I’ve been thinking a lot about angels lately. This is mainly due to the fact that in a recent
spiritual direction conversation we were discussing Jesus’ agony in the garden. We all
know about this pivotal moment in the Triduum, as we have learned about it since we
first started learning about our faith.
The agony begins after the Last Supper when, as is very typical, Jesus separates
himself from his apostles for some quiet prayer time. Probably the verse that we are
most familiar with is Jesus asking his father, in anticipation of what is to come, to take
this “cup,” his impending crucifixion and death, away from him. As only Jesus can do,
fully embodying his incarnation, he surrenders himself fully, acquiesces, and gives
himself over to his Father’s will.
It’s in the next verse where we meet Jesus’ angel. In Luke’s version of the agony
(Chapter 22:43), immediately after Jesus has accepted his fait accompli, he writes:
“Then an angel appeared to him and gave him strength.” Ten words - 10 simple yet
powerful and profound words.
I first meditated on these words 14 years ago, almost to the day, when I learned my
baby, at four months in utero, wasn’t healthy. He had been diagnosed with Trisomy 18,
a chromosomal/genetic condition that is not compatible with life. To say I was
devastated would be an understatement. I had so many emotions coursing through me
~ sadness, shock, fear, grief, disbelief ~ I could go on and on. Somehow in the midst of
the sea of feelings, the Holy Spirit led me to Luke’s version of the passion and when I
read it, those 10 words remained deep in my heart.
Specifically it was the appearance of an angel in Jesus’ darkest night of his soul, and
not just appearing but giving him exactly what he needed: strength. Ah, yes, strength.
Isn’t that what we all need not only during our own dark nights, but often just to get
through our lives. We certainly all needed, and still need, strength to make our way
through the pandemic/endemic.
Those 10 words, that angel who appeared to Jesus and I adopted as my own personal
angel to give me strength, have been my mantra and source of fortitude when I have
needed them most. I called upon that angel from the Garden of Gethsemane when I
was going through my divorce and literally did not know how I was going to survive,
literally or figuratively. I am convinced, with 100% certainty, that I not only survived but
am now thriving because of that angel of strength.
I titled this post after the popular Train song, Calling All Angels. If you haven’t listened to
it in a while, I encourage you to do so. Perhaps, as we slowly approach Holy Thursday
and Jesus’ night in the garden, you will take some time to reflect and pray about the
angels that you have called upon or possibly those that appeared, unbidden but
As I was preparing this piece, two women immediately popped into my mind as angels
who literally descended into my life and gave me strength (and still do!) that I didn’t
even know I needed. Robin and Audrey - I’m looking at you ladies and I thank you.
Who are the angels in your life? Do they know they are your angels on earth? If not, I
invite you to take the time to acknowledge and thank them, as a Lenten offering, for
appearing to you and giving you the strength you needed.
Remember, those 10 words are here for you: “Then an angel appeared to him and gave
Ellen Kelly is a spiritual director. She earned a MTS from The Jesuit School of Theology