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  • Fr. Scott Haynes

The Guardian Angel and the Mangy Donkey

Fr. Scott A. Haynes


One day there was an assassination attempt on the life of St. Josemaria Escriva. St. Josemaria was walking up a flight of stairs. There was a bustling crowd around –lots of people. And then suddenly a man came towards him with knife intent on killing him. Then, out of nowhere, a huge man came between the attacker and St Josemaria. He immediately disarmed the attacker. Josemaria did not recognise either of the men; he had never seen either of them before.

But as the assailant was led away, an odd thing happened. The big man who had saved Josemaria leaned over and whispered something in his ear. He said: “you mangey donkey.” Josemaria immediately knew then who this man was: it was his Guardian Angel. You see each day in his prayers to God, St Josemaria would humbly ask God to look after his “mangey donkey,”referring to himself. He had done this all his adult life but had never told a living soul.

Later St. Josemaria would write these words:

Today, in my prayer, I renewed my resolution of becoming a saint. I know I will accomplish this – not because I am sure of myself, Jesus, but because I am sure of you. Then I thought about the fact that I am a mangy donkey. And I asked – and ask – our Lord to cure the manginess of my miseries with the sweet ointment of his Love, that his Love might be the cauterizing agent that will burn away all the scabs and clean out all the manginess of my soul, that I may vomit out the pile of garbage there is within me. I then decided to be a donkey, but not a mangy one.
“I am your donkey, Jesus, but no longer mangy. I’m saying it like this so that you’ll clean me, not wanting to make a liar out of me… And with your donkey, Child Jesus, do whatever you please. Like the mischievous children of earth, pull my ears, give this stupid donkey a good whack, and make him run the way you want… I want to be your donkey. I want to be patient, hardworking, and faithful… May your donkey, Jesus, get such control over his poor asinine sensuality that he doesn’t respond to the spurs with kicks, that he carries his load with delight, and that his thoughts and his braying and his work are saturated with your Love. All for Love!” [1]

When St. Josemaria prayed to God, his guardian angel attended to that prayer. Why? So that he could help that “mangy donkey” in his pursuit of holiness. And so, as his spiritual life grew, St. Josemaria increased his devotion to the holy angels, such that whenever he greeted our Lord in the Tabernacle, he always thanked the Angels who were present there, for the unceasing adoration that they give to God.

St. Josemaria read in a book by one of the Fathers of the Church that, in addition to a Guardian Angel, priests have a ministerial Archangel as well; and so, from the day of his ordination to the priesthood, he turned to this Archangel with great simplicity and confidence.

St. Josemaria was in the habit of showing great deference to his guardian angel. When he made an entrance, he always deferred to his guardian angel to go first. Like St John XXIII, St. Josemaria was in the habit of greeting the guardian angels of the people he met. One day in 1972 or 1973, the retired archbishop of Valencia, the Most Reverend Marcelino Olaechea, came to visit him, accompanied by his secretary.

St. Josemaria was a good friend of the Archbishop, so that Father greeted him and then asked him playfully,
“Marcelino, let’s see if you can guess – whom did I greet first?”
The archbishop replied,
“You greeted me first.”
St. Josemaria replied,
“No, I greeted the VIP first.”
Archbishop Marcelino, understandably perplexed, replied,
“But of the two of us, my secretary and me, I am the ‘VIP’.”
Then St. Josemaria explained,
“No, the VIP is your Guardian Angel.”
Each year as we celebrate the Feast of Our Guardian Angels, let us resolve to pray to our guardian angel more frequently.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this day (or night) be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Notes: [1] St Josemaria, personal notes no. 313, quoted in A. Vazquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, vol. 1, p. 262.