Today is the feast day of our Guardian Angels!
A 2007 Harris poll found that 74% of U.S. adults believed in angels.
The word “angel,” in Greek is angelos, in Hebrew is malach, in Arabic is mala’ika– which all mean “messenger.”
Angels are incorporeal (bodiless) spiritual beings who act as intermediaries between God and humanity. Angels are defined by their function as message-bearers, although this function does not exhaust their activities. As spirits, they are believed to have been created by God to serve the supreme deity by fulfilling any and all tasks assigned to them.
St. Thomas Aquinas maintained that each Angel is unique, a species unto itself — a truly mind-boggling idea. That means each Angel is an individual, with his own personality and quirks. This may explain why some guardian angels are pro-active, while others are not.
Major philosophers — such as the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), René Descartes, John Locke, and most recently, the American philosopher Mortimer Adler — have put forth compelling reasoning for the existence of Angels. (For the conversion of Adler, a Jew, to the Catholic faith, see the moving account, “A Philosopher-Pagan Comes Home“.)
Scripture tells us there is a hierarchy of Angels — there are various gradations or “orders” of Angels. We know this because in Genesis 3:24, Isaiah 6:1-7, Ezekiel 1, 10, Romans 8:38, Ephesians 1:21, 3:10, 6:12, Colossians 1:16, 2:10, 2:15, allusions are made to “seraphim,” “cherubim,” “thrones,” “dominions,” “mights,” “powers,” and “principalities” in the “heavenly places.”
Aquinas and other theologians say there are nine orders of angels, but only the last five angelic orders (Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels) minister to bodily creatures and, of them, only the last three minister to human beings. That, of course, suggests two angelic orders — those of Virtues and Powers — minister to nonhuman bodily creatures, including animals whom St. Bonaventure called “creatures without sin.” Isn’t that a happy thought? — that our pets also have angels?
- Principalities are in charge of the whole of humanity — of nations or countries.
- Archangels minister to nations — their leaders and those persons whom God tasks with special work to do on earth.
- Angels, the last order, are God’s messengers and guardians of individual human beings.
How do we know each of us has a guardian angel?
Because Jesus tells us so!
“See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, a guardian angel is appointed by God’s loving providence to each human being from the moment of birth because “the dignity of human souls is great.”
Throughout the lives of “changeable and fallible” human beings, their guardian angels assist them toward goodness. Although the guardians never fail or forsake their human charges, they eschew interfering with divine providence or with our free will—to commit sin if we so choose, to endure trials and troubles, and to suffer punishment.
When I see a drunk or derelict sleeping on a bus bench or curled up in a street corner, I can’t help but wonder how very sad their guardian angels must be. Imagine what it must be like to be the guardian angel of a serial killer . . . .
St. Thomas also wrote that at the end of a human being’s earthly life, the guardian angel of the virtuous person will be replaced with an angelic companion because the guardian’s mission will have been successfully discharged. The wicked in Hell, however, “will have a fallen angel to punish him” for eternity. [Source: Msgr. Paul J. Glenn, A Tour of the Summa (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books, 1978), p. 93.]
Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean our guardian angels aren’t with us all the time. In fact, there are many stories of angelic encounters and assistance. See, for example:
You’ll find more angel stories on FOTM’s “Angels & Saints” page,
My days are so busy with blogging and house- and garden-work that the only time when my mind is at rest is when I’m taking my solitary walk in the hills. On one such walk, I talked to my guardian angel and humbly asked him to show me he’s there. Instantaneously, I felt his presence walking alongside me, to my right. I can’t tell you what he looks like (he is a bodiless spirit after all), but what I felt was his staggeringly-profound LOVE — a love that is unconditional and wholly unearned, the depths of which I’ve never experienced from a human.
Here’s a simple prayer to our guardian angels, by St. Bonaventure (1221-1274):
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom His Love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide. Amen.
Talk to your Guardian Angel!
He loves you very very much, more than you’ll ever know.
And thank your Guardian Angel today and every day — for watching over and protecting you, and for loving you in spite of ourselves.