Leaving Tony Behind
Published: April 12, 2012
Most children are thrilled to hear they have an angel assigned especially to them. But many adults leave behind some beautiful beliefs from childhood—and that often includes guardian angels.
So what happens to our angel in this situation? Does it return to heaven, all bedraggled and blue, and ask for a reassignment? Or does it sit glumly in some corner of our home, waiting for the moment when we will once again need it?
Our Catholic faith teaches that an angel comes to us at the moment of our conception and stays with us the rest of our lives. And even though we may turn our backs on it, the angel remains true to us.
And the angel’s mission is simple enough—to help us get to heaven.
When I was a child, I named my angel “Tony” and for years I poured out my thoughts in a diary that opened each day as a letter to him. When I went away to college, however, I packed books and clothing for the journey but left behind the diary—and eventually all thoughts of Tony.
I can see the scene so clearly: My parents in the front seat of my dad’s dapper Oldsmobile, with me and a pile of boxes crowded in the back. I didn’t realize it, of course, but Tony was sitting next to me, no doubt wondering what would come next.
Once we got to Gainesville, my parents bid me a tearful farewell. But moments after they left, I quickly dried my tears, for there I was, finally free of parental control! Yes, there was a curfew in the dormitory, but that didn’t stop many girls, including yours truly, from figuring out ways around it.
In short order I became a big-time rebel, giving up Mass, my belief in God—and certainly any interest in Tony. Now when I look back, I see this girl with long flowing brown hair and a cluster of books in her arms, dashing across campus to her next class. I also see her in the evenings hurrying off to the next party.
Behind her I spot a worried-looking angel scurrying along and sending up prayers on her behalf because God knows I needed them!
With my newfound atheism, I fell very far astray in the next few years. After all, if God and heaven didn’t exist, what reason was there to be good? Why not just party hearty?
Sadly, not all the party animals survived the wild years of college. One friend ended up committing suicide, while another friend, drunk, crashed his car into a tree and died.
I wonder what poor Tony thought about those college years. After all, he wasn’t just standing around without an inkling of what was going on. In fact, there’s a compelling book called “The Invisible World” that examines the ways angels relate to humans.
In a chapter titled “Invisible Helpers,” author Anthony Destefano says our angel’s job is to get us back on the right road whenever we stray. And since angels can’t talk to us in the usual way, they have other methods of communication.
It might be a slight pang of conscience that moves us to perform a kind gesture—or it could be a more dramatic nudge.
There was a father who suddenly felt compelled to insist that his children fasten their seatbelts, just moments before a truck hit their car. The father could have ignored the impulse but fortunately he heeded it—and the children were unharmed.
The author says angels are “always at our side, encouraging us, consoling us, coaching us, warning us ….” Their one goal is to help us “be in union with God … on earth and for all eternity in Heaven.”
In my case, I’m sure Tony was prodding me to get back on the right path, but I went my merry way for many years.
Then one day, after I’d been married a while, he nudged me again—and this time I responded. You see, my husband and I were sitting on the back deck having supper when we suddenly had an impulse to walk over to St. Thomas More Church.
At first we stood in the back and looked in. A few weeks later we were in the pews, and not too long after that, I returned to the sacraments and my husband was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.
There were many people in the congregation that night, and, of course, an invisible crowd of guardian angels there as well.
Looking back, I have to believe that one angel had a particularly big smile on his face. And, yes, it was Tony.
Lorraine Murray’s latest books include a biography of Flannery O’Connor, “The Abbess of Andalusia”—plus two mystery novels, “Death of a Liturgist” and “Death in the Choir.” She lives in Decatur with her husband, Jef, who illustrates her columns. Readers may contact them at email@example.com.