Messengers of Grace

Messengers of Grace

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I have been putting my life under a very large microscope since I was in high school. I have delighted in developing a philosophy of life that is a code of behavior, based on my Catholic faith that I have tried to live.

Philosophy and religion often raise the question of Divine Providence and God’s infinite grace. The notion of angels plays a vital role in these concepts. I sometimes wonder how many people still believe in Guardian Angels? In grade school, during my early education, the nuns would teach that each one of us had a guardian angel.

After grade school, I never gave angels much thought. For most adults, angels belong to the ornamental world of Christmas trees. Some equate angels with having an imaginary friend, akin to a fantasy you tell your children until they grow up. Think Santa or the Easter Bunny. Most young men dream of finding an angel with a very earthly body.

The Bible, especially the New Testament, relies heavily on angels as messengers and powerful advocates for God’s divine plan. The older I get, the more I look to human angels than any celestial being with wings and things because of the number of intercessions they have made on my behalf.

My trip to Gettysburg for my 68th birthday evoked memories of the best-selling book by the late Michael Shaara, Killer Angels. This was the author’s theological way of saying that human beings have a divine spark but are also cursed with a lethal tendency. Focusing on our inner angels I think many of us are employed by God to take messages of hope and grace to each other.

It was at my 50th high school reunion that I truly realized how much a role that angels have played in my life. It was during the open-microphone session that I had some deep thoughts that I shared with my classmates. My purpose was to demonstrate how interconnected the events were in my life and how many angels or messengers of God’s grace had enabled me to take the paths that ultimately became my life and my worldview.

I began by saying how I had received something none of them ever had from the Jesuit military school, Xavier High School—–a rejection letter. This short letter had literally dashed my hopes and dreams that were generated by a neighbor, who proudly marched past my window every morning, wearing his snappy blue dress uniform, en route to the subway, against the rocks of despair. What made the pain worse was the fact that many of my intellectual inferiors in my eight-grade class had been accepted.

I moped around for a full week until just before the end of the lunch period, one of my inferiors told me to call home. My dad was as excited as I was when he told me they had reconsidered and I had a place in the Class of 1961. I found out later that the first of what would be several messengers of grace had interceded on my behalf.

My saintly maiden aunt called her Jesuit friend, Father Joseph Connors, at St. Francis Xavier Church and told him of my grave disappointment. Father Connors must have told the powers that be how smart, good and handsome I was. Well, maybe two of the three. Attending Xavier High School shaped the direction my life would take.

From there I went to Holy Cross–another Jesuit school. At Holy Cross, I met another instrumental priest, Father John Sullivan, who later became the Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas. He represented the Catholic Lay Extension Volunteers. It was their mission to extend the Catholic Church into rural and urban areas where there were just a few Catholics. This outreach program catered to teachers, social workers and people who cared about Church teachings. I promised myself that if I felt as inspired as I was that first time, I would join. Four years later, after hearing Father Sullivan a few more times, I signed up.

Even that was not easy for me. Twice they tried to wash me out. Both times related to the standardized test, the infamous MMPI, formerly known as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. I had to visit the school psychologist at the Cross after taking the test. God only knows how I got through that!

It was on to a brief period of training at Barat College of the Sacred Heart in Chicago the following August. I had to take that same test again. This time I tried to micromanage my answers. Well, it was another trip to the psychologist. I was told that my group would be leaving without me. They wanted team players and I didn’t fit that profile.

This was the nadir of my life to that point. I remember sitting in a very light Chicago rain and thinking about where my life was headed when our Missouri director, Father Wally Ellinger walked up to me. He had gone to see the decision-makers and showed them a letter I had written to him that summer, pledging to serve the Church in Missouri anyway they wanted. The next day I was in a station wagon, headed to Charleston, Missouri, where I met the woman who would be my wife ever since.

Since then, I have developed a deeper understanding for personal introspection and how God’s mercy, grace and whatever works its way in each human life. There have been many others who have interceded for me of whom I am unaware. I know they exist. Their intercessions have guided my life. I hesitate to think of what my life might have been without them. They were my messengers of grace who helped me along the road to my earthly and eternal destinies. How many angels do you remember?

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Written by
William Borst
1 comment
  • I enjoyed your essay on guardian angels. My life has been filled with experiences similar to yours. In my case it was only later in life that I came to understand how important these angels were in shaping my life. I really never was able to thank them for their guidance. I am also sure that at the time they helped me they probably did not think it was any big deal. I often wonder how many people’s lives I have influenced without really thinking about it. It’s a good thing God has so many angels working for him!