On the Side of the Angels

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 15, 2022

One of the religious ideas I find most attractive is that of divine intervention – particularly in the form of guardian angels. How wonderful to feel that, if things get really bad, there is a specially appointed agent of the deity who is assigned to protect you personally.

Many religions and cultures promulgate ideas of this kind. You might say it is the opposite of the superstition that the only dangerous bullet is the one that has your name on it. This, on the other holy hand, is the personally-addressed miracle, embodied in some kind of angelic being. Of course, it helps if you are a believer.

We all know that angels have wings and halos. But we don’t know much about their private lives. Maybe that’s one of the advantages, or disadvantages, of being an angel. Everything you do is public property, sung about in songs, even painted on the ceilings of chapels. And of course, angels appear in many holy scriptures. In one very strange Biblical incident, we have Jacob, one of the Hebrew patriarchs, wrestling with an angel. What’s unclear is the exact reason for this tussle. But one result is that Jacob (and all his progeny, down to the current political entity) is given a new name: Israel, which means “God fights.”

But the Angel name appears more directly in many forms, including, of course, people’s names (Angela, Angelina, Angelica) and place names, of which the most outstanding (and perhaps least understood) is Los Angeles. Everybody knows that this means, in Spanish, “The Angels” – but relatively few people are aware that these words are only a convenient abbreviation of the official name, as bestowed by the very early settlers, which was:

“El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río Porciúncula.”

In English: “The City of Our Lady Queen of The Angels of the River Porciúncula.”

And what was the River Porciúncula? It’s what is now the Los Angeles River, and was named for a chapel in Italy associated with St. Francis of Assisi. The word actually means “Little Portion.”

So now you know perhaps more than you wanted to know about this particular angelic manifestation. But at least it’s all on the good side. 

In the early days of World War I, a battle took place at Mons, in Belgium, in which heavily outnumbered British troops were somehow able to repel, at least temporarily, an apparently overwhelming force of German invaders. In the following days, stories began to circulate that angels had been seen in the sky (of course, by the defenders), determining the outcome of the battle. Such legends as that of “The Angels of Mons” continued to crop up throughout the war.

World War II, to my knowledge, produced no such supernatural inspiration, possibly the closest being the semi-legendary account of a chaplain on board a U.S. navy ship who, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, assisted in the firing of one of the ship’s guns, shouting “Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!”

There are also, however, permeating our culture, wicked angels. The most notorious of them is the one whom some might consider the hero of John Milton’s epic poem, “Paradise Lost.” His name is Satan (also known as Lucifer), and he is a “fallen” angel, i.e. fallen to Hell from his original residence in Heaven.

And of course we must not forget groups which call themselves Hell’s Angels, a term which came to be associated with motorcycle gangs in the years after World War II, but which goes back at least as far as a 1930 movie of that name, produced by Howard Hughes, about fighting airplanes in World War I.

The much more positive idea of “Guardian Angels” as a voluntary force, to counter crime and protect citizens, began in New York City in 1979, and has since become worldwide. 

But for most of my own lifetime, although I didn’t acknowledge, or perhaps even realize, it – I had my very own guardian angel. Her name was Dorothy (which means “gift of God”). We had many differences and difficulties. But we were together for 51 years.

Many other people aren’t even that lucky. Still, they try to make the best of the relationships in which fate has placed them. As a popular song once put it:

“You may not be an angel, 
‘Cause angels are so few – 
But, until the day that one comes along,
I’ll string along with you.”  


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