On 29 September we celebrated the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
This week, on 2 October, we reflect on the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels.
When some of us were young, we may have had beautiful images of guardian angels hanging in our bedrooms and we may have learned to recite the Guardian Angel prayer, “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, to rule and guide”. I always felt comforted by the idea that I was constantly being guided and cared for by my own personal Angel.
In our world today, acceptable information is expected to be scientifically proven and physically observed. The idea of each of us having our own Guardian Angel or a heavenly guide following us around, may seem superstitious, old-fashioned, or outdated to some. Many people may wonder why such a concept is still included in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These teachings are not designed to be facts that we blindly agree with or disagree with, but are rather designed to reveal more to us about our God who is Love, the world God created, and how God offers us grace and salvation in every moment of our lives.
In its paragraph on Guardian angels, the Catechism includes a quote from the great fourth-century theologian St. Basil of Caesarea, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him or her to life” (CCC 336). Basil’s idea has some scriptural foundation, as Christ says: “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven” (Mt 18:10).
The word “angel” comes from the Greek word ‘angelos’, a translation of the Hebrew word for ‘messenger.’ Angels in Hebrew Scriptures function as spirits that bring messages from God – an angel brings word to Abraham to spare Isaac, an angel wrestles with Jacob, and angels help Daniel interpret God’s visions. In the New Testament, the angel Gabriel announces the births of Jesus and John the Baptist, an angel tells Joseph to take Mary as his wife, angels assist Jesus when He is tempted in the desert and in His agony in the garden. In the various Gospel accounts, angels are witnessed at the empty tomb, and Matthew credits an angel for rolling the stone back from the entrance.
Theologians’ ideas about the nature of angels vary but they agree on several key truths about angels. Angels are created spirits, having intellects and wills, but no bodies. Scripture tells us about angels to remind us that God is actively at work in our world, but in ways that are somewhat mysterious to human beings.
Many people struggle to recognise the presence of a spiritual realm, beyond our rational, observable world, but perhaps we should not be so quick to discard our guardian angels. They serve to remind us that God is intimately present to each of us. Let us continue to turn to our own guardian angels as an intercessor, guide and source of protection, as we endeavour to walk each day, with our God.
Deacon Michael Khoury
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