The term “guardian angels” refers to the belief that each soul has an angel who is available to shepherd the soul through life, and help bring them to God.
Belief in the reality of angels, their mission as messengers of God, and man’s interaction with them, goes back to the earliest times. Cherubim kept Adam and Eve from slipping back into Eden; angels saved Lot and helped destroy the cities of the plains; in Exodus Moses follows an angel, and at one point an angel is appointed leader of Israel. Michael is mentioned at several points, Raphael figures large in the story of Tobit, and Gabriel delivered the Annunciation of the coming of Christ.
The concept of each soul having a personal guardian angel is also an ancient one, and long accepted by the Church:
See that you despise not one of these little ones [children]: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. – Jesus, Matthew 18:10
How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it. – St. Jerome in his commentary on Matthew
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation? - Hebrews 1:14
The feast, celebrating the angels who helped bring us to God, began in many local calendars centuries ago, and was widely known by the 16th century. Pope Paul V placed a feast venerating the angels on the general calendar on Sep 27, 1608. Ferdinand of Austria requested that it be extended to all areas of the Holy Roman Empire.
Initially placed after the feast of Michael the Archangel, it was seen as a kind of supplement to that date. Pope Clement X elevated the feast, celebrated Oct 2, to an obligatory double for the whole Church. On Apr 5, 1883, Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to the rank of a double major.
- Patron Saint Index
The Lord says this: “I myself will send an angel before you to guard you as you go and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Give him reverence and listen to all that he says. Offer him no defiance; he would not pardon such a fault, for my name is in him. If you listen carefully to his voice and do all that I say, I shall be enemy to your enemies, foe to your foes. My angel will go before you.”
Matthew 18:1-5, 10
The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, “I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
“See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.”
Looking at the first reading today, we may think that it’s helpful to have God to be enemy to our enemies, doesn’t it? If we ignore the rest of the reading and just focus on that one line, we might be thinking that, “Hey, now we can use God against our enemies. We can bend God’s power to our will.” However, this is not so, because we cannot ignore the rest of the reading.
What does the rest of the reading say? It says that in order for God to be enemy to our enemies, we have to:
1. Give reverence to the angel that is with us.
2. Listen to all the angel says.
3. Do not be defiant to the angel.
Since the angel is God’s messenger, and God’s name is in him, therefore all the reverence, listening, and obedience that we offer the angel, we are actually offering to God. What is taking place here, is what Jesus tells us in the gospel reading – we are changing to become little children. Rather than bending God to our will, we are actually bending ourselves to God’s will.
Once we have done this, we might find that some of the people we used to think were our enemies may no longer be our enemies, because they are not God’s enemies. Since we are now like little children in the kingdom of heaven, all that we do in cooperation with our angel is in cooperation with God. Therefore, by giving reverence to our guardian angels, by listening to all that it says, and by not being defiant, the angel is actually helping us to follow God’s will.
There is only one way to have God on our side, and that is for us to be on God’s side.
O angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom whose love commits me here. Ever this day, be at my side, to rule and guard, to light and guide. Amen.
Give Thanks to the Lord for: Our guardian angel.
Filed under: Daily Reflections