Archive for angels

My Jesus and I

My Jesus and I cover


Sometimes I pick up a book and worlds open.

My Jesus and I is another educational work from the Salesian order, written in 1949 by the Most Rev. Louis LaRavoire Morrow to help elementary age children prepare for their First Communion. It was originally intended for use in a classroom with an instructional poster set, both of which are still in print.

The book is gentle and directly emotional. Each page has a line of a prayer with a question or commentary underneath it, and a picture from either a Bible story or from a child’s daily life as he or she is accompanied by good and bad angels, Mary, and Jesus.

A letter printed inside the back cover explains:

My Dear Child:

I have made this little book for you, because I want you to know Jesus better and better each day. He is a good Friend, who loves little children like you….

Jesus wants little boys and girls to know how He lived, and what He taught. He wants us all to be good, loving one another, and obeying our teachers and parents.


My Jesus and I is both sweet and strange. I find I’ve grown quite fond of the helpful little angels in these illustrations. They are so busy! Sometimes they are happy, sometimes dismayed, but always present, even if they are just tending the garden while you play.


Thy will be done sick


On another page, Mother Mary wakes a sleeping child while Jesus points the way to church. These are some of my favorite angels–one holding the ringing alarm clock (see the jagged sound lines!) and the other digging a shoe out from under the bed. Oh, that Sunday morning always brought such attendants!


Sunday morning


If you look at a lot of Christian children’s books you’ll find that many of them are written by women, but My Jesus and I was written by a Catholic Bishop. Who was he? I wondered.

Born in Weatherford, Texas in 1892, Louis LaRavoire Morrow grew up in Mexico (his double surname follows Hispanic custom) and, after becoming a priest, lived in the Philippines and India. He became bishop of Krishnagar in West Bengal, India and his ministry spanned World War II, the Bengal famine of 1943 and the Partition of India. He was also a Council Father to the Second Vatican Council. The Sisters of Mary Immaculate (an order which he founded) describe him as a “staunch believer and supporter of the Human Rights Programme of the United Nations; and also an ardent advocate of women’s rights.” He was a prolific writer of educational materials.

As I mentioned, My Jesus and I is still in print, and there is some discussion surrounding its depiction of evil. The current edition has apparently replaced several of the images of Satan with something more modern and less-affecting, but judging from the comments on Amazon, not everyone is in favor of the change. They are wild images, but no scarier than the Ghost of Christmas Future, and always presented within an atmosphere of calm.


Jesus temptation Hallowed be thy name



Sometimes temptation actually looks rather friendly. “Do you want candy?” The kindly devil has brought a chair to help the child reach that forbidden treat while the good angel gently pulls the child towards a picture book.




One final note: while she is not credited, many of the illustrations in My Jesus and I are signed by Anita Magsaysay (later Magsaysay-Ho), an important Philippine modernist painter. I imagine all the original images are her work.

Anita Magsaysay signature

In her biography (written by Alfredo Roces) Magsaysay-Ho said,

“In my works I always celebrate the women of the Philippines. I regard them with deep admiration and they continue to inspire me—their movements and gestures, their expressions of happiness and frustration; their diligence and shortcomings; their joy of living. I know very well the strength, hard work and quiet dignity of Philippine women, for I am one of them.” 



Born this day

Shepherds and angel glory

The Christ Child as told by Matthew and Luke
Made by Maud and Miska Petersham
Doubleday and Co., 1931.


Christ Child Petersham crop

The Christ Child as told by Matthew and Luke
Made by Maud and Miska Petersham
Doubleday and Co., 1931.



Methinks I see an heav’nly host
Of angels on the wing;
Methinks I hear their cheerful notes
So merrily they sing.

Let all your fears be banish’d hence,
Glad tidings I proclaim;
For there’s a Savior born today,
And Jesus is his name.

Lay down your crooks, and quit your flocks,
To Bethlehem repair;
And let your wand’ring steps be squar’d
By yonder shining star.

Seek not in courts or palaces,
Nor royal curtains draw;
But search the stable, see your God
Extended on the straw.

Then suddenly a heav’nly host
Around the shepherds throng,
Exulting in the threefold God
And thus address their song.

To God the Father, Christ the Son,
And Holy Ghost ador’d;
The first and last, the last and first,
Eternal praise afford.

Shiloh by William Billings, 1746-1800


Billings NewEnglandPsalms00bill_0008  Billings Newenglandpsalms title page bill_0009



Christmas Day in the Morning!


On Christmas Day in the Morning! Cover illustration by Antony Groves-Raines Carols collected by John Langstaff

On Christmas Day in the Morning! Cover illustration by Antony Groves-Raines
Carols collected by John Langstaff


I can’t imagine celebrating Christmas without music. These joyous illustrations come from On Christmas Day in the Morning! a book of carols gathered by music educator and founder of Christmas Revels John Langstaff. The witty pictures were created by Antony Groves-Raines, an Irish artist especially known for his advertising work for the Guinness company.  To get in the spirit while you look at the pictures, listen to Orla Fallon’s rendition as you scroll down.

Angels making music half title page


Christmas Day



Christmas Day right

As the revels end, the angels pack up their instruments, climb what must be Jacob’s stepladder, and bid us adieu.


Angels packing up

Detail verso page

Merry Christmas!

The Journey

    Story of Christmas cover

Journey to Bethlehem


Historia de la Navidad

The journey to Bethlehem from the beautifully illustrated The Story of Christmas by British artist, Jane Ray. Available in both English and Spanish, the colors are magnificent, the pictures are full of detail, and by the time the wise men appear the illustrations are almost like a dream. Stay tuned through Epiphany…


The Lord is with you

The Annunciation  Brother Eric de Saussure from The Taizé Picture Bible

The Annunciation
Brother Eric de Saussure
from The Taizé Picture Bible


Gabriel said to Mary, ‘Rejoice; you are highly honoured! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was very worried by these words and asked herself what all this could mean, but the messenger said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; God is to do you a great honour. Listen! You are to have a son and you are to name him Jesus. He will be a great man and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; your son will rule over the descendants of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the messenger, ‘But how can this come about, since I do not yet have a husband?’ The messenger answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come to you and the power of the Most High God will be at work within you. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.’ Mary said ‘I am at the service of the Lord for him to do to me what you have said.’ Then the messenger left her.

The Taizé Picture Bible, Stories from the Scriptures, adapted from the Jerusalem Bible with illustrations by Brother Eric de Saussure of the Taizé Community,  Fortress Press, 1969, pp. 178-180.


And from the Bradford Catholic Youth Choir, “O Mary of Promise”

“…may all of our journeys be blessed by your grace,
as when you said yes to the angel’s embrace.”



Glimpses of eternity

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean Artist: Gustave Doré Image: Wikimedia Commons

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean
Artist: Gustave Doré
Image: Wikimedia Commons



Today we remember the contributions of three English composers: William Byrd, Thomas Merbecke, and Thomas Tallis.  Tallis holds a special place in my musical heart. He makes me hear the angels.



Spem in alium
I have never put my hope in any other
but in You,
O God of Israel
who can show both anger and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins of suffering man
Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth
be mindful of our lowliness


O God most glorious, whose praises art sung night and day by thy saints and angels in heaven: We offer thanks for William Byrd, John Merbecke and Thomas Tallis, whose music hath enriched the praise that thy Church offers thee here on earth. Grant, we pray thee, to all who are touched by the power of music such glimpses of eternity that we may be made ready to join thy saints in heaven and behold thy glory unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


What cheer? Good cheer!

New Years Angel What cheer? What cheer?
Good cheer! Good cheer!
Be merry and glad this good New Year!

Lift up your hearts and be glad
In Christ’s birth,’ the angel bade.
‘Say each to other, if any be sad:
What cheer?’

Now the King of heav’n his birth hath take,
Joy and mirth we ought to make;
Say each to other, for his sake:
‘What cheer?’

I tell you all with heart so free:
Right welcome, welcome ye be to me;
Be glad and merry, for charity!
What cheer?


Music by William Walton
Lyrics (from Richard Hill’s Commonplace Book, early 16th century)




War in heaven

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,  but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.  And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.  Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12:1-11


A story that has fascinated people for centuries: struggling bodies, tangled, and falling. Warfare the metaphor we know too well. We sense the mighty power of God. Perhaps in Advent we also sense the devil’s fear: desperate evil thrown down to earth, whose wrath is great because his time is short.


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Fall of the Rebel Angels
Master of the Rebel Angels, 14th c.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Fall of the Rebel Angels
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


St Michael Fighting the Dragon
Albrecht Durer, 1498


Fall of the Rebellious Angels
Frans Floris, 1554
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Michael Sebastiano_Ricci_058

Michael fights rebel angels
Sebastian Ricci, 1720
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


St. Michael
Luca Giordano, c.1663
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


The Rebel Angels
from Paradise Lost, Book VI
Gustave Doré, 1866
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Paradise_Lost_5 Dore

Triumph in heaven
from Paradise Lost, Book VI
Gustave Doré, 1866
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Lead guitarist for the Flaming Tongues

Angels keep watch


Sometimes we see angels surrounding the Holy Family: watching, blessing, protecting.