Known as “The Angel” or “The Spirit,” Brother Michael Angelus came from hearty Maine stock, and he had a stubborn streak as deep as the rocks of his native state. When Brother Michael Angelus entered the Brothers in 1917, it took him three days to travel by train from Maine to Baltimore, and the Brother who met him at the station was driving a horse and buggy. One of the first Brothers to make novitiate under the redoubtable Brother Julian Ryan (April 9), Brother Michael Angelus developed early a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament which lasted his entire life. In his old age he edified the members of his community by his faithfulness to prayer. Every day began and ended for him in the small chapel in the Brothers’ residence at Middletown.
Teaching until after his golden jubilee, he began in the grade school circuit in Baltimore, Virginia, and Brooklyn. When he made the change to high school, he taught business subjects and finally Spanish. He completed the work for a Master’s degree in Spanish at Boston University when he was fifty-five years old. When he retired from the classroom, he began a new career as a Eucharistic minister for local nursing homes. This adventure involved his obtaining a driver’s license at the age of seventy-one. Driving was an art Brother Michael Angelus never quite mastered, and the Brothers received occasional calls from the State Police about his erratic journeys from Middletown to New Britain.
Brother Michael Angelus had a deep devotion to his classmates from his novitiate days: Brothers Baptist McCarthy (January 20), Dennis Joseph Lynch (December 27) and Leonard Francis Hopkins. It was Brother Baptist who once commented affectionately that, “Mike has never really had a superior. He’s done what he wanted all his life.”
Brother Michael Angelus had some very serious illnesses in his life, but despite these he lived into his ninety-first year. One of his favorite sayings was, “Our dear Lord and His Blessed Mother are coming for me soon.” He began saying this in the early 1950’s during his days at Keith Academy. His end, when it did come forty years later, came rather quickly. He had been in a nursing home for some months and was experiencing the angina which made his days so painful, but he had survived so much illness that to the Brothers he seemed invincible. His devotion to “Our dear Lord and His Blessed Mother” was the hallmark of Brother Michael Angelus’ life, and we can be sure that they did come for him at last and welcomed him personally to eternal life.
BROTHER MICHAEL ANGELUS (James Augustus Abernathy)
Born: Houlton, Maine, October 1, 1898
Died: Middletown, Connecticut, June 18, 1989
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