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One for the (Arch)angels…


“When I go to the gate of heaven, I'll play a music duet with Gabriel. Yeah, we'll play 'Sleepy Time Down South’ and 'Hello, Dolly!’ Then he can blow a couple that he's been playing up there all the time.” ~ Louie Armstrong

In the classic Twilight Zone Episode ‘Passage For Trumpet,’ we’re introduced to Joey Crown, played by a young and intense Jack Klugman, the man who would later go on to star with Tony Randall in the ever popular and beloved sitcom The Odd Couple. Joey is a morose, sad-sack sort who swims in a whiskey glass whenever he isn’t looking for his next trumpet gig in the jazz clubs of New York City, where he once reigned as the city that never sleeps go-to horn player. But his proclivity for showing up to nightclubs soused, or not showing up at all, has left him without work, relegated to begging for a final chance. After being turned down by the manager at his old club and offered a few dollars from a pawn shop owner for his beloved trumpet, Joey decides that his life is no longer worth living and proceeds to step off the curb and into the path of an oncoming panel van.

When Joey comes to, he finds that the people in his midst cannot see or hear him. Assuming that he’s dead, he wanders aimlessly back to his old night club where he rather randomly encounters another trumpet player in mid-solo. After engaging in some small talk with the man and complimenting him on his sublime musical ability, Joey is startled to discover that the other trumpet player knows him. This rather mysterious and mercurial gentlemen explains to Joey that he is in "a kind of limbo,” neither “here nor there.” He comes bearing a message for Joey: It is now time to make a choice. Yes, Joey Crown is offered a new lease on life, should he decide to take it. If not, he can remain a drifter in his world of isolation, regret and self-pity.

After some honest introspection, Joey decides that life is worth living, and that somewhere along the line he simply forgot about all the good things. He just forgot. Our mystery man encourages him to go on back. “But no more steppin’ off curbs,” he tells him. “You take what you get and you live with it,” he tells him. “Sometimes it’s sweet frosting, nice gravy, sometimes it’s sour and goes down hard but you live with it Joey,” he says. “That’s a nice talent you got. Make music. Move people. Make ‘em wanna laugh…make ‘em wanna cry. Tap their feet. Make ‘em wanna dance. That’s an exceptional talent Joey. Don’t waste it.”

This sage trumpeter then proceeds to make his exit, saying to Joey “I’ll see you around” as he casually saunters away. Joey yells after him “Wait! I didn’t get your name!” The man with the trumpet turns and responds “The name is Gabe…short for Gabriel.” As he says this from the dimly-lit backstage area, he finds himself under a round hanging ceiling fixture which forms a perfect cool white halo over his head as he pauses for a moment before receding into the night.

On this the day in which our church celebrates the Holy Archangels , it’s good to know that these “fiery ones,” as Saint Robert Bellarmine once called them, patrol not only the world in which we live but the shadowy regions of the Twilight Zone as well.

The three Archangels ~ Michael, Gabriel and Raphael ~ are the only angels named in Sacred Scripture. All three play pivotal roles in our salvation story.

Saint Michael is the "Prince of the Heavenly Host," the undisputed leader of all the angels. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in both Daniel 10 and 12, the Letter of Jude, and in today’s 1st Reading, Revelation 12:7-12. “War broke out in heaven,” John tells us in his Apocalyptic vision, and “Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail,” we are told, prompting the loud voice in heaven to proclaim “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.”

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….and there are some who believe that religion in general and Catholicism in particular is boring.

Saint Michael the Archangel is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil, the “wickedness and snares of the devil” as the prayer that invokes his protection poignantly proclaims. In 1899, Pope Leo XIII, having had a ghastly prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted this popular prayer, asking for Saint Michael's protection to be said at the end of every Mass. That request is honored at my parish, the aptly named Saint Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church.

Christian tradition recognizes four “offices” of Saint Michael the Archangel: To wage war against Satan, to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy (especially at the hour of death), to be the heroic and intrepid champion of God's people, and to call away from earth and bring men's souls to their judgment.

The previously aforementioned Saint Gabriel, whose name means God's strength, is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel's two appearances in the New Testament. Saint Gabriel would in fact announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias. He would also be on hand at the very Incarnation of the Word made Flesh within the womb of Mary. Christian tradition also suggests that it was he who strengthened and galvanized Jesus during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Saint Raphael, whose name means God has healed, earns his moniker in the Book of Tobit where he heals Tobias of his blindness (Tobit 10:1-11:18, 12:1-22). Saint Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who bestowed healing powers upon the pool of water so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of their infirmity and afflictions, whatever they may be.

Today and every day let us invoke the assistance and intercession of these mighty heavenly helpers as they defend us in this day of the battle, forever remind us of the good news, and accompany us on this journey of healing that culminates at the threshold of paradise.

“Heavenly Father, You have given us archangels to assist us during our pilgrimage on earth. Help us, O Lord, to realize more fully the reality of archangels and their desire to serve us. Holy angels, pray for us.” ~ Amen.

“In the sight of the Angels I will sing your praises Lord.” ~ Psalm 138

John Anderson in the role of the Archangel Gabriel in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Passage For Trumpet.”

John Anderson in the role of the Archangel Gabriel in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Passage For Trumpet.”

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