What is a Guardian Angel?

I am writing this “Corner” on Tuesday, October 2nd which happens to be the celebratory Memorial for our Holy Guardian Angels. Four days previous, last Saturday, we celebrated the Feast for the three named Archangels, Michael… Gabriel… and Rafael. I am here at Marywood for the annual Diocesan Priest’s Retreat. And…with all that has been going on in the Church, it is providing a much-needed respite of prayer, recollection, reconciliation, reparation, and encouragement. The challenge of discerning between truth and lies continues in our Church and in our secular society as well…in the Supreme Court confirmation process. With the continuance of unsettling silence, and nothing substantive coming from the Church (or the hearings), I would like to focus this week on things spiritual… and, inparticular, on our Guardian Angels, about which very little is understood. I will do so by sharing some insights of an apologist for EWTN, Jimmy Akin, who relates that it is considered theologically certain that each member of the Faith does have a special guardian angel from the time of their Baptism.

So, first of all…What is a Guardian Angel? A guardian angel is an angel (a created, non-human, noncorporeal being) that has been assigned to guard a particular person, especially with respect to helping that person avoid spiritual dangers and achieve salvation. The angel may also help the person avoid physical dangers… particularly if this will help the person achieve salvation.

And then…Where do we read about Guardian Angels in Scripture? We see angels helping people on various occasions in Scripture, but there are certain instances in which we see angels providing a protective function over a period of time. In Tobit, Raphael is assigned a mission to help Tobit’s son (and his family in general). In Daniel, Michael is described as “the great prince who has charge of your [Daniel’s] people” (Dan. 12:1). He is thus depicted as the guardian angel of Israel. Also, in the Gospels, Jesus indicates that there are guardian angels for individuals, including little children. He says: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 18:10).

Well then…What does Jesus mean when he says these angels “always behold” the face of the Father? It may mean that they are constantly standing in his presence in heaven and able to communicate the needs of their charges to him. Alternately, based on the idea that angels are messengers (Greek, angelos = “messenger”) in the heavenly court, it may mean that whenever these angels seek access to the heavenly court, they are always granted it and allowed to present the needs of their charges to God.

And…What does the Church teach about Guardian Angels? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” [CCC 336].

And…Who amongst us has Guardian Angels? It is considered theologically certain that each member of the faith has a special guardian angel from the time of baptism. This view is reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which speaks of… “each believer” having a guardian angel. Although it is certain that the faithful have guardian angels, it is commonly thought that they are even more widely available…not only to every baptized person… but every human being, including unbelievers, has his own special guardian angel from his birth [Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 120]. This understanding was also reflected in an October 2002 Angelus address by Pope Benedict XVI…who stated: “Dear friends, the Lord is ever close and active in humanity’s history and accompanies us with the unique presence of his Angels, whom today the Church venerates as “Guardian Angels”, that is, ministers of the divine care for every human being. From the beginning until the hour of death, human life is surrounded by their constant

How can we thank them for the help they give us? The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments explained: “Devotion to the Holy Angels gives rise to a certain form of the Christian life which is characterized by: devout gratitude to God for having placed these heavenly spirits of great sanctity and dignity at the service of man; an attitude of devotion deriving from the knowledge of living constantly in the presence of the Holy Angels of God;- serenity and confidence in facing difficult situations, since the Lord guides and protects the faithful in the way of justice through the ministry of His Holy Angels.” Among the prayers to the Guardian Angels the “Angele Dei” (translated ‘Angel of God’) Prayer, is especially popular, and it reads: “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, rule and guide. Amen.” This prayer is particular-suited for devotion to Guardian Angels, since it is addressed directly to one’s own guardian angel.

And finally, Should we assign names to our Guardian Angels? The Congregation discourages this practice as they stated: “… 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. I highly recommend that we all keep the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel on the tip of our tongues, particularly in these days where Satan’s heavy influence on so many leaders within the Church has been exposed.

St. Michael the archangel protect us in battle … and pray for us,