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Angels in our lives

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“Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.”

St. Francis de Sales

People love the idea of angels — especially at Christmas time. We create statues of angels, we decorate with paper angels, and we make them look as beautiful or elusive as we like. We may invoke their help and expect their protection at times of danger. But what do we really know about angels, and are we really “assigned” an angel at the time of our birth? Are guardian angels only for Catholics? How do we explain angels to children, and why do children seem to like angels so much? And how is it that just when we need a nudge or some inspiration, our angel always seems to come through?

If ever we needed an angel in our lives, it’s now, living in the time of COVID-19 and facing so much change and disruption to our normal lives. Let’s explore what we know about guardian angels.

Angels are found in Christian, Muslim and Protestant teachings, and Christianity teaches specifically about guardian angels. Their existence is supported by Scripture. The Bible contains approximately 300 references to angels in the Old and New Testaments, across 34 books. The references we see most often can be found in Psalms and Matthew:

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Ps 91:11-12).  

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Ps 34:8).

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Mt 18:10).

Church Fathers debated whether guardian angels were assigned at birth or at baptism. St. Jerome argued decisively for the assignment at birth, based on Matthew 18:10 —  if Jesus stated that children’s angels in heaven always look upon the face of God, we should believe him. St. Thomas Aquinas concurs, and states that angels help to bring us closer to God throughout our lives because they continue to look upon God even while protecting us. Perhaps babies and children “know” and “see” angels better than adults do because they were closer in time to the angels at their recent birth.

We are assigned guardian angels at birth due to our nature as rational beings, rather than belonging to the order of grace. Throughout our lives, guardian angels not only protect us from both spiritual and physical harm, but strengthen our minds to know God’s love, encourage us to perform good acts and inspire us to share what we know with others. They can indirectly influence every part of our being for the better — our senses, intellect and will.

We know that guardian angels help to protect and guide us, but according to St. Thomas Aquinas, the ultimate effect of their guardianship is salvation. Hebrews 1:14 states, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”

So, angels are sent to serve, encourage and protect us. Children seem to be naturally drawn to the concept of angels, and we should encourage this relationship. In times of fear or change, children can learn to rely on their closest friend and confidant, their guardian angel. Teaching the guardian angel prayers is a beautiful way to help children connect to a friend who will be with them throughout their lives. Adults may be familiar with the comforting prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, most often said at the end of the rosary or following the end of a weekday Mass without music. 

Children’s books can be a great resource and help children process and see that we have nothing to fear while under the loving and watchful eye of God, who loves us and sends his angels to serve us.

As we share with our children about angels, ensure that God remains the focal point of the discussion. Children can certainly appreciate the special roles angels play in God’s kingdom, but it is necessary to teach them that all praise, glory and honor goes to Jesus.

Emanuel is coordinator for diocesan Special Needs Ministries.

Guardian Angel Prayer: two versions

Angel of God

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here,
ever this day (or night) be at my side,
to light, to guard, to rule and guide.

Prayer to our Guardian Angel

Angel sent by God to guide me,
be my light and walk beside me;
be my guardian and protect me;
on the paths of life direct me.

Prayer to St. Michael

Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Fulton J. Sheen on angels

Angels — our friends and protectors from birth to the end of our lives. Let us pray that they will guide us through our current difficulties and always protect us.

One function of the angels is illumination, and the other function is that of being a guardian. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020