"The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen."
Angels are mentioned throughout the Old and New Testaments, including one who proclaimed Jesus' Resurrection to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb.
But an Altoona woman believes angels not only appeared to people in biblical times, but also surround us today and that we can communicate with them.
"I feel they've been around since the beginning of time. Everyone has at least one guardian angel, usually two," said Judy Meinen. She is a registered nurse and the founder of Angel Care Healing Touch, which provides holistic healing services.
Meinen will help people explore intuition and ways to communicate with angels during a workshop Friday and Saturday, Feb. 19.
Interest in angels has surged in recent years, Meinen said. A pewter angel hangs from a chain around her neck, revealing her own interest.
People notice miracles more in times of uncertainty and trouble, she observed.
Authors such as Sophy Burnham and Joan Wester Anderson have written about angels, and pop culture embraced the supernatural beings in the former television show "Touched by an Angel."
According to a Religion News Service story posted by the Biblical Recorder, 78 percent of Americans professed belief in angels in a Gallup poll last May, up from 72 percent a decade ago.
One of Meinen's recent workshops drew more than 20 people. They sat in a circle. Candles provided soft lighting.
Meinen asked participants to meditate to "come into a place of peace," and asked each to share a wish. They desired things such as peace, better health, a new baby or the completion of a garage.
Doreen Virtue, a well-known psychologist, defines angels as "loving thoughts from God," Meinen told participants.
"Watch your thoughts. . Listen to what you're hearing inside," she said.
Meinen shared a few messages with individuals that she said she received from their personal angels, including a future move for one woman.
Participant Emily Smith, a pediatric chiropractor in Eau Claire, said she "definitely" believes in angels. She pointed to a spiritual presence being one possibility for those unexplained smiles and happy looks young children sometimes show.
Meinen is a graduate of Virtue's angel therapy practitioner certification course. Virtue is the author of several books on angels.
Angel therapy helps people learn to understand signals coming through their bodies and minds to communicate with angels, Meinen said. She knows other certified angel therapy practitioners in the Chippewa Valley.
Meinen also is a certified hypnotherapist and a practitioner of the healing touch and Reiki noninvasive energy-based approaches to stimulate and support healing.
She started Angel Care in the late '90s after working for several years as a certified pediatric nurse, including at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and St. Joseph's Hospital in Chippewa Falls.
Her interest in angels grew while she was learning healing touch. "I started feeling very positive, peaceful, warm energy around me while I would work on people. I perceived that as angels helping me," she said.
Meinen believes everyone can communicate with angels. She teaches tools to communicate with angels during workshops.
Tools include automatic writing, in which people write what comes to mind while they pray and meditate; pendulums that operate based on physics laws comparable to the method of water dousing; and readings with angel oracle cards, which are cards featuring angel paintings and a message that answers people's questions.
But Meinen said she thinks a lot of religious leaders would not agree with her, preferring a more traditional prayer method to communicate with God.
The Rev. JoAnne Juett, pastor of First Baptist Church, 416 Niagara St., said Scripture contains enough references to angels to make their presence in our lives believable.
While she has no personal experience with angels, "I'm very open to that," she said.
"There have been times in my life where I've had something really good happen, or a sense I escaped something that I can't explain," she said.
Juett said she doesn't believe personally in communicating with angels but it could be possible for someone else.
No physical evidence of angels exists. But Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, talks about angels speaking for God, said Sandy Shaurette, parish administrator at St. Olaf Catholic Church, 3220 Monroe St.
"Certainly I cannot define if there are angels, and if there are, can we talk to them. I'm not sure," Shaurette said, adding these are her personal views.
"I think we can talk to God in a lot of ways and use whatever means is best for us," she said.
From a biblical perspective, angels were God's messengers not so much in that people talked to angels but that angels had messages for people in extraordinary circumstances, said the Rev. Mark Schulz, lead pastor at Peace Lutheran Church, 501 E. Fillmore Fillmore Ave.
"I've always been in the talk-to-God-directly mode through prayer rather than through angels," he said.
Schulz added he does believe in the existence of angels but is less clear as to their role in connecting with the divine.
Linda Danek of Strum has attended seminars at which Meinen was a speaker and worked with her individually.
"I think she really has a gift in being able to make a presentation and to talk about a subject matter that would be perhaps touchy for many people," Danek said.
Danek believes angels exist. "I do think that there are forces that help us," she said.
She turned to divine intervention, for example, when her two dogs ran away recently on a day with dangerously cold temperatures and wind chill.
As she drove around looking for the dogs, she said, "I called out (to) my angels and said please, please, please bring them back." As she pleaded, she got a feeling the dogs would come home not that night but the next morning.
And they did, one barely able to walk.
Many would be skeptical, Danek said, but she feels she got in touch with angels.
"The angels help us manifest what we need. I feel God wants us to have abundance," Meinen said.