August 21, 2002

Friar Jack's Catechism Quiz:
Test Your Knowledge on
by Julie Zimmerman

The archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael celebrate their feast day next month. They are the only three angels mentioned by name in the Bible, but angels appear throughout both the Old and New Testaments: the two angels who came to Sodom and Gomorrah, the Archangel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will bear God's Son, the Angels consoling Jesus in the Desert and in the Garden. This edition of "Friar Jack's Catechism Quiz" takes a closer look at angels.

We also print some of the mail we received in response to Friar Jack's "Our Franciscan Coat of Arms."


This Month's Quiz: (peeking encouraged!)

What are the rankings of angels?
What is a Seraph?
How can an angel also be a saint?

Friar Jack's Inbox:

Readers reflect on "Our Franciscan Coat of Arms"


What are the rankings of angels?

Angel-ranking was a concern during the earlier era of Scholastic theology. There are nine different types of angels, although it must be said that, according to Ludwig Ott in the old manual, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, the division of angels into nine orders is not a truth of faith but a free theological opinion.

At the turn of the sixth century Pseudo-Dionysius, drawing on references to angels in the Scriptures, divided the angels into three hierarchies with three choirs in each hierarchy. That became the common teaching of theologians and the Church.

According to Adolf Tanquerey in A Manual of Dogmatic Theology, another classic, St. Thomas puts the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones in the first hierarchy. In the second are the Dominations, Virtues and Powers. The third is composed of Principalities, Archangels and Angels.

Adapted from Ask A Franciscan, a monthly feature in St. Anthony Messenger.

What is a Seraph?

The Seraphim (singular: Seraph) are mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-7. There they stand before the throne of God praising him and crying out, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts." And it is a Seraph who touches the lips of Isaiah with a live coal, cleansing him from sin. Associated with the Seraphim is their burning love for God.

It is a Seraph who appears in the story of how Francis of Assisi received the stigmata (the wounds of Christ’s passion) in his body. Omer Englebert, drawing on St. Bonaventure, describes the event. Francis prayed to experience the pains of Christ’s passion and to feel the same love that made Christ sacrifice himself for us.

Then a Seraph with six wings of flame came from heaven. He bore the likeness of a man nailed to a cross. Upon Francis’ body he imprinted the stigmata.

Because of this experience and his burning love of God, Francis is often called the Seraphic Saint and some parishes and institutions are named St. Francis Seraph.

Adapted from Ask A Franciscan, a monthly feature in St. Anthony Messenger.

How can an angel also be a saint?

In the Litany of the Saints, we pray to “all the angels and the saints.” Angels and saints are two different groups. Angels have no bodies. Saints are humans who achieved a high level of perfection and are role models for other humans.

But the archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel are also saints. Angels and humans have this in common: They have a free will which they can use wisely (in a saintly way) or not wisely (as Lucifer and anyone in hell did).

Probably the best reason for calling the archangels "Saint" is to be found in Webster's dictionary. The word saint comes from the Latin sanctus and French saint. Sanctus means "holy." And calling or titling a person "Saint" is recognition of his or her holiness. Calling an angel "Saint" is also a recognition of holiness.

Holiness is the wise and generous use of one’s freedom in accord with God’s plan. Thus, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have seen no problem with invoking angels and archangels as patrons of persons, places or institutions.

Adapted from Ask A Franciscan, a monthly feature in St. Anthony Messenger.

Friar Jack's Inbox

Readers respond to Friar Jack's reflections on "Our Franciscan Coat of Arms"

"Dear Friar Jack: Thank you so much for your latest article. As a Catholic from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, I especially appreciate it because Archbishop Alemany in the 1850s adopted (the Franciscan coat of arms) as the archdiocesan coat of arms — so fitting, and so meaningful for our city.—Harriet

Friar Jack responds: Thanks for this wonderful bit of information. It makes great sense that the city and archdiocese of San Francisco, who have St. Francis as their patron saint, would make such use of the Franciscan coat of arms. You can see it for yourself at the Archdiocese of San Francisco's Web site.

"Dear Friar Jack: I would like to ask —- why is Bonaventure considered the second founder of the Franciscans and not St. Clare? Was she not the person who held the charism alive during Francis' life and after his death? Was she not highly revered in Assisi — even more than Francis for a long time? Her feast day was August 11 and yet there was no word of her in this column. What do we know of her, what was her influence on Francis and the order? Do Franciscans today have a knowledge/special place for Clare? Just wondering!—Sharon

Father Jack responds: Certainly, St. Clare was highly regarded by the Franciscan friars of her day and the people of Assisi. As you suggest, she lived the charism of Francis in wonderful ways and kept it alive after he died. Without question, St. Clare's great contributions to the Franciscan story deserve a place of honor in a column like this. I'll keep that in mind in the future.

"Dear Friar Jack: St. Francis' soul was so beautiful. No wonder the Lord loved him so. St. Bonaventure had more than an intellect: he searched for wisdom and found her. The Franciscan community has had many spiritual giants. Thank you for continuing to share their love and wisdom.—Dorothy

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