of Christians (I had an image on my dash board) to protect us and the car. We finally reached the beautiful but secluded spot and spent a few beautiful hours, when it was time to return, the car was stuck in the wet sand and no matter what we did it would not budge, I recall we all said a silent prayer and asked the Lord for help.  

"In minutes, from nowhere, appeared three young men, dressed in the local casual attire (a wrap around the waist, a vest, and a scarf draped around the head), they headed directly to us (without us asking for help). One of them took over the  steering wheel, while the other two pushed the car. Now here is what is strange-- they looked like they were having fun doing it! There seemed to be a joy about them, we barely thanked them and got into the car, they had a good walk back to the main road and there was no way we could not have passed by them, the road was a single lane unpaved road on each side with barren land around, which means we would have seen them even if we drove off five minutes later. Nor was there a single vehicle on that road other than ours! However in the two minutes we took to drive off they simply vanished! We were all amazed and at that point we did think they were angels, but did not put much into it, however over the years and from experiencing Godís many graces I firmly believe the Lord did indeed send us his angels."]

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