In a small and charming village in a faraway land, lived Dom Pedro, a Bishop whose great soul was filled with love of God. As a good shepherd, he was tireless in serving his flock. He was especially devoted to visiting the sick and bringing them the Sacraments; he encouraged them to practise virtue and taught them that suffering was a special sign of God’s love and an excellent way of growing in holiness.
Every morning, he celebrated Mass with ardent piety, and afterwards spent hours seated in the confessional, serving as God’s instrument in the reconciliation of repentant sinners. A few times a year, he presided over solemn Confirmation ceremonies, and frequently—and with what joy!—he ordained new ministers of God. He insisted that weddings be carried out with pomp and decorum, keeping alight in souls the notion that this Sacrament creates a sacred bond that no one may break.
Every day, without fail, the good Bishop also prayed the Rosary as he strolled around the episcopal palace, always considerate of those who wished to see him and to receive his blessing.
On one occasion, the city judge invited him to celebrate the wedding of his daughter Adelia, to be held in Holy Family Parish—a beautiful church in the city suburbs. Bishop Pedro accepted the invitation and calculated the time he needed to walk from his palace to the church praying his Rosary. He planned to arrive at the locale in time to don his vestments and to arrange the details of the celebration, which was set for noon.
The day dawned bright and sunny, but just as he was about to start out, his secretary came with an urgent message: a man was at the door, imploring to make his confession with the Bishop. The prelate glanced at his watch; he had only 10 minutes to spare. If he were to ask the man to step in, he would arrive late for the ceremony…
Then and there, the Bishop knelt down and prayed a quick prayer:
“O Holy Guardian Angel of this soul that has come to me at such an ill-timed moment, let us make an agreement. I attend this penitent and you see to it that I arrive at the celebration on time!”
The Bishop then calmly ushered the man in. He heard his Confession, counselled and encouraged him. After giving the man absolution, he bid him farewell with a fatherly blessing.
“God bless you, Your Excellency!” said the penitent before heading on his way. “I hope I have not upset your schedule.”
His schedule… that was exactly what the Bishop was worried about! But he did not let his worries show; he replied that he was pleased to have been of help.
As soon as the man left, the Bishop set out at a rapid pace. He decided to take a shortcut—an old dirt road that cut through the woods. The beads of his rosary slipped through his fingers as he strode under the leafy trees filled with birds.
After about 20 minutes he came to a clearing that he did not recognize. In whatever direction he looked, there were only trees… but no path. How could he have gone so far astray?
He looked about trying to determine the best course to take; he saw a brook and thought: “I’ll follow the water’s course, and trust in the agreement I made with that man’s Guardian Angel.” So he did just that.
Before long, he spotted a simple dwelling and so he knocked at the door, hoping that the owner would be able to point out the way. A lady answered the door, and noticing that it was the Bishop, she gasped in awe. At that moment, he heard a voice from inside the house. Bishop Pedro asked who it was.
“It’s my father,” said the woman. “He’s hanging onto life by a thread, but he keeps telling us that he’s not going to die…”
“May I see him quickly?” asked the Bishop.
“Of course!” she replied, leading him to the patient’s bedside.
He was a very aged man, lying back weakly in bed with half-closed eyes. He only noticed that someone had entered the room when the Bishop leaned over and spoke into his ear. The sick man replied with surprising firmness:
“No, I’m not about to die!”
“But how can you be so sure?”
“Because I am a Catholic!”
“Well, so am I! And for the sake of charity I must tell you that you are in a very serious state of health and that you need to prepare yourself to meet God.”
“But I am positive that I’m not about to die! Ever since I was seven years old, when I made my First Communion, I have asked my Guardian Angel to not let me die without receiving the last Sacraments. I’m sure I’ll recover enough to get out of my bed, and go find a priest! That’s why I am so sure that I’m not about to die!...”
Restraining a tear, Bishop Pedro understood everything in a flash: the Guardian Angels had arranged everything, each one acting in the interests of his own protégé! First, the man who came to him, just as he was about to leave; now, this faithful soul on his deathbed; finally, he himself, whose priestly heart was filled with happiness at being able to serve souls! He said to the sick man:
“My son, your prayers have been heard! I am a Bishop and I never would have dropped by your house had I not lost my way in the woods! It was certainly your Guardian Angel who led me here.”
The sick man felt very consoled and strengthened in his faith; he made an excellent confession and received the Anointing of the Sick, and on the following morning surrendered his soul to God.
And what about the wedding of the judge’s daughter?
Bishop Pedro left the cottage mounted on a sprightly pony supplied by the woman and her husband. Following their directions, he soon arrived at the church, just as the Angelus bell was ringing—twelve o’clock on the dot!
“How could I possibly have made it on time?” He asked himself, as he glanced at his watch.
Once more, he realized that his Guardian Angel, his faithful friend, had been at work: The hands of his watch had stopped, indicating that had set out from the episcopal palace much earlier than he had imagined! ″
By Sr Maria Tereza Lubián, EP
Extracted from Heralds of the Gospel Magazine #176