October 2 is the memorial of the Guardian Angels in the liturgy. Here are 8 things to know and share about the angels it celebrates . . .
1) What is a guardian angel?
A guardian angel is an angel (a created, non-human, non-corporeal being) that has been assigned to guard a particular person, especially with respect to helping that person avoid spiritual dangers and achieve salvation.
The angel may also help the person avoid physical dangers, particularly if this will help the person achieve salvation.
2) Where do we read about guardian angels in Scripture?
We see angels helping people on various occasions in Scripture, but there are certain instances in which we see angels providing a protective function over a period of time.
In Tobit, Raphael is assigned to an extended mission to help Tobit’s son (and his family in general).
In Daniel, Michael is described as “the great prince who has charge of your [Daniel’s] people” (Dan. 12:1). He is thus depicted as the guardian angel of Israel.
In the Gospels, Jesus indicates that there are guardian angels for individuals, including little children. He says:
See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven (Matt. 18:10).
3) What does Jesus mean when he says these angels “always behold” the fact of the Father?
It may mean that they are constantly standing in his presence in heaven and able to communicate the needs of their charges to him.
Alternately, based on the idea that angels are messengers (Greek, angelos = “messenger”) in the heavenly court, it may mean that whenever these angels seek access to the heavenly court, they are always granted it and allowed to present the needs to their charges to God.
4) What does the Church teach about guardian angels?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God [CCC 336].
See here for more on the Church’s teachings on angels in general.
5) Who has guardian angels?
It is considered theologically certain that each member of the faith has a special guardian angel from the time of baptism.
This view is reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which speaks of “each believer” having a guardian angel.
Although it is certain that the faithful have guardian angels, it is commonly thought that they are even more widely available. Ludwig Ott explains:
According to the general teaching of the theologians, however, not only every baptized person, but every human being, including unbelievers, has his own special guardian angel from his birth [Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 120].
This understanding is reflected in an Angelus address by Benedict XVI, who stated:
Dear friends, the Lord is ever close and active in humanity’s history and accompanies us with the unique presence of his Angels, whom today the Church venerates as “Guardian Angels”, that is, ministers of the divine care for every human being. From the beginning until the hour of death, human life is surrounded by their constant protection [Angelus, October 2, 2011].
5) How can we thank them for the help they give us?
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments explained:
Devotion to the Holy Angels gives rise to a certain form of the Christian life which is characterized by:
- devout gratitude to God for having placed these heavenly spirits of great sanctity and dignity at the service of man;
- an attitude of devotion deriving from the knowledge of living constantly in the presence of the Holy Angels of God;- serenity and confidence in facing difficult situations, since the Lord guides and protects the faithful in the way of justice through the ministry of His Holy Angels. Among the prayers to the Guardian Angels the Angele Dei is especially popular, and is often recited by families at morning and evening prayers, or at the recitation of the Angelus [Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 216].
6) What is the Angele Dei prayer?
Translated into English, it reads:
Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love
commits me here,
ever this day,
be at my side,
to light and guard,
rule and guide.
This prayer is particular suited for devotion to guardian angels, since it is addressed directly to one’s own guardian angel.
7) Are there dangers to watch out for in venerating angels?
The Congregation stated:
Popular devotion to the Holy Angels, which is legitimate and good, can, however, also give rise to possible deviations:
- when, as sometimes can happen, the faithful are taken by the idea that the world is subject to demiurgical struggles, or an incessant battle between good and evil spirits, or Angels and daemons, in which man is left at the mercy of superior forces and over which he is helpless; such cosmologies bear little relation to the true Gospel vision of the struggle to overcome the Devil, which requires moral commitment, a fundamental option for the Gospel, humility and prayer;
- when the daily events of life, which have nothing or little to do with our progressive maturing on the journey towards Christ are read schematically or simplistically, indeed childishly, so as to ascribe all setbacks to the Devil and all success to the Guardian Angels [op. cit., 217].
8) Should we assign names to our guardian angels?
The Congregation stated:
The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture [ibid.].