Today is the feast day of our Guardian Angels!
A 2007 Harris poll found that 74% of U.S. adults believed in angels.
How do we know that 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
The word “angel,” in Greek is angelos, in Hebrew is malach, in Arabic is mala’ika– which all mean “messenger.”
Angels are incorporeal (without body, material form or substance) spiritual beings who can assume bodily form. They act as messengers and intermediaries between God and humanity. St. Augustine said that although angels are defined by their function as messengers or message-bearers, their activities are not limited to just this function. Messenger is one of their functions, not their nature.
St. Thomas Aquinas maintained that each angel is unique, a species unto itself — truly a mind-boggling idea. (J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic, probably had angels in mind when he fashioned the Ents, who are each a species unto itself.) That means each angel is truly an individual, with his own personality and quirks. This may explain why some guardian angels are pro-active, while others seem not to be.
Major philosophers — such as the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), René Descartes (1596-1650), John Locke (1632-1704), and most recently, the American philosopher Mortimer Adler (1902-2001) — offered compelling reasoning for the existence of angels. (For the conversion of Adler, a Jew, see “A philosopher-pagan comes home: The conversion of Mortimer Adler“.)
Theologians maintain there is a hierarchy of angels, their belief stemming from allusions in both the Old and New Testaments (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) to “seraphim,” “cherubim,” “thrones,” “dominions,” “mights,” “powers” and “principalities” in the “heavenly places.”
Dionysius the Areopagite and St. Thomas Aquinas delineated three hierarchies of angels, and three orders within each hierarchy, totaling nine orders in all:
- 1st hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones.
- 2nd hierarchy: Dominions, Virtues, Powers.
- 3rd hierarchy: Principalities, Archangels, Angels.
Of the nine angelic orders, five are sent by God for external ministry among bodily creatures, as indicated by their names of Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels—all of which refer to some kind of administrative or executive office. Of these five orders, only the last three minister to human beings (which implies that the other two orders minister to non-human bodily creatures, like animals?):
- Principalities are in charge of the whole of humanity.
- 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 to and guardians of individual human beings.
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, 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 . . . .
In Summa Theologica, 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. What a wondrous thought — that our guardian Angel who has known and loved us all our lives will be our friend and companion through all eternity!
But the wicked in Hell “will have a fallen angel [or demon] to punish him” for eternity. Let that thought sink in . . . .
My husband, James, who passed away a year and a month ago, was blessed to have encountered his guardian angel (see “We have no nurse named Benjamin“). James spent the three years before he passed in a quality assisted care facility where he continued to write each day, and succeeded in publishing three books. He said he felt his angel’s presence and companionship all the time. There were times when he almost fell but didn’t, propped up by an invisible hand.
How his angel, Benjamin, must love him.
I believe James finally saw his angel face-to-face, and the two are wandering the Universe together.
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:
My days are so busy with writing and family-, house- and garden-work that the only time when my mind is at rest is when I walk in the hills. On one such walk some years ago, I talked to my guardian angel and humbly asked him to show me he’s there. Instantly, I felt his presence walking alongside me, on 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 have never, and will never, experienced from any 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.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- How is my relationship with my guardian angel?
- Do I listen to him?
- Do I bid him good day in the morning?
- Do I tell him: “Guard me while I sleep”?
- Do I speak with him?
- Do I ask for his advice?
Talk to your Guardian Angel!
He loves you very, very much, more than you’ll ever know.
Tell him you love him.
And thank your Guardian Angel today and every day — for watching over and protecting you, and for loving you in spite of ourselves.
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