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Guardian Angels

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The existence of angels is a dogma of faith, and the existence of guardian angels is clear from Holy Scripture and tradition.

St Thomas (Summa Theologica I:108), following St Denis (De Coelesti Hierarchia, vi, vii), divides the angels into three hierarchies each of which contains three orders.

Their proximity to the Supreme Being serves as the basis of this division. In the first hierarchy he places the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones; in the second, the Dominations, Virtues and Powers; in the third, the Principalities, Archangels and Angels. The only scriptural names furnished of individual angels are Raphael, Michael and Gabriel – names which signify their respective attributes.

Guardian angels, according to Thomas Aquinas, are from the lowest rank of angels. St Thomas affirmed that every man receives a guardian angel in his Summa Theologica (First Part, Question 113) and he provides irrefutable arguments why this must be so. It was the common teaching in his time and no doctor ever questioned it since the thirteenth century.

The Scriptures give us no indication of the precise time of the creation of angels; their existence is assumed at the earliest times. The belief in guardian angels has been taught implicitly in Scripture, in both the Old and New Testament. Besides personal guardian  angels, all of Israel was thought to have a guardian angel, as is seen in Exodus 23:20-23. Your guardian angel is yours alone.

Early letters by St Ambrose: “We should pray to the angels who are given to us as guardians” (De Viduis, ix). That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the ‘mind of the Church’, as St Jerome expressed it: “The dignity of a soul is so great, that each has a guardian angel from its birth” (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II).

The New Testament quotes this passage, and tells us that mankind – including the Lord Jesus Himself – was made a little lower than the angels, ‘for the suffering of death’ (Hebrews 2:9). Angels do not die, but men and women do. Even Jesus, the Son of God, was a mortal man, but has now received the glory and honour which was His due when, as He said after His resurrection, “all power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18).

Jesus tells us that children have their own guardian angels, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 18:10). This verse seems to indicate that children have an angel ready to help anytime there is a need for one.

The Bible gives us many references on the guardian angels, for example, Gen. 19:11: “And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness”;  1 Kings 19:5: “An angel touched him, and said unto him, ‘Arise and eat’”; Ps. 91:11: “He will give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone”; Dan. 3:28:  “Who hath sent an angel and delivered his servants that trusted in him”; Dan. 6:22: “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me”; Acts 5:19; “But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them out, and said,” etc.; Acts 12;11: “And when Peter was come to himself, he said, ‘Now I know of a truth, that the Lord hath sent forth his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.’” Note in particular, that angels are sent forth to minister to them that shall inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14) also that Michael is the patron angel of Israel (Dan. 10:13,     21; 12:1).

In Matt. 28:5-7; “And the angel answered and said unto the women, ‘Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who hath been crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, even as he said “Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples, He is risen from the dead; and lo, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him; lo, I have told you’”; Acts 8:26: “But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza’”; Acts 27:23,24: “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God whose I am, whom also I serve, saying, ‘Fear not, Paul; thou must stand before Caesar: and lo, God hath granted thee all them that sail with thee.’”

In Hebrews it says that believers have a guardian angel. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Also Scripture reminds us that we do not always know when we have seen an angel because of this other passage, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2).

The conversion of a sinner gives great joy to their guardian angel and indeed to all the angels. Our guardian angel encourages us to thank God for the many humiliations we receive daily, however it is most difficult if we have pride.

Guardian angels can help to serve as guides in this world. It is much easier, however, if we cooperate with the guardian angel. We often struggle in our sin, only to be further trapped. We should take advantage of all that God provides for us and call on our guardian angel and St Michael the Archangel oft en throughout the day for help and assistance. These guardian angels do not lose any of the joy they have in beatitude.

Guardian angels are spirits, and they have no sense of emotion. Even if their trust is lost they rejoice in the justice of God. They feel no sorrow and certainly no shame for the final fall of their charge. No guardian angel ‘fails’, they all do a good job. When the last guardian angel is sent by God, that will be to protect the last man created by God.

We can learn from the saints many of whom had wonderful relationships with their guardian angels. Padre Pio had an especially tender love and devotion for his guardian angel. From the time that he was five years old, he was able to see and converse with his guardian angel. In his childlike simplicity, he assumed that everyone had the same experience. Enjoying an intimate friendship with his guardian angel, Padre Pio referred to him as the “companion of my childhood.” The loving relationship continued throughout Padre Pio’s life.

For Padre Pio, his angel was his support, his protector, his teacher, his brother, and his friend. At times, Padre Pio’s guardian angel acted as his secretary as well as his heavenly “postman” carrying messages to his spiritual children. Padre Pio’s guardian angel awakened him in the morning, and together they would join in prayer and praise to God. Padre Pio wrote to Father Agostino: “Again at night when I close my eyes, the veil is lifted and I see Paradise open up before me; and gladdened by this vision I sleep with a smile of sweet beatitude on my lips and a perfectly tranquil countenance, waiting for the little companion of my childhood to come to waken me, so that we may sing together the morning praises to the Beloved of our hearts” (Ltr’s)

The e Feast of the Guardian Angels is a Catholic festival celebrated annually on the 2nd October. Paul V was the first Pope, in 1608, to authorise a feast day in honour of guardian angels. Pope Clement X changed the date to 2nd October and Pope Leo XIII, in 1883, upgraded the date to a double major feast.

In an address to American pilgrims on 3rd October 1958, Pope Pius XII spoke eloquently of the holy angels and said, “The angels are glorious, pure and splendid. They have been given to us as companions along the way of life. They have the task of watching over you all, so that you do not stray away from Christ, your Lord.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI used his Sunday Angelus address to remind Christians to call upon their guardian angel for help throughout life. “Dear friends, the Lord is always near and active in human history, and follows us with the unique presence of His angels, that today the Church venerates as ‘Guardian,’ in other words those who minister God’s care for every man,” the former Pope told pilgrims gathered in Rome’s St Peter’s Square, 2nd October 2011. Our guardian angel will always be
delighted for us to call on him oft en for help, assistance and protection in all circumstances.

Prepared by Noreen Bavister, UK

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