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Don’t Name Your Guardian Angel

October 2, 2018 16 Comments

Guardian Angel Protecting Child, Domenico Fetti (1615-18)

The Feast of the Guardian Angels, celebrated on Tuesday, seems an appropriate time to point out that the common practice of naming one’s guardian angel should be avoided.

A document authored by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2001 states, “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” (Directory on Popular Piety in the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines, # 127).

While the Congregation does not offer reasons for discouraging the practice, I would like to offer two of my own.

First, there is the understanding of what a name is. For most of us in the modern Western world, a name is simply a sound by which we are addressed. In the ancient biblical world, and even in many places today, a name has a far deeper meaning; it describes something of the essence of the person. This helps to explain the ancient Jewish practice of naming an infant on the eighth day. The delay gave the parents some time to observe the baby’s nature before deciding on a name. Most biblical names are deeply meaningful and descriptive. It is presumptuous to think that we can know enough of the essence of a particular angel that we can assign a name. Hence, naming our guardian angel seems inappropriate.

Second, assigning a name indicates some superiority over the one named. Parents rightly name their children because they have superiority over them. Angels, however, are superior to us. Even though we often speak of angels as serving us, they do this on account of their superior power and to act as our guardians. Thus, God commands us to heed the voice of our guardian angel (cf Ex 23:20-21).

Whenever I mention this admonition to refrain from naming guardian angels, it seems to stir up controversy. Nevertheless, naming an angel seems problematic and is to be discouraged. As for the name being revealed to you, let me respectfully offer that this is not likely the case. It seems unlikely that an angel or the Holy Spirit would act contrary to the directive of the Church herself, graced to speak for Christ. Further, I would be willing to bet that we could not even pronounce the true names of our angels because their names are mysterious!

Consider, too, the silence in the following Scripture passage, when Jacob asked the name of the angel who wrestled with him: Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him (Gen 32:29).

In other words, if you ask the name of your angel the likely response is a rebuke followed by silence. There are some things we need not know.

Interestingly enough, God entrusts us with His name and some of His titles. Enjoy this old classic, but notice that the actual name of God, יְהֹוָה, is not uttered.

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Comments (16)

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  1. Robbin Harris says:

    I was told years ago that my guardian angel was Raphael. What determines my guardian angel?

    • R Wenner says:

      I would not trust whoever told you that.

      God and God alone appoints your guardian angel. I was told by a theologian who specialised in the study of angels that it was the opinion of the early fathers who wrote about them (including Aquinas?) that each angel only ever guards one person.
      They are to guard and guide us according to God’s will, but we must make ourselves attentive to them. Ask your angel to show you God’s will for you in each situation, and obtain the grace for you to follow that way though it be hard. Many times good ideas or even warning thoughts occur to us– these are the promptings of our angel. We should Thank God for them, and thank the angels for their care.

  2. About 20 years ago, I asked in prayer for the name of my guardian angel. I sense the name “Michael”. So, I thought to myself…that’s a great name, I love the name Michael and to reassure myself that I wasn’t making this up. I asked again and I opened my bible, hoping to see the name Michael somewhere in scripture to confirm.

    Do guardian angels have a sense of humor? Mine sure did, when I opened my bible it landed on a page in the Old Testament the book of Malachi. “Oh” I thought, the name isn’t Michael but Malachi. Now, for the funny part, this is what Malachi means – From the Google search engine:

    – The Hebrew name מַלְאָכִי (Mal’akhi) meaning “my messenger” or “my angel”. This is one of the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament, the author of the Book of Malachi, which some claim foretells the coming of Christ. In England the name came into use after the Protestant Reformation.

    Okay, maybe it’s my angel’s pseudo name, can’t go wrong with the name Malachi which means “my angel”, right?

  3. Jo says:

    Hi Robbin, in light of your question and in addition to the excellent article by Msgr Pope, may I humbly suggest you go on YouTube and look for a talk by Fr Chad Ripperger (an exorcist) on Guardian Angels. Fr Ripperger answers your specific question at some length. It is however unlikely that your guardian angel’s name is Raphael since he is an archangel (a different rank) and not a guardian angel. Just ignore whoever told you that and know that you have an angel assigned by God.

  4. Denise says:

    I named my guardian angel when I was 7. I remember doing so, not to have authority over him, but because I sensed we were on a journey together and it just seemed the practical thing to do to communicate with him. I am sorry if this isn’t right, but I’ve known him for so long by the name I gave him that it’s hard not to think of him by that name. I communicate with him pretty much on a daily basis and he has never instructed me differently or seemed to mind.

  5. Sarge says:

    About a year ago, I was praying to my Guardian Angel after the Agnus Dei asking him/ her/ it to accompany me to receive Communion. I kind of playfully asked them their name. I closed my eyes and saw (in my mind’s eye, I didn’t have any kind of vision or anything) a Greek sounding word written in script. I took this to be my angels name, but honestly felt a little off about the whole thing, being very aware that we should never attempt to communicate with spirits. If God allowed them to contact us, blessed be God, but I felt like I crossed a line. I bought this incident up in my next confession, and the preist told be to disregard it. Probably good advice. I still pay to my Guardian, but I just call him/ her/ it “Angel”. That’s more than sufficient.

    God bless

  6. Brett says:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the name of your guardian angel. If they don’t want you to know, then they won’t reveal it. If it is revealed, then simply test that you heard correctly by asking for a sign, and make it a doozy of a sign that will leave no doubt in your mind. I’ve done this, my wife has, and my son — all with outstanding results and increddible stories of how the request for a sign came about. But I would suggest to not push the issue: If a name is not revealed, or the request for a sign is not met, then simply let it go.

    • Stephen says:

      Satan can provide the sign you want and lead you down the wrong path. He tickles your pride and we become happy to ignore all sorts of advice.

    • Phhil Steinacker says:

      Brett, I echo Stephen’s warning to you. It would be an act of great wisdom to consider how pride may lie within your attachment to going about this your way, despite reading Msgr. Pope’s greater wisdom in this matter.

      As for Stephen’s opening words, I have experienced firsthand what can happen when one asks for a sign in prayer – particularly one with detailed specifics. The “doozy” you encourage can produce terrible results when “overheard” be Satan.

      To wit, I once made a heartfelt plea to Our Lord and ask Him to grant me a very specific sign the next morning at daily Mass. I got the exact sign I requested, but it initially concealed a reality which was the exact opposite of what I was asking for. The unfolding of this reality was terribly painful for me, not only at the moment but for weeks to come.

      Later I shared this experience with a priest friend of mine from Nigeria, where the culture is much more sensitive to the presence and the pro-active involvement of the demonic in people’s lives. He sternly admonished me to NEVER, NEVER request a sign, particularly a specific sign, which Satan can and will high-jack to his own ends.

      He reminded me that even Jesus acknowledged that Satan is the prince of this world for now (until He returns to claim His throne forever), and that he can use his angelic powers to pull all sorts of trickery here: “…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

      I pray for you to have the humility to respect the knowledge of others and set aside your own views for the spiritual safety of your family.

  7. Abigail says:

    I struggled/tried for years to come up with a name for my Guardian Angel but none seem to content me, that is, until a few yrs. ago–the name Gabriel came to me and now I am completely content/satisfied and when I saw the name heading your short/small list of acceptable names — I rejoiced. God doth work in so many wonderful ways–doesn’t He!

  8. Andrew says:

    This whole issue of regarding the name of an angel is minor at best but I’d like to state two things. First off, the statement “It seems unlikely that an angel or the Holy Spirit would act contrary to the directive of the Church herself…” is just wrong. You [Msgr] yourself stated that the Church “discouraged” the practice. But never in my readings have I come across where the Church has told the angels no you can’t reveal your name. That is their prerogative.
    Secondly, “It is presumptuous to think that we can know enough of the essence of a particular angel that we can assign a name.” Here I completely agree, we can’t know nor are the vast majority of us supposed to know the essence of our angel. However, I call my angel by a name but I do not pretend to link that name to his entire essence. Rather it is a name I believe was granted to me, one, because I asked in persistence, two, because it strengthens my relationship with him. The name I’ll argue states something about his essence and that is enough for me.

    • Stephen says:

      It appears that the Vatican discourages the naming of guardian Angels because it can promote a childish and simplistic belief in good or bad outcomes based on battles between good and evil forces, rather than mature Christian beliefs and worship practices.

      CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP
 AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS
      DIRECTORY
 ON POPULAR PIETY AND THE LITURGY
      PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES
      Vatican City
      December 2001

      http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html

      217. Popular devotion to the Holy Angels, which is legitimate and good, can, however, also give rise to possible deviations:
      • when, as sometimes can happen, the faithful are taken by the idea that the world is subject to demiurgical struggles, or an incessant battle between good and evil spirits, or Angels and daemons, in which man is left at the mercy of superior forces and over which he is helpless; such cosmologies bear little relation to the true Gospel vision of the struggle to overcome the Devil, which requires moral commitment, a fundamental option for the Gospel, humility and prayer;
      • when the daily events of life, which have nothing or little to do with our progressive maturing on the journey towards Christ are read schematically or simplistically, indeed childishly, so as to ascribe all setbacks to the Devil and all success to the Guardian Angels. 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.

  9. SE says:

    I was teaching CCD and the kiddos and I were talking about angels…they asked if angels had names. Yes..some we know of already, Michael, Gabriel, ect. They asked if their guardian angels had names…I said they could ask their angels for their names and they might or might not be revealed to them. One of the kiddos then asked if I knew my guardian angels name…I started to say no but I couldn’t say it…like I was stopped from saying no….it rather startled me…and I was given a name. No, I did not reveal what had just happened nor did I reveal the name to the kiddos.
    It too, as someone stated above about theirs, is a biblical name.

  10. Martus says:

    Every person has a guardian angel, Jesus’ angel is Michael(the most powerful of the angels and the prince of all of God’s angels), Adam’s angel was Lucifer who was cast into Hell and Eve’s angel was Satan who has been allowed freedom for now due to the fact that she did not make the demon children as Lucifer and his fellow male fallen angels did.

    • Raphael says:

      Lucifer and Satan are the same thing, and they were not guardian angels, nor was Michael. Adam and Eve probably didn’t have guardian angels because they had knowledge and wisdom as natural gifts from God, once they lost those gifts they probably gained guardian angels. Jesus did not require a guardian angel because he is One of God. Also as an end note angels do not have a gender/sex because they are pure spirit, they can take the form of a man or woman, but they inherently do not own a gender/sex.

  11. NotAnAngel says:

    Angels are not pets. They are not your BFF’s. They are radically higher beings who do not have familiar discourse with human beings. If you think you know the name of your guardian angel, you have almost certainly been deceived by your own psychology – even though some putative revelation “felt real” or something. Nobody wants to admit they’ve been deceived, and everyone likes to think they’re graced with special supernatural knowledge, but one must be honest with oneself… it is a vanity and an idle tale, and it trivializes the hierarchy of being by lowering our superiors to the status of equals at best, inferiors at worst, again, as if they were like pets or invisible guard dogs or “buds.”

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