Back in the day, we fundamentalists didn't mess with angels, sensing that Catholics owned the angel franchise, part of their dim smoky world of bead-rattling and hocus-pocus and lugubrious statuary, so instead we focused on the Holy Spirit who dwelt in all of us true believers and told us what to do and what to say, which is convenient for people with plenty of self-confidence. You read some Scripture and work up a sweat over it and stand up in the sunlit sanctuary, no dinging or chanting, no costumes or choreography, and you open your mouth and out comes Truth, such as the doctrine of Separation from the World, which was appealing to those of us with no social skills - if people didn't like us, it was proof of our righteousness.
The idea that I was right and most other people were wrong stuck with me through my cocksure youth and some of middle age, but then comes the perilous passage of life when a man lies awake thinking about the prostate and the mitral valve, and your interest in Truth fades a little compared to your interest in winged beings who might come and rescue people in serious trouble. Nowadays I think more about angels. And sometimes I slip into Catholic churches to sit and commune with any resident angels and to light a few candles, especially for young people in trouble.
The sorrows of old age are tedious; it's the disasters of the young that tear at your heart. The son of an old friend has a bad accident and damages his spinal cord and now is in rehab, trying to put as much of his life together as he can. The daughter of an old friend is shot in broad daylight in the streets of Johannesburg, carrying her infant. A young man's little boy sprouts a horrible brain tumor and the father suspends his studies for several years to care for him, meanwhile his wife leaves him. These are grievous situations for which I sit in a cold empty church and look at St. Michael and ask him to intervene.
And then there is the grief that old righteous people inflict on the young, such as our public schools. I'm looking at U.S. Department of Education statistics on reading achievement and see that here in Minnesota proud, progressive Minnesota on a 500-point test (average score: 225), 27 percent of fourth-graders score below basic proficiency, and black and Hispanic kids score 30-some points lower than white on average, and the 30 percent of public schoolkids who come from households in poverty (who qualify for reduced-price school lunches) score 27 points lower than those who don't come from poverty.