In the New Testament, we’re told that there are times in which we entertain angels without knowing it. The awareness of such possible spiritual visitations can be consoling and encouraging to us in the midst of life’s struggles and sorrows.
In speaking of our guardian angel, Pope Francis comments: “He is always with us! And this is a reality. It’s like having God’s ambassador with us.”
I’ve often thought of the possibility of a visiting angel in a few different occasions when someone unexpectedly came to my aide or provided me with some unsolicited help. It’s surprising how often this happens in life!
This coming week, we’ll celebrate the liturgical feast of the guardian angels. The holy day is a reminder to us that all baptized people have a specific angel assigned to them. As peculiar as that might seem to the more worldly-minded believers of our day, the Christian tradition is clear. There is a specific angel that is uniquely tasked just to us. A simple reflection on such a reality can be humbling.
In the proximity of the guardian angel feast day, therefore, it’s worth asking a few questions about these heavenly companions: Why would we have a guardian angel? Why would angels visit us? What is the purpose of such visits?
The traditional prayer to our guardian angel, which most of us learned as children, tells us that the angels are with us “to light and guard, to rule and guide.” In evaluating the language of the prayer as adults, it can be unsettling. Do I really need an angel to do all these things for me? And what does it mean that my guardian angel “rules” my life?
Again, Pope Francis has some thoughts on our guardian angels. He tells us:
“And the Lord advises us: ‘Respect his presence!’ And when we, for example, commit a sin and believe that we’re on our own: No, he is there. Show respect for his presence. Listen to his voice because he gives us advice. When we hear that inspiration: ‘But do this … this is better … we should not do that.’ Listen! Do not go against him.”
In this spiritual counsel, we can see a further explanation of the role of the angels, especially our guardian angel. The angels are here in obedience to God. They love and serve him alone. Since we are the children of God, members of his family, the angels are sent to us on a specific mission, namely, to protect us and to get us to heaven. We can imagine the guardian angels are a type of “secret service” of the living God, who are commissioned to preserve us from harm and to get us to our final destination safely.
The presence of the angels shouldn’t challenge our sense of autonomy or threaten our quest for independence. Their watchful accompaniment gives spiritual strength to our self-possession and empowers our self-determination. They remind us that we are the children of God and that we do not make this journey alone. They humble our moments of pride, while simultaneously building up our God-given talents and personalities. The angels diminish our self-aggrandizement, while concurrently affirming us and encouraging us in our self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Pope Francis gives us more wisdom: “So many people don’t know how to walk or are afraid of taking a risk and they remain still. But we know the rule is that a person who is stationary ends up stagnating like water. When water is still, the mosquitoes come, they lay eggs and ruin everything. The angel helps us, he pushes us to walk.”
The angels are among us. They are here to remind us of God, to call us out of ourselves, and to push us to accomplish the vocation and tasks that God has given to us. With this in mind, if we were to summarize the guardian angel prayer in contemporary jargon, we would say that our guardian angel was sent to us to be our coach, secret service agent, personal trainer and life coach. These contemporary titles can help illustrate the call and mission of the angels. They show us how much God loves us that he would send us such assistance.
As we prepare for their feast day, we are invited to give some attention to our heavenly companions. The holy day is an opportunity to thank God for the gift of our guardian angel and to draw closer to him in all we do.
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