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By Benoît Bemelmans

Of all the angels, he was the last!

Of the billions of pure spirits God created, immensely more numerous than all mortals that will exist until the end of the world, distributed in an immense hierarchy of nine angelic choirs, he was at the lowest level. All angels, without exception, were superior to him. Far below him were only us men.

But above all, do not think he had any bitterness or disappointment being last angel. On the contrary, he was a particularly joyful and happy angel. In fact, he would have nothing to do with Lucifer’s revolt, who tried to recruit him thinking he might get him to feel unjustly discriminated against. “Follow me,” the Tempter whispered to him, “and the last of the last will become like unto God.”

He would have burst into laughter and turned a cold shoulder, if he only had one, but those are actions proper to us men. So he asked a simple question that was heard from one end to the other of the heavenly vault, “Quis ut Deus?” His phrase was taken up by the Archangel Saint Michael, who turned it into his war cry with the success that we all know: under his leadership, after a huge battle, two-thirds of the heavenly hosts cast the rebellious demons into Hell.

From then on, the last angel was spending his eternity doing good on Earth.

Doing Good on Earth

Being a pure spirit, as you know, he had no body. But he possessed an intelligence immensely superior to ours, a will free of hindrances and a power over the whole temporal world limited only by the designs of Divine Providence. Furthermore, he never had to learn anything—God had given him knowledge from the moment of his creation. He employed his strength and discernment to influence the material conditions of our everyday life. Whenever he went, the air would become lighter, birds would sing more joyfully, flowers would blossom and people would be inclined to become better.

He was the angel who reestablished peace in nature after great storms; the one who made the return of spring so wonderfully pleasant; who keep cool the stone room where harvesters would come to rest; who made sure abundant fruits would be picked in autumn and who always created a cozy, comforting ambience around crackling fireplaces when snow covered the countryside.

He patrolled the earth taming the effects of savage nature, making life more bearable for humans and encouraging them to practice virtue.

His intervention upon the elements brought back hope to men’s hearts. It was a humble action that he carried out with ingenuity and discretion, but he figured it did not accomplish everything he was called to realize.

Prone to make conjectures, he thought God would perhaps one day give him a special mission. “I will undoubtedly become someone’s guardian angel; being the last of angels, he will probably be the last of men,” he said to some great archangels of Paradise who knew more than he did but were happy to simply look at him and smile.

And while he had no clue what was going on, he noticed unusual activity in the heavenly dome. But since in their continuous activities to help maintain Creation none of his elders would stop to tell him what the story was, he simply kept going around the world.

A New Mission

He had been fulfilling his task for several thousand years, which is a lot of time for us but just a little bit of eternity for an angel; and one evening, one of the magnificent seraphim seated very close to God’s throne, came to see him. “Our Sovereign Creator has a mission for you,” he said. “Go quickly to apply your talents to help some poor people at the place I will indicate.”

Rushing to cover the immense distance separating him from the spot he was sent to, and not knowing what he was going to find, he enters a poorly lit place in the countryside. He looks around and notices the smallest, weakest and poorest of all the children of men. At that point, a marvelous light illuminates the simple grotto he is in and he sees the whole heavenly court is also present, with billions of angels ascending and descending and singing a new and extremely sweet song.

Nativity Scene“Hurry up, you can see that he is cold,” the seraphim tells him. It was only at that moment that he learned that God was made man and that his mission was to protect the little baby and His mother, the Blessed Virgin, and His adoptive father, Saint Joseph.

Quickly, he approaches the donkey and the ox sleeping deep into the grotto and has them warm the newborn with their breath; he smoothes out the hay to avoid that any wisp should hurt the baby; and he spreads in the air an aroma of Christmas made with fir tree resin, warm wax, orange blossoms and diverse candies.

The Child smiles at seeing him. He is the last, but the happiest of angels.

Ever since that night, the last angel goes around the Earth annually to make souls of good will smell the sweetness, perfume and spirit of Christmas.

So now, please, look around you and be sensitive to his presence. You will perhaps figure that he has just passed by in the flickering candle before the crèche, in the brightness of a Christmas bauble suspended from the fir tree or in the sweetness of the chants during midnight Mass.

A Note from the Author:

Yes, dear Reader, this is only a Christmas tale, but the last angel really does exist. I don’t know his name, but in any case our poor human intelligence would have great difficulty understanding the meaning and beauty of an angel’s name.

Furthermore, he was the one who suggested that I write this tale. When I objected that perhaps not everything would come out just right, he laughed, raised his shoulders and said, “All you’ll have to do is to put a note at the end. Those smart enough to keep their child-like souls will be delighted, and those who can see with the heart will know.”



Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 27, 2020

There must be a war in this life. In the face of so many ene...

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November 27


There must be a war in this life. 
In the face of so many enemies it is not possible
for us to sit with our hands folded.
There must always be a concern regarding
how we are proceeding interiorly and exteriorly.

St. Teresa of Avila

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Saint of the day


St. Francis Anthony Fasani

The poor children of Lucera ran through the streets, crying...

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St. Francis Anthony Fasani

This son of the soil became one of the most illustrious preachers in the history of the Franciscan Order.

Born Donato Antonio Giovanni Nicola Fasani on August 6, 1681 to poor peasants in the Neapolitan town of Lucera, he lost his father at the age of nine. “Giovanniello”, or “Johnnie” as he was commonly called, was sent by his step-father to the Conventual Franciscans in his native town for his education. At fifteen, he entered the Franciscan novitiate at Monte Gargano taking the founder as his patron.

Remarkable among the young friar’s most cherished devotions was his tender love for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – not a dogma of faith at the time – his childlike affection for the Infant Jesus and his ardent devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist.

In 1703 Brother Francis Anthony was sent to Assisi to continue his studies and two years later he was ordained to the priesthood. In Rome he received his doctorate in theology at the College of St. Bonaventure. First appointed lector of philosophy at the Franciscan college in Lucera, he was successively promoted to regent of studies, guardian and, ultimately, provincial superior, an office he held from 1721 to 1723. He later served as master of novices and then as pastor of the Church of St. Francis in his native town. When a bishopric was offered to him, he declined it.

A true shepherd of souls, his apostolic zeal was firmly grounded on an intense and deep interior life. His life of prayer was fortified by mortification, severe penances, and long hours spent in Eucharistic adoration. He was beloved by the poor, spent much time in visiting the sick and the aged, orphans and the imprisoned. Among the latter, his apostolic zeal embraced in a particular manner those condemned to death, whom he accompanied to their execution. He was much in demand as a confessor, spiritual director and preacher for which his ardent and filial love for the Blessed Mother was the inspiration. He gave retreats, led Lenten devotions and novenas and collected gifts for the children at Christmas.
Widely regarded in his own lifetime as a second St. Francis of Assisi, he died in 1742 just as he was beginning the solemn novena for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Upon hearing of his death, the poor children of Lucera ran through the streets, crying "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!" In this humble Franciscan they had lost a true father and protector.

Weekly Story


In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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