The voice of hospital receptionist sounded concerned.

“His name is Angel.”

She was calling to inform me that a family was requesting my presence at the bedside of a man who did not have long to live.

It was Ash Wednesday. I was filling-in for a vacationing pastor, so I checked the Mass schedule, then told the receptionist that I would be there shortly. I knew the hospital was nearby.

The name Angel is common among Hispanics, yet the coincidence of being called to the bedside of a man named Angel on Ash Wednesday was remarkable.

Allow me to explain.

Three weeks ago, my sister died. I was unable to be with her when she passed, but I knew that our cousin, Fr. Mark, had anointed her and had attended to her spiritual needs in the closing weeks of her life. Of even greater comfort was knowing that, on the night that she died, my brother-in-law and all their children were at her side—praying the rosary, praying in silence, praying with tears.

Her death was full of grace.

On a night prior to her passing, one of her daughters was keeping bedside vigil. In the early hours of morning, she noticed her mother—who had not opened her eyes for a long time—staring at the ceiling.

“Do you see someone?” asked my niece.

“My guardian angel.”

My sister’s gaze was soft and serene. After a moment of silence, my niece prodded, “Does your angel have a name.”

“St. Michael.”

I envision this poignant scene as I drive to the hospital. Words from the Prayer of Commendation for the Dying come to mind: “May the angels come to meet you as you go forth from this life.”
Then it occurs to me that, after anointing Angel, I will return to offer Mass in a church named Holy Angels.


Hard to say.

Someday I’ll ask my sister. She’ll know.

02 / 23 / 2024
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