Guardian Angels are Real Angels not Hallmark Angels

See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father
(Mat 18:10)

In this text Jesus affirms the truth that we have Guardian Angels. Today is the feast of the Guardian Angels and it is a beautiful truth that God would assign an angel to have special care for us, it is a sign of his very specific love for each of us as individuals. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has much to say on angels. Here are just a few verses:

The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels….In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God….From infancy to 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 #s 334-336 selectae)

All this said, I would like to propose to you that, to some extent we have tended in modern times to sentimentalize the role of the angels in our lives and to drift from the Biblical data regarding them. I would like to propose a few corrective ideas to balance the sentimental notions we may have. I do not say that sentiment is wrong, but it needs to be balanced by deep respect for the angels.

  1. Angels have no bodies. They are not human and never have been human. Human beings never become angels or “earn wings.”  Angels are persons, but persons of pure spirit. Hence they have no gender. Now we have to envision them somehow,  so it is not wrong that we portray them with masculine or feminine qualities but it is important to remember that they transcend any such distinction.
  2. Biblically, angels are not the rather fluffy and charming creatures that modern portraits often depict. In the Bible angels are depicted as awesome and powerful agents of God. Many times the appearance of an angel struck fear in the one who saw them (cf  Judg 6:22; Lk 1:11; Lk 1:29; Lk 2:9; Acts 10:3; Rev. 22:8). Angels are often described in the Bible in warlike terms: they are call a host (the biblical word for army), they wage war on God’s behalf and that of his people (e.g. Ex 14:19; Ex 33:2; Nm 22:23;  Ps 35:5; Is 37:36; Rev 12:7). While they are said to have wings (e.g. Ex 25:20; 1 Kings 6:24;  inter al)  recall that they do not have physical bodies so the wings are an image of their swiftness. They are also mentioned at times as being like fire (Ex. 3:2; Rev 10:1). And as for those cute little “cherubs” we have in our art, those cute baby-faced angels with wings and no body? Well read about the real Cherubim in Ezekiel 10. They are fearsome, awesome creatures, powerful and swift servants of God and more than capable of putting God’s enemies to flight. And this is my main point, angels are not the sentimetal syruppy and cute creatures we have often recast them to be. They are awesome, wonderful, and powerful servants of God. They are his messengers and they manifest God’s glory. They bear forth the power and majesty of God are immensely to be respected. They are surely also our helpers and, by God’s command act on our behalf.
  3. What then is our proper reaction to the great gift of the angels and in particular our Guardian Angel? Sentimental thought may have its place but what God especially commands of us toward our angel is obedience. Read what God said in the Book of Exodus: Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. (Ex 23:21) So our fundamental task is to hear and heed the voice of our angel. How, you might ask do we hear the voice of our Guardian Angel? I would suggest to you that we most hear the voice of our angel in our conscience. Deep down, we hear God’s voice, we know what is true and what is false. In terms of basic right and wrong, we know what we are doing. I am convinced that our conscience interacts with our Guardian Angel. Now be careful, we like to try and rationalize what we do, explain away bad behavior, make excuses. But in the end, deep down inside, we know what we are doing and whether or not it is wrong. I am sure it is our angel who testifies to the truth in us and informs our conscience. God’s command is clear: listen to and heed this voice. Respect this angel God has given you not so much with sentimental odes, but with sober obedience.
  4. Finally, an on a less important note, we often think of angels in choirs singing. But there is no Scriptural verse that I have ever read that describes them as singing. Even in the classic Christmas scene where we depict them as singing “Glory to God in the Highest,” the text says that they SAY it not sing it (cf. Luke 2:14). If you can find a Scripture text that shows the angels singing please share it, but I’ve looked for years and can’t find it. Not a big point except to say that perhaps singing is a special gift given to the human person.

The First Word of Introduction

prayer before playingMany people like to say that Sunday football is becoming the new Sunday worship service. I hope this is not true, but I can report there is lots of praying going on in the NFL!  Last Sunday, on one channel at the start of the game, they showed a team taking a minute to pray before they went on the field. At the end of the Redskins-Lions Game, they showed the Lion’s Coach speaking with his team.  He said, “Let’s take a minute to pray and then let’s go back out on the field and greet the fans who have stayed to celebrate.”

Praying for the Big Game

It is not so unusual to see athletes praying and I have noticed many teams do pray together before a game. I was struck however with how comfortable coaches, athletes, and the TV cameras are with showing so many expressions of prayer and faith. A little later in the day, I saw an interview with Jim Caldwell, the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. He was asked to tell people something about himself because he is unknown to many people. The first thing he said was “I am a Christian.”  It seems to me that Coach Caldwell is also an evangelizer—on the job—in the community—and at home.

Proudly and Boldly

So, tired of football, I watched The Amazing Race, which pits 12 team in a race around the world.  In the first segment, when each team introduces themselves, a couple began their introduction by saying “We’re Christians.” The skeptic in me thinks there is a good chance that the producers of the Amazing Race chose to edit the introduction to suit their purpose in building a story line.  If you’re a fan of this show, you know it can get annoying as the producers create or suggest tensions between teams who are quite different from one another. That said it is refreshing to hear people speak proudly and boldly of their faith and how it shapes the way they look at life.

 I feel the need to say that I don’t typically spend so much time watching TV but by the end of the day I was thinking how often do I begin an introduction of myself with “I am a Catholic” or how many times have I heard others begin with sharing to what faith they belong.

It Begins at Being Christian

 My impression is that for people like Coach Caldwell “Christian” is their starting point, and that the rest of who they are is understood in light of what it means to be a Christian. It reminds me of the story of Perpetua, one of the early Christian martyrs. In a conversation with her father, who was suggesting she not publicly call herself a Christian, so as to avoid persecution she replies; “Father,” said I, “Do you see…this vessel lying, a pitcher or whatsoever it may be?” And he said, “I see it.” And I said to him, “Can it be called by any other name than that which it is?” And he answered, “No.” “So can I call myself nought other than that which I am, a Christian”

 If you begin an introduction with “I am A Catholic,” will it then shape the rest of what you say?

What are You Longing For? Guess What? It’s God!

Just below is a wonderful new reflection from Fr. Robert Barron. In it he ponders the growing secularism of the day. In many ways, especially in Europe, faith has been almost completely kicked to the curb. Questions about who is God…Who am I in relationship to him….what is the meaning and destiny of my life…..Questions like these have been suppressed; dismissed as irrelevant.

But here’s the problem: We are wired for God! We have within us an infinite longing, an unlimited desire for completion and fulfillment. God has written his name on our hearts and we simply cannot be happy without his ultimate presence and place in our heart. Oh, I know, many claim they can, but in the end we all know its a lie. This world simply does not satisfy us. It is limited and our desire is unlimited. Sooner or later we confront the absurdity of the world’s claim to be cure for what ails us. Go ahead, get it all: power money, sex, popularity, possessions, even people. I promise you it won’t be enough. And even if you do get it all, then you die, end of story.

In the end, we are made for God. The modern world may have kicked God to the curb but the absurdity of that becomes more and more evident as we descend further into addiction, lust, unhappiness, stress, suicide, you name it. You may say “We have always had these.”  Yes, but the doses are so much higher today. For all our creature comforts, (and we have many), we seem less happy, less content, less fulfilled, more stressed out more suicidal, more addicted, more divorced or never married, more  than those who went before us without all the comforts we “enjoy.”

Living without God is painful. We are wired for God. All those longings, yearnings, the sighing with you? It’s about God:

  • Our hearts were made for thee Oh Lord and they will not rest till they rest in thee.”  (St. Augustine Confessions Book 1 Chapter 1)
  • Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s face”; your face, LORD, do I seek! (Ps 27:8)

An Heroic Life

  • For all things work together for good  
  • unto them that love God  and are called
  • according to His purpose
  • (Rom 8:28 )

Every now and then we hear of the concept of a “life not worth living.” Some people seem to have so many challenges. Sometimes these are known before birth. Maybe it’s Down Syndrome, maybe limbs are missing, perhaps other defects are evident in the sonograms. In such cases some people start to think of abortion. Later in life if tragedy strikes some think of  euthanasia, and suicide.

But it is an amazing truth that often God raises up before us those who are severely challenged but still love their life. Here is the story of a man who lives heroically, despite having no limbs. How is it possible you might say? Well, behold the Man:

History Reverses Itself! On Religious Liberty Redivivus

The Following is a Press Release from “Historic St. Mary’s City”  that details an interesting reversal of History:

 In 1704, Maryland Governor Seymour ordered the sheriff to lock the Roman Catholic brick chapel at St. Mary’s City and see that it was never again used for worship.  With that action, the colony’s experiment in religious freedom ended.   

On Sunday, September 20, 305 years after the original chapel was sealed, St. Mary’s County Sheriff Timothy Cameron will unlock the massive oak and pine doors of the reconstructed chapel.  The reconstruction stands as a symbol of liberty of conscience and separation of church and state, which were practiced in 17th-century Maryland far in advance of the laws and practices in other New World colonies.

The reconstructed chapel, which was rebuilt on its original foundation, is architecturally complete but not yet furnished.  It will be open to the public during museum hours as finishing allows.  An interpretive pavilion will be open to the public in summer 2010. 

The public is invited to attend a brief unlocking ceremony and explore the chapel on Sunday, September 20 at 5 p.m.  Researchers and builders will be available to answer questions about the project.  Artifacts from the chapel excavations will be on display and light refreshments will be served.  There is no charge for this event.

Travel to St. Mary’s City and follow signs for parking.  Participants will gather at the Mackall Barn for a procession to the chapel.  For more information about this event or Historic St. Mary’s City visit or call 240-895-4990 or 800-SMC-1634.

All of this is very good news. Allow me to quibble with only one point. The expression “separation of Church and state” is not a Constitutional phrase. This expression is found nowhere in the US Constitution. Rather I prefer the expression “religious liberty.” The First Amendment to the US Constitution says this:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  Hence,  is true that the the State is not to establish a particular religious faith as the official State religion. But the fundamental point of the First Ammendment is that  it is religious liberty that is protected, NOT the State. It is the State that is prohibited from abridging religious liberty. It is not the Church that is prohibited from attempting to influence the thoughts of men, even if they be Statesmen. We who are religious are free to attempt influence, it is the State who is prohibited from canceling that right. Today, the interpretation of this rule is usually backward. Too many seek to limit the influence of religious thought. This is not enshrined in our Constitution as many claim but rather, the opposite.

With my little diatribe out of the way, enjoy this video that tells you more of  St, Mary’s City, once the largest and most thriving port, the “New York City” of its day, now a hidden ruin for archaeologists, a “what might have been” for historians. This video also gives more information of the rebuilding of the Roman Catholic Brick Chapel on its ancient foundation. I hope to be able to celebrate a Latin Mass there soon!

Jesus is Real to Me

I wonder if you have the heart of an Evangelizer? We Catholics haven’t been too good with evangelization and to some extent many of us have never been evangelized. One diagnosis common today is that many Catholics are “sacramentalized but unevangelized.” What this means is that many Catholics have received sacraments and many even go to Church regularly but they have never really met Jesus Christ. They have heard about him, read about him, be told of him, but never really met him. Many in fact do not expect to meet him but are content to live their faith by inference. In other words they are content to have their faith based merely on the fact that someone they trust has told them. “Jesus is Lord because my pastor told me or my mother told me…” and so forth. Now this is a very good start, faith DOES come by hearing. But at some point we have to personally know for ourselves that Jesus is Lord and that he is risen and is at the Father right hand and is ministering to me. At some point the Good News has to become powerfully personal and evident to us. At some point he have to meet Jesus Christ.

Have you? Once we have really met Jesus it is pretty hard to stay quiet about him. Have you ever experienced really good news?  You couldn’t wait to tell some one could you? Well, have you ever felt this way about the Lord Jesus? Have you ever expected to feel this way about the Lord? If not why not?

And that brings us back to evangelization. Once you’ve been evangelized (i.e. met Christ) you’re ready to be an evangelizer because now you can say,

Let me tell you what the Lord has done for me! I’ve met the Lord and he’s changing my life. There are sins I used to commit that I don’t commit any more. I used to be so much more resentful, angry, lustful, greedy, self-centered and unloving. But little by little I’m more serene, joyful, able to love, more generous and so on. If you’ve met Christ you’ve got a testimony.

As a Catholic you also ought to be able to testify how the Lord has ministered to you in the liturgy and the Sacraments:

I just don’t know where I’d be today if the Lord hadn’t fed me on his Body and Blood, taught me through his scriptures, and healed me in confession. The Lord is the physician of my soul and He’s healed me through the medicine of his Word and the Sacraments.

Can you testify like this? You don’t have to be a finished product. You still have your sins and shortcomings. Just say “I’m not what I want to be but I’m not what I used to be.”

But be an evangelizer. In four steps:

  1.  Get to know Jesus Christ. Get to know that he’s real! How? Ask him!
  2. Reflect on your life story; your testimony. Think back on all the ways the Lord has blessed you and ministered to you in his word and in the sacraments, in your prayer and your your daily life. This is Good News.
  3. Tell someone your good news. Be personal but authentic to Church teaching and scripture.
  4. Invite someone: “Come and go with me to my Father’s house.

Don’t be satisfied with anything less than a Christianity that is real. Merely intellectual won’t do. The intellect is important but at some point you have to personally know and experience that Jesus and all he has taught is real. And you have to be able to testify to what you know as a first hand witness. We Catholics have to rediscover that to know Jesus and experience the Good News of a life that is changing is the heart of evangelization. We cannot merely know at an intellectual level. He have to know in the biblical sense of the word. In the Bible the verb “know” always means more that intellectual knowing. It means to have deep intimate, personal experience of the thing or person known. To know biblically is about experience more than what’s in a book. Do you know Jesus?

Here is a music video I put together. The Soloist is Gwen Miles, the Accompanist is Kenneth Louis. Both are from my parish of Holy Comforter-St.Cyprian here in Washington. They sing a song that reminds us that Jesus is real and that the normal Christian Life is to know, to experience just how real is is.

Love doesn’t die!


Last week, I was riding METRO with nothing to read and so I found myself listening in on the conversations around me. One conversation caught my attention immediately. Two young adults were discussing the practice of building shrines in the family home to honor ancestors. One friend asked the other if he would do this in his home and he said “no, because I don’t  believe in any kind of life after death. ” His friend responded,” how can you not believe in life after death, you have to believe that!”

The young man asked, “Do you believe in something like heaven because you think you have to or because you really believe?”

Do you think you have to believe?

This is such a great question. We grow in our faith, we experience deeper conversion when we continue to ask ourselves not only what we believe but why we believe.  My experience in sharing my faith is that people are really interested in knowing why we believe even more than what we believe.  Do we have good answers for the difference what we believe makes in our own lives?  I was stopped in my tracks one night at RCIA when a woman asked me to share from my own experience why I believe the Eucharist is really the body of Christ. She even said “don’t use any of your theological words, just tell me why you believe it is!”

Back to my story

So, the friend, when confronted with the question about why she believes in life after death said, “I think there is life after death because love doesn’t die.” I thought to myself, well, that is exactly what God thinks!

Seeing is NOT Believing

Some people say that if they could see they would believe. But seeing is not believing, seeing is only seeing.

Consider the video just below. It looks like a miracle before your very eyes. Is it a miracle or just some fancy illusion. Most people even upon seeing what looks like it can only be a miracle usually conclude that it is a trick or that there is “some way they do that.”

Now remove these magicians in the video and go with me back in time as Jesus works a miracle. Presume for a moment that you’ve never met Jesus or heard of him. Yet watch him cast out blindness or enable a paralyzed man to walk. Is it a miracle, or is it a clever trick? Should you really beleive his claims to be from God and to be God based on these wonderful works? Has Jesus staged this well or is he really the Son of God? You see? It still takes faith doesn’t it? You just can’t substitute for faith, it is an absolute requirement to accept who Jesus is. Miracles can help but seeing is not believing, it’s only seeing. In the end you have to decide: fancy trick or real miracle? Son of God or just a skilled illusionist?

Watch this video and see what look like real miracles before your very eyes. But pay attention to what your mind does and how quickly you can dismiss the visual evidence. Seeing even fantastic things just isn’t enough. In this case they likely are not miracles, just very well done illusions. But many saw  Jesus work wonders which relly were miracles and it was not enough. You have to have faith. In other words, some people think if only God would work miracles in their life, they could believe. But miracles alone cannot bring faith because seeing is not believing it is only seeing.

Cumulative evidence can bring us to accept God’s existence as a reasonable proposition but only faith can really lead us to believe all that God has said. Pray for faith and you will see miracles, and more!

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence  of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)