Guardian Angels and Other Protectors, as Seen in a Commercial

Guardian Angel – Domenichino (1615)

Most of us struggle with the fact that God allows bad things to happen. Why does he not intervene more often to protect us from attacks of various sorts and from events that cause sadness, setbacks, or suffering?

While the answer is mysterious, the clearest response is that God allows suffering in order that some greater blessing may occur. To some degree I have found this to be so in my life; some of my greatest blessings required that I accept painful things as well.

I wonder if we consider often enough the countless times God did step in to prevent disaster in our life. We tend to focus on the negative things, overlooking an enormous number of often-hidden blessings: every beat of our heart, the proper functioning of every cell in our body, and all the perfect balances that exist in nature and the cosmos in order to sustain humanity.

Just think of the simple act of walking and all the missteps we might take each time but most often do not. Think of all the foolish risks we have taken in our life—especially when we were young—that did not end in catastrophe but surely could have. Think of all the poor choices we have made and yet escaped the worst possible consequences.

I thought of all these things as I watched the commercial below. While it speaks of the watchfulness of a father, it also makes me think of my guardian angel, who has surely protected me from many disasters.

As you watch the commercial, don’t forget to thank God for the many times He has rescued you through the intervention of your guardian angel. Thank Him, too, for His hidden blessings—blessings you know nothing of—that He bestowed upon you anyway. Finally, think of the wonderful mercy He has often shown in protecting you from the worst of your foolishness.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Guardian Angels and Other Protectors, as Seen in a Commercial

On the Role of Our Guardian Angels

Angel Fighting for the Soul – Alexey Tyranov

This is the third in a series of five posts on the angels and their role in our lives. The content of these posts comes from a series I have been teaching at the Institute of Catholic Culture on the mission of the angels. Angels are ministering spirits mystically present and active throughout creation, in the events of Scripture, in the liturgy, and in our lives.

The fundamental source for these reflections is Jean Cardinal Danielou’s book The Angels and Their Mission: According to the Fathers of the Church. The references to the Fathers in my posts are fully footnoted in his book, but some of the scriptural passages below represent my own additions.

In today’s post we ponder the existence of guardian angels and their role.

Scripture attests to the existence of guardian angels.

We begin with a text from Exodus in which the Lord says,

Behold, I am sending an angel before you to protect you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to his voice; do not defy him, for he will not forgive rebellion, since My Name is in him. But if you will listen carefully to his voice and do everything I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. For My angel will go before you and bring you into the land (Exodus 23:20-23).

Though this text does not speak specifically to one’s personal guardian angel, it reminds us that not all guardian angels are personal; God also sets angels over nations, territories, and organizations. It is also clear from Scripture that local churches (dioceses) have angels. In the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation the letters to the seven churches all begin in the same way. For example,

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write this: ... (Rev 2:1),

To the angel of the church in Smyrna, write this: … (Rev 2:8).

Some contend that the angels referred to in these letters to the churches are in fact the bishops of those churches, but most of the Fathers make a more literal interpretation. Some of them assert that the angel assigned to each local church is the invisible and spiritual double of the human bishop.

As for our personal guardian angels, there many references to them in scripture. For example, in the following text from Genesis, Jacob (Israel) blesses his sons, referring to his guardian angel in the process:

And Israel … blessed [his sons] saying, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, and the angel who has delivered me from all evil, bless these sons; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac …” (Gen 48:15-16).

Psalm 91 speaks to the care of the angels for us:

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone (Psalm 91:11-12).

There is also this well-known passage in which Jesus refers to guardian angels:

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven (Mat 18:10).

There is a text in The Acts of the Apostles in which an angel helps Peter to escape from prison; the community also refers to Peter’s angel:

Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. … When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me ….” He went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind,” but she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel” (Acts 12:6-15, selected).

Thus, we see the care of the angels for us in special ways as well as in an ongoing, personal way.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church confidently teaches,

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).

The Fathers of the Church attest to the existence of guardian angels and describe their roles.

Note that angels do more than protect and console; they also reprimand and punish, exhorting us to penance. The Fathers also generally assert that the angels assist in our prayer and transmit our petitions to God.

  • Origen says, “We must say that every human soul is under the direction of an angel who is like a father.”
  • Basil says, “An angel is put in charge of every believer, provided we do not drive him out by sin. He guards our soul like an army.”
  • Eusebius says, “Fearing, lest sinful mankind should be without government and without guidance, like herds of cattle, God gave us protectors and superintendents, the holy angels in the form of captains and shepherds. His First-Born Son is set above all these.”
  • Hilary says, “In the warfare we carry on, to remain strong against the evil powers, the angels are our helpers.”
  • Athanasius says, “In opposition to the turmoil into which demons throw the soul, the vision of the angels works softly and peaceably, awakening joy and exultation.”
  • The Shepherd of Hermas says, “We are not at first chastised by the Father of the family Himself, but by the angels whom he has sent as masters over us, with the office of chastising and correcting each one of us.”
  • Origen says, “If there are good thoughts in our heart, let there be no doubt that the angel of the Lord is speaking to us. But if evil things come into our heart, let there be no doubt that an angel of the evil one is speaking to us.”
  • John Chrysostom says that among the faithful, those who have higher offices in the Church are the object of special protection: “The virtues of heaven are always with those who are charged with such offices.”

Here are some other terms used by the Fathers and/or in Scripture to describe the function of the guardian angel:

  • Guard
  • Protector
  • Superintendent
  • Overseer
  • Assistant
  • Shepherd
  • Herdsman
  • Instructor

Opinion is divided over whether non-believers have guardian angels. St. Thomas says that they do but adds that the guardian angel has an entirely new role after baptism. Before a person’s baptism, Satan has certain “legal rights” over him and the angels can only set limits. Baptism reverses the situation and increases the power of the angel to defend.

We live in the midst of a supernatural world, a spectacle wherein everything that appears to be empty space is in fact filled with the angels. Yes, the angels surround us!

Be careful to remember that angels are our guardians, not our pets. We must respect and revere them, being immensely grateful for their ministry on our behalf. Each of us must listen to our angel’s voice, which echoes in our mind and conscience, and obey. We ought not to name angels because they are above us; we name those beneath us, for example, our children. When Samson’s parents asked the name of the angel who visited them, they were rebuked: Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding (Judges 13:18). We owe our guardian angels reverence, obedience, and joyful gratitude.

Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen
.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: On the Role of Our Guardian Angels

Don’t Name Your Guardian Angel

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.

The Ministry of Angels, as Seen in a Commercial

Most of us struggle with the fact that God allows bad things to happen to us. Why does He not intervene more often to protect us from attacks of various kinds and from events that cause sadness, setbacks, or suffering?

While mysterious, the clearest answer is that God allows suffering in order that some greater blessing may occur. To some degree I have found this to be so; some of my greatest blessings required that a door slam shut for me or that I endure some suffering. If my college sweetheart had not ended things, I would most likely not have the very great blessing of being a priest today. Had I gotten some of my preferred assignments in my early years as a priest, I would not have been enriched by the assignments I did have. Those difficult assignments have drawn me out and helped me to grow far more than the cozy, familiar placements I desired would have. Had I not entered into the crucible of depression and anxiety in my thirties, I would not have learned to trust God as much as I do, and I would not have learned important lessons about myself and about life.

So despite that fact that we understandably fear suffering and dislike it, for reasons of His own (reasons He knows best), God does allow some degree of it in our lives.

Yet I wonder if we really consider often enough the countless times God did step in to prevent disaster in our lives. We tend to focus on the negative things in life and overlook the enormous number of blessings we often take for granted: every beat of our heart, the proper functioning of every cell in our body, and all of the perfect balances that exist in nature and the cosmos in order to sustain us.

Just think of the simple act of walking, all of the possible missteps we might take but most often do not. Think of all the foolish risks we have taken in our lives—especially when we were young—that did not end in disaster. Think of all the poor choices we have made and yet escaped the worst possible outcomes.

Yes, we wonder why we and others suffer and why God allows it, but do we ever wonder why we don’t suffer? Do we ever think about why and how we have escaped enduring the consequences of some awfully foolish things we have done? In typical human fashion, we minimize our many, many blessings, and magnify and resent our sufferings.

I have a favorite expression, one that I have made my own over the years, that I use in response to people who ask me how I am doing: “I’m pretty well blessed, for a sinner.”  I’ve heard others put the same sentiment this way: “I’m more blessed than I deserve.” Yes, we are all pretty well blessed indeed!

I thought of all those things as I watched the commercial below (aired during the 2014 Super Bowl). While it speaks of the watchfulness of a father, it makes me think of my guardian angel, who has surely preserved me from many disasters.

As you watch the commercial, don’t forget to thank God for the many times He has rescued you through the intervention of your guardian angel. Thank Him too for His hidden blessings—blessings that, though you know nothing of them, are bestowed by Him all the same. Finally, think of the wonderful mercy He has often shown in protecting you from the worst of your foolishness.

 

Our Guardian Angel – As Seen on TV

Blog10-2Most of us struggle with the fact that God allows bad things to happen to us. Why does He not intervene more often to protect us from attacks of various sorts and from events that cause sadness, setbacks, or suffering?

While mysterious, the clearest answer is that God allows suffering in order that some greater blessing may occur. To some degree I have found this to be so in my own life; some of my greatest blessings required that a door slam shut or that I endure some suffering. For example, if my college sweetheart had not dumped me, it is likely that I would not now have the very great blessing of being a priest. Had I received some of my preferred assignments in my early years as a priest I would not have been enriched by the assignments I did have. Those assignments have drawn me out and helped me to grow far more than the cozy, familiar placements I desired would have. Had I not entered into the crucible of depression and anxiety in my 30s I would not have learned to trust God as much as I do and would not have learned important lessons about myself and about life.

So despite that fact that we understandably fear and dislike suffering, for reasons of His own (reasons He knows best) God does allow some degree of it in our lives.

Yet I wonder if we really consider often enough the countless times that God does step in to prevent disasters in our lives. We tend to focus on the negative things in life and overlook an enormous number of often-hidden blessings: every beat of our heart, the proper function of every cell in our body, and all the perfect balances that exist in nature and the cosmos in order to sustain us.

Just consider the simple act of walking and all the possible missteps we might make but do not. Think of all the foolish risks we have taken in our life, especially when we were young, that did not end in disaster. Think of all the poor choices we made and yet escaped the worst possible outcomes.

Yes, we wonder why we and others suffer, and why God allows it.  But do we ever wonder why we don’t suffer? Do we ever think about why and how we have escaped enduring the consequences of some awfully foolish things we have done? In typical human fashion, we minimize our many, many blessings, and magnify and resent our sufferings.

I have a favorite expression, one I’ve adopted over the years, that I use in response to people who ask me how I’m doing: “I’m pretty well-blessed for a sinner.”  I’ve heard others put the same sentiment this way: “I am more blessed than I deserve.”  Yes, we are all well-blessed indeed!

I thought of all that as I watched the commercial below (it aired during the Super Bowl). And while it speaks of the watchfulness of a father, it also makes me think of my guardian angel, who has surely preserved me from many disasters.

As you watch the commercial, don’t forget to thank God for the many times He has rescued you, through the interventions of your guardian angel. Thank Him, too, for His hidden blessings—blessings that, though you know nothing of them, are bestowed by Him all the same. And think, finally, of the wonderful mercy He has often shown in protecting you from the worst of your foolishness.