By Alfonso Sarno
CAMPAGNA, Italy, JUNE 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Father Marcello Stanzione, a self-described “simple rural priest,” took up angelology as his lifework after coming across a book that purported to offer prayers to guardian angels, but actually linked these spiritual creatures to stars and planets in a work about “magic, not spirituality — a theologically incorrect publication.”
Father Stanzione in 2002 re-founded the Militia of St. Michael the Archangel, which promotes an annual theological-pastoral conference on angelology. This year’s two-day meeting was held last week and focused on “The Angels of Priests and of the Church.”
Father Stanzione told ZENIT that the group is gaining strength and the annual conferences (begun in 2005) now draw more than 200 participants, while more than 1,000 are regular visitors of the Web site.
The roots of Father Stanzione’s passion for angels are linked to the saint of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio.
Padre Pio encouraged spreading devotion to the angelic hosts. “And I, even in my littleness, want to carry forward this teaching of his,” Father Stanzione says.
“My interest in the angels was born by chance some 20 years ago,” the priest explained. “I was on pilgrimage in San Giovanni Rotondo […] called to Puglia by Padre Pio of Pietrelcina himself.
“I met a lady there who had a book titled ‘Prayers to the Guardian Angels.’ The title aroused my interest and I asked her to lend it to me.
“I was profoundly disturbed by the reading — I was fired with indignation because it linked the figure of the angels with stars and planets.
“It was magic, not spirituality — a theologically incorrect publication, published to catch people in crisis, in search of hope, of something to hold on to, like the poor woman in San Giovanni Rotondo, [who wanted] to help her husband who was in the House for the Relief of Suffering.”
Righting the wrong
After that experience, Father Stanzione decided to help the faithful rediscover angels and understand the correct importance of the function they carry out in Catholic doctrine.
“I am a self-taught angelologist, I don’t have the formation of a dogmatic theologian,” clarified Father Stanzione. The priest holds degrees in theology and the social doctrine of the Church, but through years of study has come to promote angelology, together with demonology, as something serious that has involved elite scholars over the centuries.
“Many today forget that it is a branch of theology and that it is related to demonology,” the priest noted. “One cannot speak of the devil if one doesn’t know the angels.”
Father Stanzione laments that a “devious and partial reading” of the Second Vatican Council “has put in doubt the existence not only of the angels but also of Purgatory and of the devil.”
“It is sad that not everyone addresses the phenomenon with theological seriousness and respect,” he said. “[…] We must react; there are theologians who are almost ashamed to speak of the angels, when the Catholic magisterium has never fueled doubts.”
Bit by bit, Father Stanzione has obtained a seriousness and credibility recognized internationally.
“Not everyone has the charism of Padre Pio, of Natuzza, of St. Faustina or of St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds,” he acknowledged. But echoing St. Thomas, the priest affirms the “angelic influence in all that was good given by God.”
Father Stanzione is hoping the Holy Father will convoke a year in honor of St. Michael the Archangel, and that the tradition of praying to the angel after Mass will be re-established.
“He can do everything,” Father Stanzione affirmed, referring to the archangel.
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On the Net:
Militia of St. Michael the Archangel: www.miliziadisanmichelearcangelo.org/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/lang,it/