Early on after I “discovered” guardian angels and how cool they were, I read an article in a youth magazine which mentioned one could give one’s guardian angel a name.
My reaction to this was “Nah-uh.” Naming in the Bible typically connotes ownership of a person or at least superiority. I knew giving my guardian angel a name would be inappropriate. And you’ll have to trust me that no one knows something as fully and perfectly as a sixteen-year-old who’s read just a little bit about it.
Whenever I spoke to him, it was, “Angel.” And yes, before you say it, he probably did reply to me, “Yes, Human?”
Three years later, a friend-of-a-friend mentioned that he’d given his guardian angel the name Johnny, which I endlessly mocked because I was a little twit. I explained to him about Biblical ownership and the connotations of giving a name, explained that God had given each angel a perfectly good name and that just because we didn’t know it doesn’t mean we should act as if it doesn’t exist. He didn’t care and still called his guardian Johnny.
As a result of this little tangle, either the friend asked me to or I decided I should ask my guardian if he wanted a nickname. No problem — it was open-and-shut as far as I was concerned. Since I didn’t own him, the angel would tell me no, and that would be the end of things.
So I said to him, If you want a nickname, let me know by doing XYZ by Friday night.
XYZ was a work similar to something the angel had done before, so he should be able to do it this time as well. But as the days went on, I got an uneasy feeling — actually, more of a desperate feeling. He couldn’t do it. He was telling me he couldn’t do it, that this was unfair, and that although he did that thing sometimes to be nice, he couldn’t just perform it on command.
Friday morning I got an XY part of it but no Z. I told you I was a little twit back then. I thought, I win. No nickname.
By Friday night the sense of desperation was pretty obvious even to a little twit like myself. This wasn’t a fair question if he couldn’t actually answer it.
I prayed about it, and I resolved: Fine, let’s change the requirement. If you want a nickname, give me a longstem yellow flower.
Saturday morning I awoke at about 7AM (wide awake) and had the thought in my head: I had to go to daily Mass.
Daily Mass on campus during the weekdays was at lunch time, but on Saturdays if you wanted to get to daily Mass, you had to hike to the bottom of the hill, and you had to do it by 7:30AM.
I snuggled back under the covers and tried to go back to sleep.
I felt it again, the push to go to daily Mass.
I tried to ignore it.
This time I got the guilties: get up and go to daily Mass.
I rolled out of bed, struggled into some clothes, grabbed my backpack with a walkman and a book (I would go to McDonalds afterward to read or write for a while) and trudged down the hill.
There were two ways to get to the base of the hill: the shorter way which was really steep, and the long way which was on a larger road and was noisier. I went down the longer way.
Halfway down the hill, on this noisy street where everyone and his brother must have walked up and down the hill the night before, lying right across the pavement, was a longstem yellow carnation.
Uncrushed, clean, and crisp.
I just picked it up without a word and put it into the zipper-pull on the backpack; about half a block later I thought, “Fine. You get a nickname. Give me a week.”
That night I got out the baby name book I used for characters, and I went through all of the boy’s names. I listed a bunch that sounded good, started weeding those out, and within a few days we had a name that seemed acceptable. At least, I’ve never heard otherwise.
And that’s the story of how my guardian got his nickname.