Messengers of God: Physical Apparitions of Angels Throughout Church History

Peadar Walsh

All Catholics know that the Angels are pure spirits. The subtitle of this book by Dom Bernard-Marie Maréchaux might, therefore, appear surprising. How can we speak of physical apparitions of beings that have no bodies? Dom Maréchaux deals with this natural objection from the very outset. Although Angels can appear to men through intellectual and imaginative visions, they can also humanise themselves, so to speak, in order to enter into relations on our level. How so? By taking from material elements whatever is necessary in order to appear to us, ‘either in ethereal form by condensation of the ambient air, or in a body similar to ours which they form in the twinkling of an eye by a very subtle operation.’ But unlike man’s soul, which informs his body, the Angel is not substantially united with the borrowed body he forms in order to appear to men.

He merely governs it from within, without compenetrating it to its most intimate core, without being its life principle, without making it truly living.

Having established these principles, Dom Maréchaux then takes his readers on a tour of history, showing how Angels have appeared corporeally to men since the creation of the first man and woman. The Old Testament is filled with such visions, as is the New, starting with the apparitions of the Angel Gabriel to Zachary in the Temple and to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. Unsurprisingly, the early days of the budding Church were also favoured with these kinds of visions, like the deliverance of St Peter from prison, recounted in the Acts of the Apostles.

The bulk of this book, however, deals with angelic apparitions throughout the history of the Church, after the death of the Apostles. Relying on the testimony of trustworthy historians, Dom Maréchaux brings us down through time, relating the fascinating accounts of how the Angels have been the constant companions of the saints throughout every age, culminating with his own nineteenth century. However, as the Angels have continued to manifest themselves closer to our time, this first English-language edition of his book includes an extra chapter on angelic visions in the twentieth century.

The author closes his fast-paced account by telling us that the fundamental reason why God permits such extraordinary manifestations of the Angels is ‘for the vindication of the faith of His Church and the consolation of His servants’.

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