The accompanying photo is from a correspondent, Pam Urquidi-Wilson, who sees angels in the clouds. On crutches, with painful spinal issues, she lives with a generous, boundless faith in the Holy Spirit, seeing angels everywhere.
It’s been a long time since I told a story of angels coming to our rescue, though it happens all the time. The question is: can we notice when they come? It’s not that they appear with trumpets, trailing clouds of glory: no, but silently, in disguise, as accidents and coincidences, little nudges to go here, not there, and sometimes by using people to do their work. You will work as an angel unbeknownst or some angel will suddenly appear.
Not long ago I was in Puerto Rico, touring the San Juan Fort, where Spanish galleons debarked for water and food after the Atlantic crossing and where they loaded plundered gold from Peru and Mexico for the return to Spain. The fort covers 27 acres, and after two hours of walking my compromised spine began to spasm. I found a bench, lay down, and was praying to Raphael, (the archangel of healing, in case you don’t remember) to help me, help—when a lovely woman suddenly approached: “Are you all right?” she asked. I sat up, smiling, and said my back hurt, that’s all; I’d be fine.
“Would you like some Tylenol?”
I accepted, laughing, and reported that I’d just been praying to the angel Raphael for release from pain. You can think of it as just a lucky coincidence. But I don’t.
Or here’s another example: One day, I lost my cellphone. I looked everywhere. Finally I said a prayer to St. Anthony (finder of lost items), and the next thing I know I’m crouched down with one eye peering into the sliver of a crack between the concrete steps and the wood backing of the front porch. Whatever in the world made me think to look there? But lo! There was my phone.
The story I want to tell, though, is of a Black Angel that came to a man who sent me this story nearly a year ago. Mr. Fisher had just gone through an ugly divorce. He had lost rights to his two children and to the stepdaughters he’d raised from birth. His finances were in turmoil, and his heart was dark.
One day, sitting in the hot courtroom, a breeze from an open window struck him with such force that the thought of surfing came to mind. On a whim, he drove home to get his board and then to the pier, where he waxed his board while watching a tropical storm forming overhead. Mr. Fisher felt anxious because of the size of the waves and his decades-long absence from the sport. He wasn’t sure he could even paddle out, much less catch and ride a wave without injury.
At that moment he noticed an African American surfer in his 30s standing next to him with his long board under his arm. Fisher had not heard him walk up (which, he says, is impossible because of the squeaking of the white quartz sand underfoot). It was as if the man had merely materialized. He complimented Fisher on his board, and said in a praising, preachy way that it was a “beautiful and glorious day.”
But let me quote the letter:
“This was the first time I had ever seen a Black surfer on our beaches, and I’ve never heard any surfer say, “It’s a beautiful and Glorious day,” not the way he said it. I murmured , “Yes, it is,” speaking to the beauty of the day.
“He looked at me with a caring fashion and in a loving tone said, ‘You are going surfing, aren’t you?’ As if he knew I was anxious. As if he wanted me to promise I would go.
“‘Yes, I am,’ I said, and in that moment all of my anxiety vanished. He smiled at me. ‘Good.’ Then he walked away, never to be seen again.
“I thought, ‘Was that Jesus in disguise, telling me to go surfing?’ I considered the idea a little crazy, until a fisherman’s hook caught on my leash while paddling out, and the thought of Jesus fishing for men flashed across my mind, especially with my last name of Fisher. I was able to de-hook without injury and later caught a huge wave that I rode as well as at the peak of my youthful days. My passion for surfing rekindled that day.”
Within a couple of weeks his children were returned, and a few years later the stepchildren moved in with him too. The ex disappeared, causing no more trouble.
“Returning to surfing has brought me closer to God and my kids,” he continued, “and has transformed my life emotionally and spiritually.” It all started with a Black Angel who appeared suddenly, spoke encouraging words, and vanished, never to be seen again.
“I have read that when angels talk, it is always in short, direct, positive and encouraging words, and I believe the words and manner of my Black Jesus Angel fit that pattern.”
I love Mr. Fisher’s letter. Whenever I read of an angel, or visitation, I breathe a sigh of happiness. I understand.
© Sophy Burnham, 2020.
“When you bow deeply to the Universe, it bows back. When you call out the name of God, it echoes inside you.”
Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969)