Guardian Angels

+Matthew 18:1-5,10

Anyone who welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me

The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.’


Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23

Why did I not perish on the day I was born?

Job broke the silence and cursed the day of his birth. This is what he said:

May the day perish when I was born,

and the night that told of a boy conceived.

Why did I not die new-born,

not perish as I left the womb?

Why were there two knees to receive me,

two breasts for me to suck?

Had there not been, I should now be lying in peace,

wrapped in a restful slumber,

with the kings and high viziers of earth

who build themselves vast vaults,

or with princes who have gold and to spare

and houses crammed with silver.

Or put away like a still-born child that never came to be,

like unborn babes that never see the light.

Down there, bad men bustle no more,

there the weary rest.

Why give light to a man of grief?

Why give life to those bitter of heart,

who long for a death that never comes,

and hunt for it more than for a buried treasure?

They would be glad to see the grave-mound

and shout with joy if they reached the tomb.

Why make this gift of light to a man who does not see his way,

whom God baulks on every side?

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Christmas mystery

525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest. The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:

The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal

And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.

The angels and shepherds praise him

And the magi advance with the star,

For you are born for us,

Little Child, God eternal!

526 To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom. For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become “children of God” we mu–t be “born from above” or “born of God”. Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us. Christmas is the mystery of this “marvelous exchange”:

O marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.


Psalm 87(88):2-8

Let my prayer come into your presence, O Lord.

Lord my God, I call for help by day;

I cry at night before you.

Let my prayer come into your presence.

O turn your ear to my cry.

Let my prayer come into your presence, O Lord.

For my soul is filled with evils;

my life is on the brink of the grave.

I am reckoned as one in the tomb:

I have reached the end of my strength.

Let my prayer come into your presence, O Lord.

Like one alone among the dead;

like the slain lying in their graves;

like those you remember no more,

cut off, as they are, from your hand.

Let my prayer come into your presence, O Lord.

You have laid me in the depths of the tomb,

in places that are dark, in the depths.

Your anger weighs down upon me:

I am drowned beneath your waves.

Let my prayer come into your presence, O Lord.

A guardian angel is an angel that is assigned to protect and guide a particular person, group, kingdom, or country. Belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity.

The concept of angels that guard over particular people and nationalities played a common role in Ancient Judaism, while a theory of tutelary angels and their hierarchy was extensively developed in Christianity in the 5th century by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

The theology of angels and tutelary spirits has undergone many refinements since the 5th century. Belief in both the East and the West is that guardian angels serve to protect whichever person God assigns them to, and present prayer to God on that person’s behalf.

In the books of the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament

The guardian angel concept is present in the books of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament, and its development is well marked. These books described God’s angels as his ministers who carried out his behests, and who were at times given special commissions, regarding men and mundane affairs.

In Genesis 18-19, angels not only acted as the executors of God’s wrath against the cities of the plain, but they delivered Lot from danger; in Exodus 32:34, God said to Moses: “my angel shall go before thee.” At a much later period, we have the story of Tobias, which might serve for a commentary on the words of Psalm 91:11: “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” (Cf. Psalm 33:8 and 34:5)

The belief that angels can be guides and intercessors for men can be found in Job 33:23-6, and in Daniel 10:13 angels seem to be assigned to certain countries. In this latter case, the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” contends with Gabriel. The same verse mentions “Michael, one of the chief princes”.

New Testament

In the New Testament the concept of guardian angel may be noted. Angels are everywhere the intermediaries between God and man; and Christ set a seal upon the Old Testament teaching: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10).

Other examples in the New Testament are the angel who succoured Christ in the garden, and the angel who delivered St. Peter from prison. In Acts 12:12-15, after Peter had been escorted out of prison by an angel, he went to the home of “Mary the mother of John, also called Mark”. The servant girl, Rhoda, recognized his voice and ran back to tell the group that Peter was there. However, the group replied: “It must be his angel”‘ (12:15). With this scriptural sanction, Peter’s angel was the most commonly depicted guardian angel in art, and was normally shown in images of the subject, most famously Raphael’s fresco of the Deliverance of Saint Peter in the Vatican.

Hebrews 1:14 says: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” In this view, the function of the guardian angel is to lead people to the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the New Testament Epistle of Jude, Michael is described as an archangel.

Christianity

Catholic Church

According to Saint Jerome, the concept of guardian angels is in the “mind of the Church”. He stated: “how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it”.

The first Christian theologian to outline a specific scheme for guardian angels was Honorius of Autun in the 12th century. He said that every soul was assigned a guardian angel the moment it was put into a body. Scholastic theologians augmented and ordered the taxonomy of angelic guardians. Thomas Aquinas agreed with Honorius and believed that it was the lowest order of angels who served as guardians, and his view was most successful in popular thought, but Duns Scotus said that any angel is bound by duty and obedience to the Divine Authority to accept the mission to which that angel is assigned. In the 15th century, the Feast of the Guardian Angels was added to the official calendar of Catholic holidays.

In his March 31, 1997 Regina Caeli address, Pope Saint John Paul II referred to the concept of guardian angel and concluded the address with the statement: “Let us invoke the Queen of angels and saints, that she may grant us, supported by our guardian angels, to be authentic witnesses to the Lord’s paschal mystery”.

In his 2014 homily for the Feast of Holy Guardian Angels, October 2, Pope Francis told those gathered for daily Mass to be like children who pay attention to their “traveling companion.” “No one journeys alone and no one should think that they are alone,” the Pope said. During the Morning Meditation in the chapel of Santa Marta, the Pope noted that oftentimes, we have the feeling that “I should do this, this is not right, be careful.” This, he said, “is the voice of” our guardian angel…”

“According to Church tradition”, the Pope said, “we all have an angel with us, who guards us…” The Pope instructed each, “Do not rebel, follow his advice!”. The Pope urged that this “doctrine on the angels” not be considered “a little imaginative”. It is rather one of “truth”. It is “what Jesus, what God said: ‘I send an angel before you, to guard you, to accompany you on the way, so you will not make a mistake’”.

Pope Francis concluded with a series of questions so that each one can examine his/her own conscience: “How is my relationship with my guardian angel? Do I listen to him? Do I bid him good day in the morning? Do I tell him: ‘guard me while I sleep?’ Do I speak with him? Do I ask his advice? …Each one of us can do so in order to evaluate “the relationship with this angel that the Lord has sent to guard me and to accompany me on the path, and who always beholds the face of the Father who is in heaven”.

The celebration of the Guardian Angel at Fondachelli-Fantina on second Sunday of July, Sicily

There was an old Irish custom that suggested including in bedtime prayers a request for the Blessed Mother to tell one the name of their guardian angel, and supposedly within a few days one would “know” the name by which they could address their angel. An old Dominican tradition encouraged each novice to give a name to their Guardian Angel so that they could speak to him by name and thus feel closer and more friendly with him. The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments discourages assigning names to angels beyond those revealed in scripture: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

In Cardinal Newman’s poem The Dream of Gerontius, the departed soul is met by his guardian angel who recites:

My work is done

My task is o’er,

And so I come

Taking it home

For the crown is won

Alleluia

For evermore.

 

My Father gave

In charge to me

This child of earth

E’en from its birth

To serve and save.

Alleluia,

And saved is he.

 

This child of clay

To me was given,

To rear and train

By sorrow and pain

In the narrow way,

Alleluia,

From earth to heaven.

 

Angels as guardians

According to Aquinas, “On this road man is threatened by many dangers both from within and without, and therefore as guardians are appointed for men who have to pass by an unsafe road, so an angel is assigned to each man as long as he is a wayfarer.” By means of an angel, God is said to introduce images and suggestions leading a person to do what is right.

Saints and their angels

Father Giovangiuseppe Califano recounted how, one day, a newly appointed bishop confessed to Pope John XXIII “that he could not sleep at night due to an anxiety which was caused by the responsibility of his office.” “The pope told him, ‘You know, I also thought the same when I was elected pope. But one day, I dreamed about my guardian angel, and it told me not to take everything so seriously.’” Pope John attributed the idea of calling Second Vatican Council to an inspiration from his guardian angel.

Saint Gemma Galgani, a Roman Catholic mystic, stated that she had interacted with and spoken with her guardian angel. Saint Pio of Pietrelcina was known to instruct his parishioners to send him their guardian angel to communicate a trouble or issue to him when they could not travel to get to him or another urgency existed.

Anglican Communion

Justin Fontenot of the Prayerful Anglican states that the “guardian angel concept is clearly present in the Old Testament, and its development is well marked” and he continues, stating that in “the New Testament the concept of guardian angel may be noted with greater precision”. Fontenot also cites Jerome, a Church Father, who said: “‘how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.’ (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II).” In the same vein, Of the Intercession and Invocation of Angels and Saints, printed in the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, held that “Many learned Protestants think it probable that each of the faithful, at least, has a guardian angel. It seems certainly proved by Scripture. Zanchius says that all the Fathers held this opinion.” Building upon Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church Fathers, Richard Montagu, the Anglican Bishop of Norwich in the 17th century, stated that “It is an opinion received, and hath been long, that if not every man, each son of Adam, yet sure each Christian man regenerate by water and the Holy Ghost, at least from the day of his regeneration and new birth unto God, if not from the time of his coming into the world, hath by God’s appointment and assignation an Angel Guardian to attend upon him at all assayes, in all his ways, at his going forth, at his coming home”.

Eastern Orthodox Church

Sergei Bulgakov writes that the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that

each man has a guardian angel who stands before the face of the Lord. This guardian angel is not only a friend and a protector, who preserves from evil and who sends good thought; the image of God is reflected in the creature–angels and men–in such a way that angels are celestial prototypes of men. Guardian angels are especially our spiritual kin. Scripture testified that the guardian ship and direction of the elements, of places, of peoples, of societies, are confided to the guardian angels of the cosmos, whose very substance adds something of harmony to the elements they watch over.

As such, before the Eastern Orthodox liturgy of the Communion of the Faithful, a prayer asks “For an angel of peace, a faithful guide, a guardian of our souls and bodies, let us entreat the Lord. Amen.”

Lutheran Church

The Reverend Donald Schneider, a Lutheran priest, wrote that the concept of a guardian angel is found in Psalm 91, which includes a verse stating “For [God] will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone”. He states that Martin Luther may have based Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer found in the Small Catechism on this text, as these prayers include the supplication “Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.

Methodist Church

The Rev. Dr. John W. Hanner, a Methodist minister and theologian wrote on the topic of guardian angels in his Angelic Study, stating that:

Perhaps every Christian has a guardian angel. It may be that there is one angel to every Christian, or a score of them; or one may have charge of a score of Christians. Some of the ancient fathers believed that every city had a guardian angel, while others assigned one to every house and every man. None of us know how much we are indebted to angels for our deliverance from imminent peril, disease, and malicious plots of men and devils. Where the pious die, angels are to carry the soul to heaven, though it be a soul of a Lazarus.”

In May and June 1743, Methodists experienced persecution in Wednesbury and Walsall and the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, was threatened with death by a mob who dragged him in the rain; however, “Wesley escaped unharmed” and he “believed that he had been protected by his guardian angel”.

Reformed and Presbyterian Churches

In Reformed Dogmatics, Heinrich Heppe states that some Reformed theologians espoused the view of guardian angels, including Bucan, who taught:

That as a rule to each elect person a certain particular good angel is appointed by God to guard him, may be gathered from Christ’s words, Mt. 18. 10, where it is said ‘Their angels do continually behold the face of my Father.’ Also from Ac. 12.15 where the believers who had assembled in Mark’s house said of Peter knocking at the door, ‘It is his angel’. These believers were speaking according to the opinion received among the people of God.”

Christian prayers

The traditional Catholic prayer to one’s guardian angel:

 

Angel of God, my guardian dear

to whom God’s love commits me here.

Ever this day/night be at my side

to light, to guard, to rule and guide.

Amen.

 

In Latin:

Angele Dei,

qui custos es mei,

me, tibi commissum pietate superna,

illumina, custodi,

rege et guberna.

Amen.

 

An Anglican prayer to the Guardian Angel:

O angel of God,

appointed by divine mercy to be my guardian,

enlighten and protect,

direct and govern me this day.

Amen.

 

An Eastern Orthodox prayer to the Guardian Angel:

O Angel of Christ, my holy Guardian and Protector of my soul and body, forgive me all my sins of today. Deliver me from all the wiles of the enemy, that I may not anger my God by any sin. Pray for me, sinful and unworthy servant, that thou mayest present me worthy of the kindness and mercy of the All-holy Trinity and the Mother of my Lord Jesus Christ, and of all the Saints. Amen.

Source: Wikipedia