by Clemens Pater
The Church observes September 29th as the Feast Day of the three great Archangels: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael.
The Sacred Scriptures show – in these three – how God uses the angels to assist mankind. St Michael (Book of Revelation, Letter of Jude, Daniel) is the warrior who takes God’s side in the defeat of Satan and his fallen angels. St. Gabriel (Luke’s Gospel) is the messenger (the word ‘angel’ means messenger), announcing the advent of the Son of God and inviting Mary to consent to God’s plan of salvation. St. Raphael (Book of Tobit) accompanies Tobiah on his journey and brings a healing balm for his father, Tobit, and a spiritual healing as well to Sarah, who is ready to despair.
October 2nd is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. The existence of the angels is clear from the Bible, from the writings of the Church Fathers, and is affirmed in the teaching of the Catholic Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 328ff.). St. Basil says that, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life” (CCC. no. 336).
Although the angels give glory to God by their obedience, fidelity, and beauty, they also have been given a mission to assist us by their watchful care and intercession (Ibid). Through these wondrous beings the Almighty protects us, gives us the reassurance of His love, and dispenses healing. In the Scriptures they are sometimes called the “sons of God.” In this way, they also teach us about our divine filiation as sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father.
Satan is the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44), and his cohort, the fallen angels, are “the accusers ” (Rev 12:10; Zec 3:1-2). The angels in Heaven are the messengers of the truth of God. They encourage and help us when we have sinned, to return to the Father’s mercy in Confession. They surround the altar and adore Jesus, especially in His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament. They assist the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice devoutly, and they can move our hearts in adoration of the Triune God. The Mass is a Sacramental participation in the Liturgy of Heaven. There at the altar we are surrounded by angels and saints: a “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1).
Saints and angels are essentially different. People who die and “go to Heaven” do not become angels. The angels are completely spiritual beings who, nonetheless, can manifest themselves in visible form. Angels are real beings created by God. They will live forever.
Many of the saints demonstrate a devotion to the angels. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 A.D.) is sometimes called the “Angelic Doctor,” because he writes so eloquently and teaches clearly about angels. He says that each angel is its own unique species, though there are different categories, or “choirs” of angels.
Pope St. John XXIII (1881-1963 A.D.), in his biographical diary, Journal of a Soul, relates how, when he anticipated a particularly difficult meeting, he would pray to his Guardian Angel, as well as the Angel of the person with whom he was meeting. In this way he had two powerful allies in his work for the Church.
St. Josemaria Escriva (1902-1975 A.D.), the Spanish priest who founded Opus Dei, had a great devotion to the Guardian Angels. When he met with someone he would silently greet their Guardian Angel as a sign of respect for the supernatural aid given by these heavenly friends.
We may invoke the spiritual help of the angels. We can also ask Mary, Our Blessed Mother, and Queen of the Angels, to send the angels to assist us in remaining faithful to her Son, especially when we are attacked by the demons.
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Meditation on the Guardian Angels, Pope St. John XXIII, October 2, 1959
According to the teaching of the Roman Catechism, we must remember how admirable was the intention of divine Providence in entrusting to the angels the mission of watching over all mankind, and over individual human beings, lest they should fall victims to the grave dangers which they encounter.
In this earthly life, when children have to make their way along a path beset with obstacles and snares, their fathers take care to call upon the help of those who can look after them and come to their aid in adversity. In the same way our Father in heaven has charged his angels to come to our assistance during our earthly journey which leads us to our blessed fatherland, so that, protected by the angels’ help and care, we may avoid the snares upon our path, subdue our passions and, under this angelic guidance, follow always the straight and sure road which leads to Paradise.
Every one of us is entrusted to the care of an angel. That is why we must have a lively and profound devotion to our own Guardian Angel, and why we should often and trustfully repeat the dear prayer we were taught in the days of our childhood.
May we never fail in this devotion to the angels! During our earthly pilgrimage we may often run the risk of having to face the natural elements in turmoil, or the wrath of men who may seek to do us harm. But our Guardian Angel is always present. Let us never forget him and always remember to pray to him.