Saturday, October 19, 2013


The following blog is written as my own point of view and not to proselytize, interfere or disagree with anyone's else religious or non religious beliefs. It is purely from my own personal (Christian) perspective and experience that I write this to inform and share with others. Many other religions have the same common themes based in their holy books too so there might be some similarities. Love and Light to you all!

Throughout recorded history, people from various religious perspectives have spoken of an “Angel of Death”. Many people from all walks of life who have had near death experiences have reported that they've encountered angels who helped them, and people who have witnessed loved ones die have also reported encountering angels who gave their dying loved ones peace. Sometimes dying people’s last words describe the visions they’re experiencing. For example, just before famous inventor Thomas Edison died in 1931, he remarked: "It is very beautiful over there." And the late Apple inventor, Steve Jobs, was reported saying to his family just before he died, "OH, WOW!"

The Angel of Death’s personification as an evil creature wearing a black hood and carrying a scythe (the Grim Reaper of popular culture) originated from the Jewish Talmud’s descriptions of an evil Angel of Death who represents the demons associated with the fall of mankind (one consequence of which was death).  
Throughout centuries artists have represented this figure in thousands of incarnations and indeed is a dark subject that creative people love to reinvent and portray.

So, should we fear the Angel of Death?

The Midrash (a form of rabbinic literature) explains that God does not allow the Angel of Death to bring evil to righteous people. Also, all people are bound to encounter the Angel of Death when it’s their appointed time to die, says Psalm 89:48: "There is no man who lives and, seeing the angel of death, can deliver his soul from his hand."

What if there is one or even a group of angels who comfort people when they’re dying and escort their souls into an afterlife?

The Christian Bible doesn't name one specific angel as the Angel of Death. But it does say that angels are "all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14) and makes it clear that death is a holy event for Christians ("Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints," Psalm 116:15), so in the Christian view it’s reasonable to expect that one or more angels will be present with people when they die. 

Since I had a Catholic upbringing we were taught by The Catholic Church that the archangel Michael escorts the souls of those who have died to the afterlife, where God judges their earthly lives. Catholic tradition also says that Michael may communicate with dying people near the end of their lives on Earth, helping them find redemption before they pass away.

A very unique Catholic tradition is the one of Saints (ordinary people who lived on this Earth who are officially recognized by the Christian church as being very holy because of the way he or she lived)  and their special order in Heaven. Catholics pray to the a particular saint (they do not worship them) for intersession on their behalf as saints can relay messages directly to God because of their holy status in Heaven. Catholics are named usually after different patron saints and my Italian family carried on that tradition. My name is Anita which is Spanish for "Little Anne" Saint Anne, my brother's is Anthony after Saint Anthony, my dad was Vincent after Saint Vincent de Paul and my mother's middle name was Rita after Saint Rita of Cascia.

Saint Rita of Cascia

Saint Rita was born as Margherita in 1381 near Umbria, Italy and was married at age 12 to a nobleman named Paolo Mancini. Her husband was known to be a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who had many enemies in the region of Cascia. Rita had her first child at the age of 13. Rita endured his insults, physical abuse and infidelities for many years. According to popular tales, through humility, kindness and patience, Rita was able to convert her husband into a better person. She bore the terrible pain of losing her husband and 2 sons later to a murderous vendetta by a rival family feud. She entered the Convent in Cascia at the age of 36 and later bore the stigmata of a thorn of Christ in her forehead. She is shown with roses as a tale is told of how when she was sick and dying at the convent, a miracle of red roses appeared in the winter snow as a sign of her piety. She is the patron saint of lost and impossible causes, sickness, wounds, marital problems, abuse, and mothers.

                           Saint Rita's tomb with her in-corrupt body at the Basilica of Cascia.

My mother was baptized, attended school and church and married in St. Rita of Cascia Church in South Philadelphia. My mother often called on her to help her out in difficult times. She held a special place in my mother's heart as my mom told us of the time that she contracted staphylococcal meningitis in 1942 at the age of 19. She was engaged to my dad at the time and he was not allowed home on furlough (he was in basic training in the Army Air Corp during WW 2) as my mother was quarantined in a Philadelphia hospital and not expected to live. The only medicine at the time was Sulfa and they were given to my mother although she found out years later by a family doctor that the drug was useless against such a serious disease.The only thing anyone could do was pray for her and the whole church community did just that with great devotion. My mother told us how sick she was with terrible head, neck pain and fever and that she saw the "Angel of Death"- a dark figure-come closer and closer to her. She said she fought to keep her eyes open and not fall asleep as she knew if she did that she would die. She prayed to Saint Rita to heal her and the next day she over came the crucial crisis point and started to get better. Her recovery would be a long and difficult one with  months in bed with terrible headaches but she survived and married my dad after the war.
She and her family were convinced that the dark figure was a vision of Saint Rita in her nun's habit at the foot of my mother's bed. Miracle? Saintly intervention? Our family believe that it was.

My mother survived a terrible disease and affliction which many never recover. I can't help think about how incredibly different things would have been had my mother not survived and never had another 72 years to live. My father would have married someone else, my brother and I would never have been born and you would never be reading this blog. It's hard not to think of the implications. I guess some things are meant to be. Thank you Providence and Saint Rita for saving her and giving me the best mother and friend a girl could ever have. You have my everlasting gratitude!

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