Quarterly Spiritual Meditations
Summer Circular Letter - 2014
Commonly Asked Questions on the Angels (Part 1)
Currently there is great interest in the angels. At the same time, there is also much confusion with regard to their nature and ministry. This is because, on the one hand, the angels are not sufficiently discussed in catechism classes and sermons, and on the other hand, many ideas about the angels have been presented - mainly from the New Age movement and the Mass Media - which are contrary to Catholic belief.
That people are eager to learn about the angels is reflected in the fact that we receive many questions about the angels both through the mail and at the retreats and missions that we preach around the country. Therefore, we wish to present in this and the following circulars the most frequently asked questions, in order to make the responses available to all our readers. We hope that this will help our readers to deepen and strengthen their knowledge and love for the holy angels and, consequently, experience their powerful assistance more effectively in their lives.
1. Should we give a name to our Guardian Angel?
The short answer to this most asked of all questions about the angels is simply "no." For the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Sacraments of the Vatican stated in the document The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy of 2001, that "the practice of assigning names to the holy angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and St. Michael, whose names are contained in Holy Scripture" (217).
We do well to reflect, then, that the term "Holy Guardian Angel" expresses very deeply our bond to the angel assigned to us by God for life. For just as there is only one woman and one man in this whole world who can respond to us when we say, "Mom" or "Dad", so too in all the choirs of angels, there is only one angel who can respond to us when we cry out, "Holy Guardian Angel, help me!"
2. Does every human being have a Guardian Angel?
That every baptized person has a Guardian Angel is clear from what St. Basil taught and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterated, "Every one of the faithful has an angel standing at his side as educator and guide, directing his life" (cf. CCC 336). This passage does not state specifically that every human being, without exception, has a Guardian Angel. Nevertheless, in another passage, the Catechism stresses in no uncertain terms that "From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their [that is, the angels'] watchful care and intercession" (CCC 336).
In accord with this, the general teaching of theologians holds that not only every baptized person, but every human being has their own personal Guardian Angel which also teaches the recently published YOUCAT (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church), approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in 2010, "Every person receives from God a Guardian Angel" (n. 55). This view is biblically based and founded on the words of Our Lord in the Gospels, where He states emphatically to His disciples, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father Who is in heaven" (Mt 18:10). Moreover, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the protection of the angels is a gift not only of grace, but also a gift to mankind in the order of nature. Finally, since each individual, based on their own free will, has a unique destiny, it is fitting that there be a one-on-one relationship with an angel. This same position was also taught by St. Gregory the Wonder Worker and St. Jerome, who held that every person has from birth their own special Guardian Angel.
3. When is our Guardian Angel assigned to us?
St. Thomas Aquinas maintains that everyone receives a Guardian Angel at birth. Moreover, he states that the Guardian Angel of the mother guards her child while it is still in the womb. Other Fathers and Doctors of the Church, however, for example, St. Jerome and St. Basil the Great, believe that our Guardian Angel is assigned at baptism. St. Anselm, on the other hand, goes a step farther by stating that "every soul is committed to an angel when it is united with a body." In other words, he believes, along with some other saints and theologians, that everyone receives a Guardian Angel at conception. To sum up, then, there are three opinions about when our Guardian Angel may be assigned to us, namely, 1.) at conception, 2.) at birth, or 3.) or at baptism.
The fact, that every human person has a Guardian Angel excludes implicitly that we receive the Guardian Angel at baptism. It remains, then, a question open to speculation whether a human being receives the Guardian Angel at conception or birth. But since a person's life begins at the moment of conception, there is no reason for the angel to have to wait until the person is born. Considering the importance of prenatal care, it is reasonable to believe that the Guardian Angel would be want to be involved. It may also be true, that all benefit from the angelic assistance from the beginning of life according to the natural providence of God, and that in baptism a deeper supernatural bond with the holy angels arises.
4. Will our Guardian Angel be reassigned to someone else after we die?
It is generally agreed that our Guardian Angel will not be reassigned to another person after we die, because our Guardian Angel has been uniquely matched with us from all eternity by God Himself in order to help us carry out the special mission in our earthly life for which He has created us. For this reason, it would seem unlikely that our Guardian Angel would be assigned to another person after he has finished guiding us. And so, after we die, it is believed, our Guardian Angel will continue his normal tasks in the ranks of the heavenly hosts.
If we receive the grace to enter heaven, we will worship the Lord together with our Guardian Angel, side by side in the heavenly liturgy. As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "When he arrives at the end of life he no longer has a Guardian Angel; but in the kingdom he will have an angel to reign with him" (Summa Theologica, I, 113, 4). But if we have the misfortune of going to hell, then our Guardian Angel will return to heaven alone. If we go to purgatory our Guardian Angel will wait in heaven, and then come to escort us to paradise once our time in that place of punishment is finished. For as St. John Chrysostom states, "if we need a guide in passing from one city to another, how much more will the soul need someone to point out the way when she breaks the bonds of flesh and passes on to the future life" (cf. Homily on Lazarus, 2,2).
5. Can the holy angels or the devils know our secret thoughts?
No, they cannot. For only God Himself can know what we are thinking at all times; only God Himself can know the depths of our soul. For this reason, St. Thomas Aquinas states in no uncertain terms that "the angels do not know the secrets of hearts" (Summa Theologica, I, 57, 4). Nevertheless, as he goes on to explain, angels and devils can sometimes figure out what we might be thinking. And they can do this in two ways: for "thought is sometimes discovered not merely by an outward act, but also by change of countenance" (Summa Theologica, I, 57, 4). For example, our face can look happy or sad, if we are thinking uplifting or depressing thoughts. Further, our thoughts about other persons can be reflected not only in what we say about them, but also by the way in which we appear and react when coming into their presence.
We must keep in mind, then, that the angels and the devils have not only a superhuman intellect, but also thousands of years of experience at observing the behavior of human beings under all kinds of conditions and circumstances. For this reason, they can like a most skillful and experienced psychologist often discern what we might be thinking without actually knowing our thoughts or being able to read our minds. We could say, therefore, that whereas they are good at reading our faces, they are not able to read our minds.
In this context, it is important to mention that, if we willingly direct our thoughts to an angel (e.g. in mental prayer or inner conversation), then the angel can "hear" those thoughts. Just as the angels communicate between themselves by an act of the will, so we can communicate with them by an interior act of the will.
6. Will we become like angels in heaven?
This question sometimes arises because Jesus revealed to us in the Gospels that, "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are "like" angels in heaven" (Mt 22:30; cf.: Mk 12:25; Lk 20:36). It must be stressed here that we are not called to be angels, but to be like angels. For likeness indicates similarity which is different from identity. God does not intend, then, to eliminate the natural difference between men and angels; in heaven they will always be distinct and complementary. Man and angel will therefore be like each other in certain aspects, while both retain their nature. What are these aspects?
First, it should be pointed out that both angels and men were created in the image and likeness of God. What's more, this original perfection of nature and grace is brought to a higher perfection of nature and grace in those who get to heaven. And so, since the assimilation of the holy angels in heaven, then, is already completed in their state of glory when we finally get to heaven, we will become like them, not only in the personal glory which they currently possess, but also in their divinized likeness to God.
Second, the angels are "purely spiritual creatures", they "have intelligence and will: they are personal creatures" (CCC 330). Our souls are also spiritual in nature. We are created for the same final goal and we have received the same sanctifying grace of Christ. These are the reasons why we ask the angels in our consecration prayer, "enlighten my mind and my heart so that I may always know and accomplish the will of God". These similarities help us to understand more about our "being like the angels".
Third, we will be eternally blessed with the vision of God "like the angels," with the contemplation, love and perpetual possession of God, the fountain of all good; we will adore Him in total surrender. We will all enjoy the communion of the Blessed Trinity. For "all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord Who is the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:18).
Fourth, we will enjoy the communion of the saints, angels and men, because both are united with God, the only One who is infinitely holy in His very (natural) being. That is why we ask the angels in the consecration prayer, "lead me to union with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit".
Fifth, in heaven we will have joined the company of the holy angels. Therefore, we will not only enjoy perfect rest and fulfillment of all desires so that we will be "like the angels" - at peace, immaculately pure, full of joy, light and life - but we will also participate in God's perfection, richness, beauty and glory. For "the righteous will shine like the sun" (Mt 13:43) and find themselves in paradise free of pains, tears, sadness, suffering and death.
Finally, in heaven we will live forever in intimate communion with Jesus and all the angels for the glorification of God (cf. Jn 17:24; Eph 1: 12,14), as the Book of Revelation describes: "I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying … 'Worthy is the Lamb ...' and the elders fell down and worshipped" (Rev 5:11-14). Life in heaven will be a glorious liturgy of praise that will unite both the angels and the saints in the unending song of joy: "Holy, Holy, Holy" are You, "Lord, God of hosts" (cf. Rev 4: 8-10).
7. How do the angels communicate with us?
There are two main ways that they do this. We could call one the common way, and the other, the less common way. In the common way, the angels communicate with us by putting thoughts into our minds, images into our imaginations, and feelings into our emotions.
First, they can put thoughts into our minds by sending us words that are received in the interior senses, for example in the imagination. Secondly, they can send us intellectual visions that communicate an abstract truth or the light to make such judgments of the truth. Moreover, the holy angels can communicate to us spiritual consolations (cf. St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, Second Week, Rule 3). Finally, the angels communicate with us by causing a certain kind of tension or pressure in our soul or body. We may get the strong feeling that we just have to do something, or go somewhere, or help someone, or pray for a special intention. Many of us, to be sure, have experienced these feelings that seem to come out of nowhere, urging us to act decisively in order to help someone who may be in desperate danger or need.
On the other hand, there is another way by which the angels communicate with us in a sense that we could call less common. That is by using words, and speaking to us out loud in a way that we can clearly understand. It is rare, of course, for an angel to speak to us in a tone of voice that we can easily understand. But there are many examples that we can find in the Scriptures of angels speaking to the persons to whom they have appeared. For example, consider the long conversations between St. Raphael and Tobiah recorded for us in the Book of Tobit; or the extensive revelations given by St. Gabriel to the prophet Daniel; or the announcements given to Mary by St. Gabriel in her home at Nazareth, and to the priest Zechariah in the temple at Jerusalem.
8. Is it possible for someone to receive a second Guardian Angel?
We receive only one Guardian Angel during our lifetime, who is our personal guardian. St. Thomas Aquinas, however, with a number of other theologians, holds that not only bishops receive an additional angel to help them fulfill their responsibilities when they are ordained; but also that certain types of public officials who have grave responsibilities, for example, the rulers of nations, governors of states, or of large communities receive an additional angel to help them rule and guide as well (cf. II Sent., D. 14 q. 1, art. 2, ad 4, et 5). It must be stressed, however, that the additional angel assigned to a person with ecclesiastical and civil responsibilities is not an extra Guardian Angel. Rather, the additional angel acts as a kind of auxiliary to help the person to whom they are assigned to more effectively carry out their mission and duties of state in life (cf. Fr. Pascal Parente, Beyond Space, TAN Books, 1973, p. 124).
Furthermore, St. Thomas Aquinas points out that charisms in the Church are appropriated to the Holy Spirit who administers them through the holy angels. Now every religious community and spiritual movement has a charism. For this reason, whoever belongs to any such movement, enjoys the ministry of the holy angel who is assigned to watch over that movement with its members. What's more, each diocese and perhaps each parish has its own Guardian Angel. And so, at any one time, we are under the guidance and protection of several angels. But to repeat, only one holy angel individually is assigned to us personally by God as our Guardian Angel.
9. Do angels have wings?
We can find a number of references about angels appearing with wings in the Scriptures. For example, Cherubim were depicted with wings extending over the Ark of the Covenant in the Book of Exodus (cf. Ex 26: 20); the prophet Isaiah relates a vision of a six-winged Seraph, "with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft" (Is 6:2); the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of Cherubim who had not only four faces, but also "four wings" (Ez 10:21). What's more St. John in the Book of Revelation records for us that he saw not only four Cherubim who had "six wings" (Rev 4:8), but also that he saw an angel "flying high overhead" (Rev 14:6).
Since the angels are pure spirits, they do not, of course, have physical wings nor do they need wings for mobility. Rather, wings are a fitting symbol not only of the angels' willingness to readily, eagerly, and joyfully carry out the will of God, but are also an appropriate symbol for the angels' capability to travel anywhere in the universe with the speed of thought. In short, wings are an apt symbol to represent the angels' capacity for rapid movement of spirit, thought, and will.
10. Are there male and female angels?
Angels, like God Himself, are purely spiritual persons, and therefore they do not have a gender as such. Strictly speaking, there are no male nor female angels. Nevertheless, if we study what the Scriptures have to tell us about the angels, we will discover that they are always depicted and spoken of in masculine terms. We will never find in all of the Bible, no matter how hard we might look, a single reference to the angels that is made in feminine terms. Rather, the angels always appear as men.
To offer one example among the many, regarding the angel who appeared to her, the mother of Samson said, "A man of God came to me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very terrible" (Judges 13:6). Even when they are not explicitly called men, they appear as magnificent, intimidating, and powerful persons—qualities that we associate normally with masculinity. For example, the first angels that appeared on Christmas morning had so frightened the shepherds that they had to be told not to be afraid. What's more, not only did the guards at the tomb of Jesus become like "dead men", as St. Matthew puts it (Mt 28: 4) when an angel appeared to roll away the stone from the grave, but also the prophet Daniel "fainted" (cf. Dan 10: 9) at the mere sight of St. Gabriel when he appeared to him. For Daniel described St. Gabriel as appearing as a man "with a body like chrysolite. His eyes were like fiery torches, his arms and feet looked like burnished bronze, and his voice sounded like the roar of a multitude" (Dan 10: 6). We have to see these facts as a revelation from God, and a manifestation of His will. It is an indication, and a strong one at that, that the Lord wants us to understand that masculine qualities are more fitting in the representation of the angelic spirits.
11. Is it possible for me to consecrate myself to my Guardian Angel, if I have already made the Total Consecration to Mary?
First of all, we must realize that, ultimately, we can only consecrate ourselves to God alone, Who is our origin and our final end. A consecration to another person, then, is a sacred bond that serves as a means to an end, the end being God Himself. For this reason, a consecration to another person, even the Total Consecration to Mary, cannot be exclusive, that is, it cannot rule out the possibility of making additional consecrations. When we consecrate ourselves to another person, then we, in effect, make a covenant with them. That is, a sacred contract by which we pledge to honor and love them in return for their special help and protection, so that we can more effectively come to know and love God Himself.
The Consecration to the Holy Angels, then, is above all a covenant. That which is implicit in the baptismal promise, namely, communion with the holy angels, is formally expressed and adhered to in the consecration. The soul commits itself trustingly in fraternal love to the holy angels as to those brothers and fellow servants before God (cf. Rev 19:l0; 22:9), who are entirely holy and irrevocably united to God. In this way, the soul opens itself consciously to the efficacy of their spiritual help. Simultaneously, the soul obliges itself to listen to and heed their admonitions (cf. Ex 23:21), which always have the glorification of God and the accomplishment of His will as their goal. The soul pledges itself to an intimate collaboration with them for the spreading and the defense of the Kingdom of God upon earth and for leading a life of perfection as a living member of the Church.
A Consecration to the Holy Angels assents wholeheartedly to their salvific mission which, as minister of Christ, they exercise on behalf of man (cf. CCC 331). It means a voluntary bond with the angels so that, with their help and imitating their virtues, one strives not only for Christian perfection according to one's state in life, but also to collaborate with them in the apostolic mission of the Church for the salvation of souls.
To sum up: Through the Consecration to Mary, the soul accomplishes all its works through, with, and in Mary, so as to perform them more perfectly with and in Christ. In a similar way it can be said, through the Consecration to the Holy Angels the soul strives to do everything like the angels and with them, so as to be more perfectly united to Christ and to be transformed into His likeness.
12. Should we ask our Guardian Angel to reveal his name to us?
This question is closely related to the first question in the last issue of our Circular Letter, namely, "Can we give a name to our Guardian Angel?" The answer to this reformulation of the previous question is again in the negative. The reason for this is that, as we mentioned in the last issue of our Circular Letter, the Church wants to discourage us from assigning or ascertaining the names of the holy angels, with the exception of the three Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael, whose names have been revealed to us in the Scriptures. (cf. Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments, The Directory of Popular Piety, n. 217, 2001).
In addition to that, special prudence and precaution have to be taken in the case of a name that is given to us either in a dream or in a locution, or by an inspiration that is a response to a prayer request. For not only could the devil easily insinuate himself in these kinds of communications, but also our imagination and hidden desires could cause confusion as well. St. Paul warns us that Satan himself can appear as an "angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14). The possibility of communications given in dreams or locutions cannot be altogether excluded. Nevertheless, prudentially, they cannot be accepted when they deal with revealing an angel's personal name. Any angelic name that is received in answer to a specific prayer request should be disregarded. This is the case since it seems unlikely that an angel, or the Holy Spirit, would reveal to us the name of our Guardian Angel, or the names of other angels for that matter, when the Church has explicitly directed us in an official document not to inquire about the names of the angels, nor to assign names to them. The angels are the perfect models of obedience, particularly with regard to the decisions of the Church.
13. Do we have to speak out loud for the angels to hear us when we pray to them or speak to them?
First, we must be aware of the fact that the angels cannot, as mentioned in the last issue of our Circular Letter, read our minds. Nevertheless, they can know specific thoughts that we willfully desire to communicate with them. The essence of all spiritual communication is the decision that we make to transmit a thought or an idea to another person, be it an angel, a devil, a saint in heaven, or God Himself. Therefore, as soon as we make the decision to speak with or to pray to the angels, they will become aware of what we want to communicate to them.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that even "when our Guardian Angel is in Heaven he knows what is happening to man" (cf. Summa theologiae, q. 113, a., 6, ad 3). Our Guardian Angel can learn about what we want to communicate to him from the Beatific Vision of God, should God will to communicate this to him. Dr. Peter Kreeft observes that, "God tells the angels all they need to know about what is going on in our world. They don't need to learn about it through sense experience (sic). [In other words,] … angels see the world reflected in God's mind, somewhat as a listener would see the events of a story told to him by its author" (Dr. Peter Kreeft, Angels and Demons, question no. 37, p. 67). However, this opinion, if taken too far, would remove the need for any communication, not only between angels and men on earth, but also among the angels and saints in heaven. Yet, the moral good of the communion of saints also entails the social dimension of interpersonal relationships which are expressed by acts of communication of information and acts of love. Moreover, this position ignores the common doctrine regarding the Heavenly Hierarchy of the angels. In this regard, St. Thomas and theologians in general hold that God reveals His plans to the Highest Choirs of angels, who then are His ministers in communicating this knowledge and directing the ministries of the lower angels. From this it would not follow, that each angel, in virtue of his own beatific vision, receives all the knowledge that is pertinent to his ministry. The basic principle behind the angelic hierarchy is this: God communicates to His creatures a double share in His goodness: a) the goodness of being (the natural perfection of their nature) together with grace; and b) the goodness whereby they are collaborating causes in the economy of creation in that they causally contribute to the growth of lower creations in perfection.
Finally, while it is certainly within the power of God to reveal the secrets of the heart to any angel, there is no cogent reason why this should generally take place, since it would mitigate against the perfection of the social order in the communion of saints. While the angels may well know our spiritual needs even without such a revelation, our prayers to them are not without purpose. We mention here just two. First, the merit of prayer and the power of hope are necessary conditions for the acquisition of many graces. Hence, the mere knowledge of our need does not entitle, in itself, the angels to mediate to us every grace. Secondly, in and through the communication of prayer we also concomitantly manifest to the angels the dispositions of our heart and soul, which knowledge, in good part at least, pertains to the secrets of heart. This knowledge of our interior dispositions is of great pastoral value to the angel, since by it he can better attune his ministry to our inclination and capacity to cooperate with grace.
14. "Has the number of the Angels increased since their creation?"
It is believed by the saints and theologians of the Church that all the angels that exist today, have existed in the past, and will exist in the future, were created by God all at once at the dawn of creation. In other words, as Joan Cruz points out, "it is the universal Catholic belief that after the battle in which the defeated angels were transformed into devils, the number of angels has remained the same. Their number was complete from that time until now" (Joan Cruz, Angels and Demons, p. 14).
Based upon revelation the Church teaches that God created the whole universe at the beginning of time (cf. CCC 327). Only man came about as a subsequent crowning to creation. Hence, this tenet of our faith would preclude any further creation of angels as well as any further physical creation within the universe.
15. Does a lay person have the right and the power to command the devil to leave other persons, places, or things?
Prayers of command, directed to the devil to leave another person, place, or thing, can only be made by a priest. In this regard, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, when he was the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, issued a directive to all the bishops in 1985. The directive stated that not only "it is not licit for the Christian Faithful to use the formula of exorcism against Satan and his apostate angels", but also that "people not duly authorized ought not to direct prayer meetings in which are prayed prayers to obtain the expulsion of the devil, prayers, which directly address the demons, or manifest the desire to know the identity of the demons" (cf. Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, September 29, 1985. 11 Protocol, No. 291170).
Nevertheless, he went on to explain that "the formulation of these norms must in no way dissuade the faithful from praying so that, as Jesus taught us, they may be freed from evil (cf. Mt 6:13)." What is more, he stressed, "pastors... should make use of this opportunity to remember what the Tradition of the Church teaches with regard to the proper function of the Sacraments and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the angels, and of the saints in the spiritual battle of Christians against the wicked spirits" (ibid.).
Lay persons, however, in virtue of their baptismal grace, have the right and authority to command the devil to leave themselves. Nevertheless, we must always keep in mind that the devil has a superhuman strength and intelligence. We are no match for him one on one with only the powers of our human nature at our disposal. We will be easily defeated by him, therefore, if we try to fight him with only our own power and strength. We do well to fight infernal fire with heavenly fire. For this reason, we need to ask Mary, Queen of the Angels, St. Michael the Archangel and our Holy Guardian Angel to fight our battles with the devil for us. For they have not only thousands of years of experience in spiritual warfare; but they also possess the most powerful supernatural spiritual weapons available in Heaven and on earth.
16. Did Jesus have a Guardian Angel during His earthly ministry?
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that Jesus did not need a Guardian Angel during His earthly life because He was guided immediately by the Word of God. That is to say, His human faculties of intellect and will were under the immediate direction of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to whom He was united in Person. As such, Jesus enjoyed an infinitely greater principle of guidance and protection than any angel could provide. This also holds true of His human faculties, since He already enjoyed the Beatific Vision to a degree vastly surpassing that of all the angels. For this reason, it was fitting that Jesus should have, not a Guardian Angel as superior to guide Him, but rather a ministering angel (or angels), as inferior to Him, to serve Him (cf. Summa theologiae, I q.113, a. 4, ad 1). In other words, Jesus had at least one, or possibly several angels, to assist and serve Him during His time on earth. However, none of these angels could be considered as a Guardian Angel.
17. How can I tell the difference between an inspiration coming from the Holy Spirit and an inspiration coming from my Guardian Angel?
For the most part, we cannot tell the difference between the two. The reason for this is that, ultimately, every good inspiration that we receive originates with the Holy Spirit, but is delivered to us by means of an angel. For as St. John of the Cross points out, "Wisdom descends from God through the first hierarchies [of the angels] unto the last and from these last unto men.... Ordinarily, these inspirations are derived from God by means of the angels, and the angels in turn give them to one another without delay. This communication, then, is like that of sunlight shining through many windows placed one after the other" (St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, chapter 12, paragraph 3).
To use another image: the inspirations of the Holy Spirit pass to us through our Guardian Angel in a way that is similar, we could say, to the way in which electrical energy passes from an electrical transformer to an electrical appliance. Just as an electrical transformer filters, modifies, and adapts the voltage of an electrical current so that it will give the right amount of energy to the proper appliance at the opportune time and in the right way; so too our Guardian Angel filters, modifies, and adapts the inspirations and graces that the Holy Spirit wants to give to us, so that we can make use of them according to the amount of grace and wisdom that we possess.
The manner, then, in which inspirations may be traced back to the Holy Spirit are twofold. First, the Holy Spirit can entrust any angel with a special mission, much as St. Gabriel was entrusted with the message of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Secondly, the ministry of every angel is carried out in the power of the Light of Glory and in the efficacy of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Hence, in the ordinary exercise of his ministry, every light, strength and counsel he communicates to us resonates with the power of the Holy Spirit working through His seven Holy Gifts!
18. What about the St. Michael Chaplet?
It is a pious tradition that St. Michael the Archangel revealed to a holy person that he would be pleased if prayers were prayed not only in his honor, but also in honor of all the Choirs of Angels. Moreover, he revealed to this holy person that he would repay all those who practiced this devotion with great graces, particularly in those times when the Church would experience some special trial. For this reason, believing in this apparition, a holy Carmelite nun from the convent of Vetralla, Italy, made it her practice to pray the Chaplet regularly. It was at the request of the nuns of her convent that Pope Pius IX granted, by a decree in 1851, a partial indulgence to anyone who would pray the Chaplet. This special Indulgence, however, is no longer valid today. It was not retained when the collection of prayers graced with indulgences was revised after Vatican II. Nevertheless, the fact that an indulgence was granted initially by a Pope indicates the value of the Chaplet in the eyes of the Church. In short, we may confidently make the praying of the Chaplet a part of our devotion to the holy angels.
19. If I send my Guardian Angel to help another person will I be left unprotected while he is away?
We have nothing to fear if we ask our Guardian Angel to help another person. For our Guardian Angel can move about anywhere in the universe with the speed of thought, since he is a pure spirit, and is not weighed down by a body of flesh and blood. As St. Thomas Aquinas points out, "the swiftness of the angel's movement is not measured by the quantity of his power, but according to the determination of his will" (Summa theologiae, I,q. 53, a. 3, ad 1).
What's more, our Guardian Angel can make his power felt at two or more places at the same time, while still remaining in Heaven before the face of the Father. For as St. Thomas Aquinas points out, "an angel is in a place by the application of his power" to a particular place at a particular time, and not by any kind of physical presence (cf. Summa theologiae, I,q. 52, a. 2). And so, just as I can raise my arm and my leg at one and the same time through the power of my soul, so too can an angel apply his power to various places at one and the same time, even though the distances between these two places may be hundreds, if not thousands, of miles apart. The range of an angel's power is not infinite, of course, as God's is. Nevertheless, we could safely assume that the range of our Guardian Angels power extends to everywhere on earth. Indeed, by uniting us in his "thought" we become "one place" for the angel.
At the same time, it remains true that our Guardian Angel cannot be in different spiritual "places" at the same time. How are we to understand this? The power of an angel is channeled through his will. His will is the appetite of his intellect. What he has "in mind", then, he can act upon, whether it is an individual, a family (even with its members dispersed) or a crowd, a continent, a solar system, or a galaxy. Evidently, there is magnitude limit to the power of any individual angel, which we human beings cannot know or measure; still it is certain that the universe is entrusted to the ministry of the angels. For this reason, it must be true that some powerful angels guide and direct entire galaxies and more. We can perhaps imagine this like a beam of light or the force of gravity. These, of course, are physical realities, and therefore only images to give a notion of angelic power.
It therefore, also follows that the angel cannot divide his intellect in two, such that he simultaneously ponders two different realities. For this reason, he can only act on one of them, the one about which he is actually thinking. Here again, our human thought is quite limited; we do not know the precise limits that regulate the union of diverse objects in the angelic intellect.
20. If I commit a mortal sin, will my Guardian Angel abandon me?
Our Guardian Angel will never leave our side, no matter how deeply we may fall into mortal sin, and no matter how far away we may go from God and the Church. However, if we turn our back on God, and commit a mortal sin, then our relationship with our Guardian Angel will be damaged. For this reason, communication with him will become more difficult due to our hardness of heart and the loss of grace, since our Guardian Angel normally speaks to us through our conscience. Hence, if we refuse to listen to our conscience and commit a mortal sin, it is like refusing to respond to a phone call from our Guardian Angel, or disconnecting our internet connection to his web page. If we fall into the state of mortal sin, then, the capacity of our Guardian Angel to help us will be severely limited. For he will always respect our free will, and will never force himself upon us.
We must always keep in mind, then, that our Guardian Angel has been given to us precisely in order to help us to know and do the will of God. And so, if we, in effect, tell our Guardian Angel—by committing a mortal sin—that we care very little about knowing how to do the will of God, then he will not be able to help us very much. Nevertheless, in His goodness and mercy, God can still send our Guardian Angel to help us when our life may be in grave danger, for example, in a car accident. In any case, notwithstanding our eventual hardness of heart, our Guardian Angel is always seeking the best means and the most fitting moment to offer light in order to lead us to repentance and conversion.
21. Does our Guardian Angel become sad or angry if we commit a sin?
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that angels "do not grieve, either for the sins [committed by men] or for the pains inflicted on men [by God]". (Summa theologiae, I, q. 113, a. 7.) St. Thomas arrives at this conclusion because he reasons that the angels want only what God directly wills or allows to happen. Therefore, since the sins of humans beings are allowed by God's permissive will, then the peace and happiness of the angels are not disturbed by them. St. Thomas speaks thus to counter the idea that the essential happiness of the saints and angels in heaven could be diminished by sins upon earth. At the same time, the angels share in the compassionate love of God towards all mankind, and especially toward the person to whom they have been entrusted by God to act as a Guardian Angel.
Moreover, the angels, because they are spiritual persons who do not possess a body, do not have emotions like human beings do. Nevertheless, we could certainly assume that the angels are not indifferent to our actions. For this reason, they cannot but be pleased by our good deeds, and somehow saddened by our sins. For as Jesus Himself reveals to us in the Gospel, there is "rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (cf. Lk 15:10).
22. Do individual countries and nations have their own Guardian Angel?
It is taught by St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as many Fathers and Doctors of the Church, that every country has its own Guardian Angel. In fact, St. Clement of Alexandria goes so far as to state that whole "regiments of angels are distributed over nations and cities" (cf. Fr. Pascal Parente, The Angels, p. 119).
It should be noted in particular that Portugal has had a strong and deep devotion to its Guardian Angel for centuries. In fact, that nation was given approval by Pope Leo X in the sixteenth century to introduce a special feast day in order to honor its Guardian Angel. The feast day falls on June 10th of each year. France, similarly has consecrated itself over the centuries to St. Michael the Archangel as her patron. This consecration goes back to King Charlemagne in the early years of the 9th Century.
What's more, all Americans should be aware of the fact that a statue has been erected at the National Shrine of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Washington, NJ, in honor of the Guardian Angel of the United States. The statue stands ten feet tall and weighs five tons. It is carved out of carrara marble by a world famous Portuguese sculptor. It was consecrated on July 4th, 1982.
Prayer to the Guardian Angel of the United States
O Glorious Guardian Angel of the United States, to whom God has entrusted the care of our beloved country, we honor you and thank you for the care and protection you have given to this great nation from the first moment of its inception.
O Powerful Angel Guardian, whose watchful glance encompasses this vast land from shore to shore, we know that our sins have grieved you and marred the beauty of our heritage. Pray for us.
O Holy Angel, before the throne of God. Obtain for us, from the Queen of Heaven, the graces we need to overcome the forces of evil so rampant in our beloved land.
Help us, our God-given protector and friend, to respond wholeheartedly to the urgent pleas of the Mother of God at Fatima. Assist us to offer the prayer and sacrifice necessary to bring peace and goodness to our nation.
We want to make you known and loved throughout our land, so that with your help we may become once more "a Nation under God"! Amen.
Imprimatur: Most Rev. Patrick O'Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, May 8, 1959
© 2015 • All texts of the Circular Letters are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without written permission except for personal use.
Past Spiritual Meditations
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