Today is September 29, feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. The day after tomorrow we will be in October, the month dedicated to the angels. And October 2 is the feast of our Guardian Angels. You probably memorized the prayer to your guardian angel: “Angel of God, my guardian dear . . .”
Do you believe in angels? Science cannot prove that angels exist. Neither can it prove that they don’t exist. Believing in angels is a matter of faith. As Catholics, we take the Church’s word for it that there are angels in the universe. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 decreed that God created spiritual beings that we call angels. Long before that, Jesus referred to them.
Once I was invited to speak to a group about the angels. My first reaction was, Why angels? There are so many weighty topics about our faith and angels are just a footnote. Then a strange thing happened. Two business friends invited me and my assistant, Sister Julie, out to dinner. One of them, Leo, proudly drove us to The Lobster Pot in his brand new white car. There we enjoyed a delicious meal and resisted the waiter’s urging to indulge in dessert.
On returning to the car in the parking lot, we discovered that the lights had been left on and the battery was dead. The manager of the restaurant came to our rescue. He moved his truck next to Leo’s car, where a space providentially was empty. After the rescuer attached jumper cables, over and over Leo tried to start the car, to no avail. “Your car is too new,” the manager explained regretfully. “My cables don’t fit the battery terminals.” Still he kept trying.
Suddenly an inspiration struck. Because I had angels on the brain, I prayed to Leo’s guardian angel: “Leo is such a kind gentleman. This is embarrassing for him. Please help start his car.”
Instantly the engine turned over! We thanked the manager, who replied, “Next time have dessert!” (A few days later Sister Julie and I did return for dessert.) My appreciation of the angels has grown. I even wrote a little book about them: The Catholic Companion to Angels available from me or ACTA Publications, where it is on sale for $2.00. You can choose from three different covers.
Bishop Robert Barron tells this story: A man was flying a plane through a severe storm. His communication system failed, and he had no means to make it to the airport. Just as he was about to give up hope, a strong voice came over the radio. It guided him to the runway of a small airport he didn’t know of. When he landed safely, he realized that the airport was abandoned. No personnel were on the ground or in the tower.
Displayed over ninety-year-old Sister Anne’s bed was the picture of the guardian angel guiding two children along their path. When I remarked on the picture, Sister explained. “When I was a child, I took a bus home from school. Each day I would go down the stairs of the bus, leap off, and dash across the street. One day as I tried to go down the stairs, an arm held me back. But there was no one there. A few seconds later, a car whizzed around the bus and sped on. If I had gotten off the bus, I would have been killed or hurt. Ever since then I’ve had a devotion to my guardian angel.”
Here are some angelic facts:
• Angels are pure spirits. They are not bound by time or space. They are invisible but can assume human form. G.K. Chesterton wittily noted, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”
• The main job of angels is adoring God. Some of them also serve as God’s messengers.
• The nine choirs of angels is deduced from Scripture references to them.
• From the book of Revelation we learn that some angels rebelled and a war broke out in heaven. The conquered angels we know as devils were consigned to hell. Jesus said, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning” (Luke 10:17). The devils still war against God by trying to turn us humans against him.
• Angels are depicted with wings because Scripture describes them this way. Plus wings symbolize that angels can travel swiftly.
• Angels are shown playing instruments As the most disembodied of the arts, music is fitting for angels.
• The Sadducees denied any sort of spiritual beings, while the Pharisees, like Jesus believed in angels.
• A number of saints have been visited by angels. Among them are Frances of Rome, Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila, and Padre Pio.
• The appearance of an angel to a human being is called an angelophany.
When have you had an experience with an angel?
Here is the hymn about “Watchers,” a word for angels. It has many pictures of angels, although fuzzy.