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Almost everyone has an angel story to tell, and sources tell us that angels are mentioned 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New. They cross cultures and religions and also feature in mythology. So who are these celestial beings and why are we so enamoured with them?

The name in English is derived from the Latin word ‘angelus’ which literally means messenger and angels are often depicted as androgynous intermediaries between heaven and earth.

We are told that they do have a hierarchy and the angels closest to humans are ninth on the list!

October 2nd is the feast of the guardian angels and many girls born on this day are christened Angela.

As a child I was taught that we are all given guardian angels at birth who stay with for us for the whole of our lives. I remember loving the idea that I was protected and I delighted in speculating what my special angel looked like.

I received a guardian angel prayer card when I made my first holy communion, depicting a huge angel standing behind two children, shielding them from imminent danger; yet I imagined my angel to be much smaller and with only half the wing span so she could get closer to me.

Believing I was safeguarded at all times brought a feeling of contentment, which meant at the age of seven I could quite happily go out on my scooter, cross roads wearing my second hand roller skates, ride down Berry Edge Road on home made pram-wheeled bogies, call on my friends in Consett and run around on the top of the slag heaps at Crookhall without worrying.

In fact after watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ at home one Christmas I was happy to think of Clarence Odbody, who was sent to earth to save George Bailey – played by my favourite actor James Stewart – as a shining example of what a guardian angel could be. This film has stayed in my heart ever since.

In Saint Patrick’s church in Consett there was a kneeling angel statue in the crib at Christmas time who nodded a thank you when you put money in the box it was holding. I remember loving this as a child and emptying my Mother’s purse at Mass on Sunday, just to witness that affectionate bow.

I have always been comforted by the concept of angels and the inspiration they give to many people in time of need, and I know that others find comfort there too.

Many years ago one of our friends moved to Durham City to live, and instead of our usual Consett Saturday night out at Botto’s we were invited to meet up with her in Durham and explore the hostelries there; followed by a quick dance in the nightclub Klute. Of course once we were in there and the music got hold of us we forgot all about the time and missed the last bus home.

Standing close to the bus station in the dark deserted streets of Durham we reviewed our options. We had no money left – I’d even used up my emergency fiver that I always kept in my right boot – and in those days Uber’s and contactless debit cards didn’t exist. So our only option was to walk home, which was a daunting prospect. The cold night air wrapped itself around us as we looked at each other in despair, each trying to be brave for the other one.

Close to the Bridge Hotel as we were about to embark on our long walk, we stopped as we heard a vehicle slowing down behind us and the door of an empty 52 seater coach swung open. The driver asked where we were going and on our reply invited us to hop aboard as he said he was going our way. We sat in the front seat relieved and thankful as he turned up the heater, and we offered him the few coins of bus fare we had left. He laughed and said it was his pleasure. We chatted away for the whole journey until he dropped us off safe and sound outside the door at home, and with our ‘thank you’s’ ringing in his ears, he was gone!

The next day we spent ages asking around, scouring the yellow pages and the phone book to find the name of the coach firm in order to write a thank you letter and reimburse the driver for his kindness, but no one had heard of it and we couldn’t find an address or number anywhere.

It didn’t exist!

I believe in angels.

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