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I met her at some outdoors Church function, under a canopy of trees, Sheryl, a woman in her forties or so, helping out, serving a meal, offering a smile, allowing others--no matter how humble--to be themselves around her. In the short time I knew her, she'd helped hundreds of people with humility and humor, claiming to be a clown...when really, she was an angel.

There is a story about a college student who went in pain to see a dentist. She had no job, no money and when the dentist told her he'd fix her teeth that were in bad shape, she demurred, climbing out of her chair: "I can't pay you!" The dentist replied, "you're a student, soon to graduate; you'll get a job. You can pay me then. In the meantime, study hard and leave the dentistry to me." The dentist meant it and the young woman relented, graduated, got a job and soon paid the dentist, who all that time kept his word, and her teeth, in good shape.

And there are strangers everywhere, who enter our lives with skills and resources, generous in getting us started or keeping us safe from harm and guiding us on our way. Sheryl was one of those people, though there are many others as yet unknown, unacknowledged or underappreciated, angels nonetheless. They come into our lives perhaps suddenly and move away over time. We may not have yet recognized them for their selfless service, but they are there, good people imitating our spiritual greater brothers and sisters, the hosts of Angels surrounding God's throne as they mix with humans, looking out for our well-being.

Someone asked me why God needs angels to do his work. The question caught me off guard, though I answered from the Catholic Christian perspective, i.e., what the Church teaches and not just my own opinion: "God doesn’t *need* anyone or anything." Let me explain. He is completely happy on His own and needs no one to create Him, sustain Him, fulfill Him or carry out His handiwork. He is perfect and simple goodness, truth and beauty, infinitely capable with limitless power and knowledge, revealing Himself as love. He created a universe of beings to share His love, creatures visible and invisible, sentient and still-life, angels, people, animals, plants, planets and stars. All of this the Father gave to His Son as a gift, although neither Person of the Trinity was in need or want, because in all ways, God is self-sufficient.

The angels serve a function, besides being created for God’s glory and their happiness. The title by which they are called means “messenger,” and from the Scriptures and tradition that is how we experience them: as powerful, heavenly beings imparting God’s will for us in ways we can understand and carry out. They are our friends, spiritual “big brothers and sisters.” analogically speaking, who want our eternal happiness and work for our benefit that we might join them in heaven to praise God. Everything they do is for our greater good and God’s glory.

These purely spiritual beings have vast intelligence and complete free will; without those gifts they would perhaps be pretty baubles to gawk at but utterly devoid of the capacity to serve their Creator in love. For an angel, it is pure pleasure to do as God asks, because, with minds far superior to ours, they can understand and act knowing full well they are fulfilling the greatest good possible. Would that humans were more angelic in nature, willing to carry God’s love to others and serve with eagerness!

And to be fair, one must acknowledge the fallen angels, messengers who refused to serve God. They brought on everlasting misery for themselves and ongoing grief for us. Because they were created in perfection but without the vision of God, angels were tested, as all God’s creatures are tested, for the opportunity to serve graciously and enjoy His presence for eternity. In full knowledge and complete will, these fallen angels cursed themselves by refusing loving service to God, and for that they are tormented by the loss of His friendship and suffer subsequent torments for eternity. It isn’t like they didn’t know what they were doing, but pride blinded them eternally as they chose themselves over their Creator. Unlike us, these “demons” don’t need a second opportunity to choose or prove themselves.

There is much, much more to the Angels that the Catholic Faith has to say regarding their presence and nature, as made known through Divine Revelation, Sacred Tradition and great theologians and saints, though all of this, wonderful as it is, is secondary here to the celebrated memory of my one-time friend Sheryl, who has set an example most anyone can follow (which is my real point): Love God...and be an angel to someone you know!

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