October 1, 2017

Feast of the Guardian Angels

Memorial - October 2nd

Each person on earth has a guardian angel who watches over and guides us to attain salvation. It has been a common theological opinion that this angelical guardianship begins at the moment of birth; prior to this, the child would be protected by the mother's guardian angel. But this is not certain, and since we now know that the soul is infused at the moment of conception, it may be that the angelic guardianship also begins at that moment. In any case, this protection continues throughout our whole life and ceases only when our probation on earth ends, namely, at the moment of death. Our guardian angel accompanies our soul to purgatory or heaven, and will become our coheir in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Angels appear as early as the Book of Genesis and continuously carry out God’s will throughout the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Mary is visited by an angel (Archangel Gabriel) at the Annunciation, and Jesus Himself talks about them in the Gospel of Matthew saying, "See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angel in heaven always sees the face of my Father who is in Heaven" (Mt. 18:10). During the rite for Christian burial, the priest calls upon them when he prays, "May the angels lead you into paradise…." Although initially observed as early as the 1500s, a feast devoted specifically to honoring the guardian angels was added to the Roman Calendar in 1615.

In the last two decades there has been an increase of interest in the angels especially in the New Age movement. Numerous books have been written about presumed experiences with angels, and there was even the trend among Catholics of naming their guardian angel until the Holy See addressed the practice. In 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments declared: "Popular devotion to the holy angels which is legitimate and good can, however, also give rise to possible deviations. 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."

The reason why we cannot name our guardian angel is because they are higher beings. Scripture states: "Thou hast made him [man] a little less than the angels." We are less than the angels because they are pure spirits whereas human beings are composed of spirit and matter. But, Scripture also affirms, we are only a little less than the angels because we, like them, have an intellect with which to know God. We too have free will with which we can choose to love God, and a divine destiny to enjoy the vision of God for all eternity. Though angels are higher beings, God made them to be at our service during our pilgrimage here on earth. Angels are infinitely more intelligent and more powerful than human beings because their knowledge is infused. Our knowledge comes through learning and discursive reasoning requiring our labor. Additionally, angels are not limited to a material body which can grow weak with age, sickness and fatigue.

Angels have one goal in mind; the glory of God, and the saving of human souls. To that end, they are prepared to do anything and everything in accord with the designs of God in service to the salvation and sanctification of man. Angels can provide material assistance for, example, protecting us from physical misfortune, illness or death. Moreover, they safeguard our spiritual health and personal sanctity. They enlighten our minds to help us know the good that we ought to do and the evil that we ought to avoid. Sometimes, God communicates his will to us through the mediation of our guardian angel. They, in turn, inspire within us fervor for what is good and holy contempt for that which is sinful. Importantly, they defend us from evil spirits, from Satan and his minions. Without the aid of our guardian angel, we could never become the saint that God calls us to be.

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