She wears jeans, has a laptop bag slung over her shoulder and she is talking on a cellphone. This is not your typical Dutch teenager, this is a statue called the Little Angel, and she stands above St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Hertogenbosch (about an hour’s drive from Amsterdam). There are many statues on or around this cathedral, but only one that is in modern dress with wings…and holding a cell phone.

I found out about this angel from an article in the New York Times. What is so interesting about this story is that people not only call the angel, but the angel answers. A local couple set up a number so that people could talk to the angel. She gets about 30 calls a day. The anonymous couple started this as a joke, but it has become a hot line or a help line for many people. This couple says they are making no money from this project.

When the call is made, there is no recording. There is a real woman’s voice that answers. She says “hello, this is the Little Angel”.  She hears a variety of stories, from children to the elderly. Children talk about their homework, they ask about the weather or what’s for dinner. They wonder if the angel is cold. There was the child who called because her grandmother was dying. A woman called because she was lonely and had lost hope in humanity. This woman called back a few days later and said she was feeling better.

A very busy time for the angel was when Steve Jobs died. The phone rang constantly and the angel told callers “Steve Jobs will soon arrive upstairs—perhaps I will get a new model.”

Some people are not amused or impressed with the angel and the “service” it provides. The Catholic Church who administers the cathedral has nothing to do with this phone number and the woman who answers the calls. Last December the church decided to create their own phone number. For $1.07 a minute you can call and hear about the church. A male recorded voice gives options like, “dial 1 for church history, dial 2 to learn about Christianity”. This phone number gets about 100 calls a week and they are using this as a fundraiser for the cathedral. So there are now two phone numbers for the angel, and they are providing different services for callers.

The angel came about because of a competition to have new angels placed at the cathedral in 1997. Dutch sculptor Ton Mooy designed the Little Angel. “Angels are there to guide, to protect people, they get messages from above. How do you show that? With a cell phone.”

I am not into angels or cathedrals, but there is something to be said for people having the need to reach out. People of all ages are comfortable enough to make a call to a statue and you can assume that some are calling as a lark. But there are others who have no one else to talk to or have no one else that will listen. Children who may want to believe that the angel can really hear them or help them. Adults who are weary from life and want to just be heard. And others who just want to feel like there is a little bit of hope. Maybe they really don’t have anyone else to call and this makes them feel a little less lonely. The woman who answers the calls, always tell the caller the same thing: “I will blow some angel magic on you.” If that makes them smile, then who does it harm?

And now this angel is so popular that she has two phone numbers. She could be texting soon.

My favorite angel is Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Clarence looked like an ordinary guy, and he was kind and helpful. His big goal was to get his wings, and he finally earned them by saving George Bailey. In this classic film, we learned that whenever you hear a bell ringing, an angel gets his wings.

Personally, I have no interest in calling the statue/angel. But I am happy to know that some people can find comfort from a phone call. If it gets them through another day, then the angel has performed some magic.

Recommended angelic viewing: It’s a wonderful life, Heaven can wait, Angels in the outfield, Michael, Defending your life and The Bishop’s Wife. Get a lump of clay, watch Ghost and have fun.

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  • Aledys Ver (@AledysVer)  On March 23, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I’ve wanted to go to Den Bosch to see the Little Angel! I think it’s a nice idea and that it’s wonderful that people who feel the need to communicate, to get something out of their chest or simply share a moment, can call “an angel”.
    I was thinking we could introduce her to Zwolle’s angel, the St. Michael in the middle of the square. Maybe I can give Mike her number?
    I’ll share this; it’s a lovely post.

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