Skip to comments.Our Guardian Angels [Ecumenical]
Posted on 08/05/2008 10:34:13 AM PDT by NYer
One of the most consoling doctrines of Scripture is that of the guardianship of angels; the doctrine which teaches that man in this world is guided and protected by invisible beings called angels.
1. Scripture openly teaches that among the angels there are those deputed by God to keep watch over men.
Thus (1) in the Psalms it is said: "He hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways." These words, according to the common interpretation of the Fathers, refer to all just souls trusting in God. St. Bernard says: " Wonderful condescension! and truly great love! He has given His angels a charge over thee, to guard thee in all thy ways. What is man, O God, that Thou shouldst thus be mindful of him! What reverence, devotion, and confidence, should this word inspire in us!" (2) Again, Christ Himself in the gospel charges us not to scandalize little ones, because "Their angels (that is, those who keep watch over them) always see the face of the Father." St. Jerome commenting on these words says: "Great is the dignity of the human soul, since each one of them has from the very outset of his life an Angel deputed to safeguard him."
(3) Finally, the apostle openly declares that the angels are ministering spirits sent by God, to keep watch over men who are destined for heaven: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?" These words are commonly understood not only of the elect, but of all who are destined for salvation.
II. This doctrine, so clearly taught in Scripture, is also supported by solid reasons. These reasons flow from our relationship to God, for we are His children, members of Jesus Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost. " Because we are His children," says Father Oliver, "He appoints to us as tutors the princes of His realm, who hold it an honor to have us in their charge. Because we are His members. He wills that those very spirits that minister unto Him be also at our side to render us their services. Because we are His temples in which He Himself dwells. He wills that Angels hover about us as they do about our churches, so that bowed down in worship before Him they may offer a perpetual homage to His glory, supplying for our neglect and making reparation for our irreverence."
Father Olier goes on to say that God wishes to unite intimately through the agency of His Angels the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant: "He sends this mysterious host of Angels in order that they may by uniting themselves to us and binding us to themselves form one body of the Church of heaven and the Church of earth."
III. Finally, this doctrine is the traditional and unanimous teaching of the Fathers. Among them there is no suggestion of doubt upon the subject. Thus Origen sets it down among the doctrines as to which there is no controversy in the Church, that some of the good Angels are God's ministers in promoting the salvation of men. St. Hilary calls it absolutely certain. St. Augustine uses the truth of this guardianship to prove that the duty of mutual love extends to all the intellectual creatures of God.
This doctrine has also been confirmed by the Church in the institution of a feast in honor of the Guardian Angels. In the prayer of this feast we say: " God, who in Thine unspeakable providence hast been pleased to give Thine holy angels charge over us, to keep us."
This feast, however, granted by Paul V (1608), had already been preceded by the Solemnity of St. Michael and of all the Angels instituted in the sixth century. It is celebrated in memory of an apparition of the Archangel Michael. More ancient however was the feast of St. Michael ascribed for 29 September.
In these festivities the angels were not only honored, but also invoked as our guardians and helpers. Thus in the prayer of the feast of St. Michael we say: "O God . . . mercifully grant that as Thy holy angels always do Thee service in heaven, so by Thy appointment, they may succor and defend us on earth." In the Church there has always been the persuasion that we are guarded and defended by the Holy Angels.
Thus that holy angels are deputed to keep watch over men in this world is not only certain, but also, according to many, of faith, on account of the institution of the feast of the Angel Guardians and the universal consent of the Church.
Thus far I have been considering the general doctrine that God deputes His angels to keep watch over men. Let us now go a step further, and consider the doctrine that there is an angel for each individual soul. Although not of faith, because it has not as yet been defined by the Church as an article of faith, nevertheless this doctrine is so universally received and with such solid foundation in Holy Scripture, as interpreted by the Fathers, that it cannot without great rashness be called in question. In fact to deny it might almost be termed erroneous.
(a) It is certain that each one of the faithful has his own angel guardian. This is intimated in the texts of Scripture above cited in the unanimous consent of the Fathers, and the common persuasion of the faithful. Let us hear St. Basil alone: "That there is an angel for each one of the faithful no one will contradict."
(b) The same is commonly asserted for sinners and for those not of the faith; for Christ died for all, even for those not of the faith, and merited for all the means of salvation; and one of these means, in the present dispensation, is the guardianship of angels: hence not only the faithful who are Just, but also sinners and those not of the faith, have each an angel guardian.
The Fathers are clear on this point. Thus Theodoret commenting on the words "Their angels always see the face of the Father," says: " Christ the Lord said that each man is under the care of an angel." And St. Chrysostom uses almost the same words: " This is a truth, that each man has an angel." And St. Augustine: " I esteem it, O my God, an inestimable benefit, that Thou hast granted me an angel to guide me from the moment of my birth to my death." Finally St. Jerome without any restriction declares: "Great is the dignity of the human soul, since each one of them has from the very outset of his life an Angel deputed to safeguard him."
In confirmation of this doctrine, the Fathers also give the words of the disciples in the Acts of the Apostles. When Peter stood at the gate and knocked, after his miraculous escape from prison, the disciples within could not credit the message of the portress that it was Peter himself, and they said: "IT IS HIS ANGEL" (12:15).
We have also in Christian hagiology many examples which confirm and illustrate this teaching. Thus we read of St. Paul of the Cross that he was often observed, on joining the company of his religious at recreation, to make a profound bow toward them with a joyous countenance that inspired devotion: the saint seeing that the religious were surprised, told them frankly that he did it chiefly out of respect for their angel guardians, who were with them. Of the Blessed Gemma of Luca we read that she saw her angel with her eyes, touched him with her hand as if he were a being of this world, remained talking with him as one friend would with another.
According to St. Thomas and most theologians, the angel assumes the office of guarding his client at the moment of birth: before this period, the infant is protected by the angel of the mother. Again this guardianship continues through the entire life, at least in the sense that the angel guardian never entirely deserts his client, although he can be less devoted to him for a time, for his punishment. Properly speaking, it ceases in death, since at that instant ceases the time of probation.
And not individual men alone, but communities also are under the guardianship of angels.
1. The Doctors hold most probably that there is a special angel guardian for the Church, namely St. Michael.
(a) Indeed, from Scripture St. Michael appears to have been formerly in charge of the Synagogue, because he is called the prince of the Jewish people, and is said to have had special care of it; and as the Church has succeeded the Synagogue, St. Michael, most probably, has special care of the Church.
(b) The words which are used by the Church in the office of St. Michael at least insinuate that that Archangel is the special protector of the Church.
II. It is taught also with sufficient probability that there are special angel guardians over each kingdom and nation, nay over each community of moment, for example, particular churches, religious orders, dioceses. The reason is because those societies are as it were moral bodies which need special assistance. Hence God gave the people of Israel on their journey through the desert an angel as protector: " Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared."
That other nations also have angel guardians is gathered from these and similar places: " But the prince of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me one and twenty days: and behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there by the king of the Persians." Theodoret thus explains these words: "To the Archangels is given this office, that they be in charge of the nations, as B. Moses taught, with whom B. Daniel also agrees, when he himself says the prince of the kingdom of the Persians and again a little later the prince of the Greeks; he calls Michael also the prince of Israel." The angel guardian performs many services for us.
With regard to the body (a) the angel guardian averts from us exterior evils, or if we have already fallen into them, he delivers us from them: "The angel that delivereth me from all evils ". . . " He hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee ". . . (b) Sometimes also he helps us in secular business, especially when this conduces to salvation, as appears from the example of Tobias (12:3 etc.).
With regard to the soul, (a) the angel guardians hold the demons in check, lest they do us harm, or at least lest they tempt us too severely.
(b) They suggest good thoughts, exciting us to good, averting us also from evil, through their counsels and corrections.
(c) They offer to God our prayers or our good works, not indeed that God may know them, for of Himself He knows all things, but that they may add their prayers to ours, and so give greater efficacy to them. Thus the angel Raphael assured the elder Tobias that, while he prayed, he himself was offering those prayers to the Lord: "I offered thy prayers to the Lord" (12:12).
(d) Sometimes they inflict medicinal punishments; for this is a work of mercy, and conduces to salvation. Vindictive punishments however are generally inflicted through the bad angels.
(e) Finally at the moment of death especially they help us against the last temptations, and the last attacks of the devil, and conduct our soul to heaven or to purgatory.
God deputes His holy angels to keep watch over us. This prompted the words of St. Bernard: "What respect, what thankfulness, what trust, ought this word work in thee! "We owe then to our guardian angels:
(a) Respect for their presence: indeed the angel guardian is always with us, and because he is a spirit pure and holy, we ought to avoid whatever could grieve him.
(b) Thankfulness and love for his kindness: for the angel guardian is for us as it were a benefactor, friend, and brother, and will be one day a partaker of the same inheritance in heaven; hence we ought to love him, think of him, and obey his inspirations.
(c) Trust in his safe-keeping: for our angel is powerful to succor us and at the same time most devoted to us; hence we ought to invoke him and fly to him in our doubts and difficulties, according to the same St. Bernard: "As often as the gloom of temptation threateneth thee, or the sharpness of tribulation hangeth over thee, call upon Him that keepeth thee, thy Shepherd, thy Refuge in times of trouble, call upon Him, and say: 'Lord, save us, we perish'."
1 Psalm 90:11-12.
2 Matt. 18:20.
3 Heb. 1:14.
4 Matt. 18:10.
5 Cf. St. Thom., I, q. 113, a. 5.
6 Ex. 23:20.
7 Dan. 10:13.
8 Deut. 32:8. Cf. Zach. 1:12; Act. 16:9.
9 Gen. 48:16; Ps. 90: 11-12; cf. Tob. 6:8 etc.
10 Tob. 8:3.
11 Tob. 6:16.
12 II Kings 24:16.
13 Matt. 8:25.
Wonderful! Thanks, NYer.
What form does this medicinal punishment they inflict on us take?
From personal experience, I suggest you "watch your step". (And I mean that most seriously :-)
September is around the corner. “St. Michael and the Angels” is a lovely book, designed with meditations for each day of Sept.
This is how I remember a prayer learned in childhood.
One day last year, I literally tripped over air and fell flat on my abdomen. Other than a bruised pride, I picked myself up and returned to work. Two days later I was hospitalized in excrutiating pain. The "fall" disclosed an un-diagnosed problem that required immediate surgery. It's called the 'Silent Killer' because there are no warning signs. The doctors said I was lucky; I knew differently ;-) and called it Divine Providence. There was never any doubt that intervention came via my guardian angel.
Thank you for the book information. Every morning, I pray the Chaplet of St. Michael the Archangel, with Mother Angelica.
Something could happen, for example, that on first blush seemed to be an awful accident but which, in reality, ends up saving your life.
NYer has had experience with such an event. And, in retrospect, it seems miraculous and “too eventful” to be just merely an accident.
Absolutely beautiful! And, it is still the #1 prayer to the Guardian Angel.
Most people don't take this topic very seriously or they consider it fine for children but not for adults. There have been occasions in the past when I sent my guardian angel off on a mission to assist someone in need. I have also entrusted the names of those who have asked for prayers to my guardian angel so I won't forget anyone. You should get to know your guardian angel. It's very comforting to realize they are there for you, even when you are not consciously thinking of them.
A wonderful reminder!
That’s what I learned, too. Thanks for posting it.
I have a dumb question: how do you know who your Guardian Angel is? And how do you know who your Patron Saint is?
I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.
Any guidance appreciated.
My priest relates two stories of almost being hit by a vehicle.
In one, something pulled him back from the path of the car.
On another, he was literally tackled and fell to the ground.
No such thing as accidents or coincidences with God.
You choose your Patron Saint, either based on your name - your birth name or your confirmation name - or for some other reason. For example, my Confirmation patron is the Empress St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine. However, I also consider St. Martha (grumpy housekeeper) and St. Matthew the Tax-collector patrons.
As for your Guardian Angel, that’s sort of intuition. Mother Angelica suggests addressing your Guardian Angel by a name, while recognizing that this is a convenience, rather than having identified a particular angel among the myriads who exists. Mine is “Amparo,” which means “helper” in Spanish.
Our new priest told me the other day. That is was no mistake that I got that name.
I always thought she got a bum deal with that reputation. She was one of the first to acknowledge Christ as the Messiah.
Yes, that's true. St. Martha's confession of Christ is a very beautiful passage.
St. Anthony of Padua is the other. He's my brave big brother who stoops kindly to listen to his pesky little sister.
That was the first stanza of a hymn we used to sing in grammar school!
Beautiful Angel, my guardian so mild,
Tenderly guide me, for I am thy child.
Beautiful Angel, my guardian so mild,
Tenderly guide me, for I am thy child.
Angel so holy, whom God sends to me,
Sinful and lowly, my guardian to be,
Wilt thou not cherish the child of thy care?
Let me not perish, my trust is thy care!
What a beautiful song and prayer! Thank you so much for posting those to this thread.
You are absolutely right, Salvation! God is in total control. When it is our time to go home, nothing will impede that journey.
To 'know' your guardian angel, you must begin with the belief that one has been assigned to you. As freeper 'tax-chick' noted, some people assign names to their gurardian angels. Scripture tells us that we humans have all been given a name by God so I presume that is true for our guardian angels. There are some who ask their guardian angels to 'reveal' their names and claim to have understood them, in dreams. Their names and responsibilities are known to God. That's sufficient for me. I am just very grateful to acknowledge my angel, a constant companion on this journey through the darkness of life. At the end of the Chaplet to the Archangel Michael, there are a series of prayers to honor the 'Archangels', followed by an 'Our Father' in honor of "my own guardian angel". Considering all that their job entails, a simple prayer seems rather mediocre. Surely those who "light and guard" and "rule and guide", deserve much more.
As for your patron saint, it was the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church to name a child after a saint, at Baptism. Today, that naming convention seems to have slipped to the dustbin of antiquity, as parents go for the 'unique' and even 'invented' name, that will set their child apart from the others. Personally, I find this concept to be debilitating. Patron saints, like guardian angels, watch over those entrusted to their care. With my Confirmation students, I insist that they research and choose the name of a saint, albeit an arcane one from nearly 2000 years ago. Those saints then become their 'patron saints'.
So, in answer to your question, look at the name you were given at Baptism by your parents and then research that saint to learn more about them. What about the name you chose at Confirmation? Here is yet one more opportunity to gain some understanding of the saint whose name you chose. Failing that, you may 'adopt' a saint and make them your patron. I am very devoted to St. Francis of Assisi but do not bear his name. I carry it in my heart.
Ultimately, it's all up to you! Instead of watching tv, pick up a book on the saints, read through their life stories and find one whose personal life mirrors yours. All the saints are ready and willing to be there for us and help us through the difficult passages of life.
Did you ever figure out what you had done, to deserve this medicinal punishment that was inflicted on you?
I’ve told the story before but a little girl I know who was dying was laying in her mother’s arms just struggling to breath and all of a sudden she sat up and told her mother that they needed to pray. She insisted that they kneel and said that prayer just a few hours before she died.
Do you believe it was medicinal punishment for some infraction?
My son Bill was assigned to write a composition on the saint he was named for one year. “William” is the name of several saints, so we read about them in the Catholic Encyclopedia and discovered that the feast of St. William of Paris, a reform-minded Bishop of the late middle ages, is Bill’s birthday!
You are most welcome.
It is what appears to be punishment at the time, but was actually designed by God to help the person.
NYer's experience is a perfect example. At the time, you're asking, "Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this awful thing?" Only later do you find out why.
We were in an Italian restaurant and she saw his picture on the wall (he's the patron of innkeepers among others). She told the proprietor that he was her Confirmation saint, and he insisted on taking the picture off the wall and presenting it to her!! She was thrilled!
I was asking because (d) called it medicinal punishment.
Much confusion results from too-literal translations of Latin, plus of course the alterations in English from the 16th and 17th centuries to today.
Lots of material still being read today originated in Latin or back in the early days of Modern English (the Catholic Church has been around for awhile.)
We have a brief snack and than do scripture study for Sunday's Mass.
St. Michael the Archangel defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou oh prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen
I believe it was “medicinal” punishment for any number of past sins.
I believe it was “punishment” in the sense that “at the time,” it seemed like “a curse” or a “bad break.”
I believe it was “of God” because it saved her life.
God’s ways are not our ways. Angels are sentient beings far higher in intellect than we (they were given only one test: “friend or foe?”). That is straight from Frank Sheed’s “Theology and Sanity.”
Mother, it is good to see your intelligence percolate this board.
Pax et bonum!
What a marvelous story! I will treasure that!
My patron was “Michael the Archangel.” My family was filled with police and never one was harmed. He is “POWER” (as Fr. Corapi would say in his stellar bass!). I pray to him daily the Leonine prayer.
The prayer to St. Michael is a very powerful prayer. I'm going to give my son an illuminated copy when he joins the Marines after high school.
Especially the "customs of the country" that cradle Catholics take in with their mothers' milk!
We have a statue of St. Anthony on the grounds of the school attached to our parish, but so far as I know no novena or special celebration of his feast day.
HIs feast day is June 13th
Unfortunately our bishop has recommended that our parish be mergered with two others.
It's not final yet, and we hope that his recommendations will be overturned during the review process in Rome.
My brother-in-law wore a “four service medal” in Korea when the DMZ was still “hot” (circa, 1969). It had each service represented and St. Michael in the middle. It is still available from Aquinas and More and a lot of other Catholic outlets.
When I watch “The Untouchables,” the medal that Sean Connery has is “Saint Jude.” No offense to St. Jude but the St. Michael medal is actually in the shape of a “police badge” and my whole family wore it. We had them blessed in fives and tens. My mom would have killed my dad if he left home without it (he kept it on his key-ring with his “call box key”).
That is “old style Catholicism, Mother.” The patron against the forces of hell was always Holy Michael Archangel.
If your son is joining the Marines, see if you can get him an Archbishop Fulton Sheen WW-II prayer book. They were available for $5.00 from somewhere and I sent a bunch to Iraq. Still have one in my living room... It has everything under the sun in it.
I've seen the "four service medal" somewhere. Also the St. Michael in the shape of a badge.
Isn't it St. Florian for the firemen?
I have a keychain with a medallion that has Pope Benedict on one side and Pope John Paul on the other.
Oh, I couldn't agree more, NYer!
I love that. :)
And I’ll bet St. Martha did housework in the local equivalent of hand-me-down shorts (thanks, Mom!) and a Free Republic t-shirt. Although tradition says she didn’t have children, so she couldn’t have had a mob of boys yelling, “I said I want a drink of milk!” all day :-).
If the saints were *really* flawless figures with perfect hair and the latest in Italian Renaissance high fashion ... at a time with no running water or air conditioning ... right ... what good would they be as examples for us? I think photography has been a real blessing to the faithful, because we can see that even the most dramatically holy people looked human - wrinkles, bad teeth, glasses, silly beards - and lived with dirt and bugs and bodily functions, just like us.