Recently a nineteen-year-old girl was trapped in her car after an accident. While rescue workers worked to free her, she asked them to pray out loud with her. A man appeared who prayed with her and anointed her with oil. Then the mystery man disappeared. The media was hot with reports suggesting that he was an angel. He turned out to be priest. This incident reveals how deeply angels are embedded in our culture. We like to believe in a supernatural world peopled with powerful beings who look out for us. The Catholic Church teaches that angels are a truth of faith, supported by Scripture and tradition. Here are ten things I learned about angels while doing research for my next book.
1. Angels are so majestic and powerful that we would probably faint if one appeared to us. Jewish people believe that angels were created from fire, while Muslims believe they were created from light.
2. In the early biblical books like Genesis, angels were synonymous with God. Some theologians today propose that they are personifications of God’s attributes.
3. Angels are pure spirit but appear in the Bible as young men. This is how artists first depicted them. Later angels were given wings, just like the Roman gods Cupid (Eros), Mercury (Hermes), and Victoria (Nike), the goddess of victory.
4. Halos were placed around the heads of emperors to indicate their divinity and power. At first a halo was a disk behind the head. Then it became just the outline of a disk. Halos were adopted by later Christian artists for the angels.
5. St. Thomas Aquinas is called the Angelic Doctor because he clarified beliefs about the angels. For one thing he explained that each angel is a separate species.
6. An anonymous Dominican called Pseudo-Dionysius compiled the hierarchies of angels, ranking nine groups from greatest to least. These names are drawn from Scripture. The greatest ones, the seraphim and cherubim praise God around his throne like a court around a king.
7. Although the Jewish group the Sadducees did not believe in angels, Jesus did. He spoke of children whose angels always beheld the face of his Father.
8. Angels take our prayers and sacrifices to God. It’s a popular belief that when we die, angels take us to heaven.
9. Some people believe that by asking to know the name of their guardian angel and sitting quietly (or sleeping) it will be revealed to them.
10. A number of saints have seen angels. St. Pio of Pietrelcino (Padre Pio) could see his guardian angel and other people’s. Some people sent their guardian angel to him when they needed his prayers.
When has an angel come to your rescue?