Last Saturday (9/29) we celebrated the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Rafael, archangels. This past Tuesday (10/2) we observed the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels. What are angels and what are they not?
angels in general
: a topic that often sees surges in interest, particularly in times of personal or cultural trouble. Bookstores have many titles telling us
about them: they are all-powerful beings, voices of God, guides in the ways of right and wrong, provider of counsel to wealth and success.
How much of this is part of Catholic teaching and how much is "New Age fad"?
: First of all, it is important to note that the existence of angels in general is part of Catholic doctrine, both as revealed in books of Scripture (c.f.
, the Gospel of
Acts of the Apostles
) as well as in historical Tradition (the
Fourth Lateran Council
of 1215 wrote: "We firmly and profess that God...by His almighty power, from the very beginning of time has created both orders of creatures in the same way out of nothing, the spiritual or angelic world and the corporeal or visible universe."
Canons of the Lateran Council IV
Next, it is important to note that the word "angel" denotes a function of these beings' role in the plan of God: to be messengers sent to help humanity and to announce great events in God's plan of salvation. The early Church Fathers claimed that each Christian has a guardian angel assigned to them and modern theologians have indicated that, because of the inestimable worth of all human life regardless whether baptized or no, that every person has a guardian angel assigned to him or her.
Jesus himself, when speaking of little children, points out that "their angels" who look upon the face of the Father in heaven. Early Christians in Jerusalem who witnessed Peter's miraculous escape from prison, thought that they were seeing "his angel" (Acts 12:15).
Certainly from a very human standpoint, angels are one of the loveliest and most comforting elements of our Christian faith. Taking Jesus' assertion that each human person is given an angel to guard him or her and be a spiritual companion through life is but one way that God has a personal, daily and intimate concern for our good and happiness.
One thing that we can be certain of is that, as messengers who are perfectly in harmony with God's will (who, once having decided to remain with God before time began in the struggle that differentiated the angelic forces from the demonic) always act in accord with that will. So they will exercise a continual service by assisting people in the ordinary course of their lives, acting in a quiet effective manner with major show. They will never announce or offer advise in a way contrary to God's plan.
They do this for an important reason. While God's grace is always available to help humanity know and love God, our limited minds sometimes fail to make proper use of that grace - we all need some help at one point or another. A very early document of the Church, the
Shepherd of Hermas
, writes: "There are two spiritual beings in each person: one for righteousness and the other for evil...the angel of righteousness is gentle and quiet, meek and peaceful. Whenever this angel rises to your heart, he will at once start talking about righteousness, chastity, holiness, self-denial and about every good deed and virtue. When all these things rise to your heart, it means that the angel of righteousness is with you" (
Shepherd of Hermas,
A common mistake is to put angels on the same level as God. However, as created beings, they simply cannot be given the worship that is God's alone. In spite of their level of perfection in their spiritual nature, angels do not have the infinite power and wisdom of God. For example, they cannot read the inner thoughts of the mind; humans need to somehow to make known their needs and requests. So, while we can and are encouraged to seek the advice and intercession of angels (as we can with the Blessed Mother and saints that have gone before us), we do not worship them.
Another misconception is to give angels, particularly one's guardian angel, a name. As personal beings possessed of free will and (a vastly superior) intellect, they already have names that are unknown to us and it would be presumptuous, unless they themselves have made a name known through divine revelation (e.g. Michael, Gabriel, Rafael) ,to give a name like one would do to a pet. Simply addressing them as a friend who walks with us in life - for that is truly who they are - is sufficient and reminds us of the powerful and supernatural help that God gives in out of love so that we can draw closer to Him every day.
A prayer that is can be said to open the heart to the counsel of the angels is:
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
When tempted, invoke your Angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him: He trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel.
St. John Bosco, priest and educator
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Video (53 minutes) -
Powers and Dominions
In all of God's creation we see such splendor, beauty, mystery, and wonder. Within this creation there are beings with intellect and free will: humans and angels.
From the creation of the world, the realm of the angels and the world of men have interacted. This interaction is not always a positive one. This film explores the spiritual world, that very real but unseen realm: God, the human soul, angels, demons (fallen angels), spiritual warfare, the reality of demonic possession and exorcism, the dangers of the new age movement and the occult, and much more. Featuring well-known speakers and authors Steve Ray, Fr. Andrew Pinsent, Fr. Marcus Holden, Joanna Bogle, Fr. Jeremy Davies, and Fr. Behruz Rafat, this film offers an insightful and sobering presentation about the reality of the powers and dominions of the spiritual world. Inspirational music, beautiful artwork, and imagery are used throughout the film.
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Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, October 5 at 3:00PM