This has been a week of celebrating angels: September 29, Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael; and October 2, our guardian 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 accept the Church’s word that there are angels in the universe. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. Basil: “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life” (336).
Most people believe in these majestic good spirits. Jesus and the Gospel writers apparently did. Jesus’s birth was announced by the Angel Gabriel and St. Joseph was guided four times by an angel. Angels appeared to Bethlehem shepherds. After Jesus was tempted, angels came and waited on him (Matthew 4:5–11) Later, in the Garden of Olives “an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength” (Luke 22:39–44). On Easter an angel rolled back the stone at the entrance to his tomb.
Jesus spoke about angels:
“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
He also claimed that he would acknowledge before the angels of God everyone who acknowledges him before others. (Luke 12:8)
Jesus said, “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
On meeting Nathanael, Jesus promised that he would “see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51).
When Jesus was arrested and Peter cut off a slave’s ear with his sword, Jesus chided, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).
He said that when the Son of Man comes in glory, he “will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call” to gather the elect (Matthew 24:30–31).
Angels are a form of God’s goodness and divine providence. Stories about their supernatural protection abound.
Over the bed of ninety-year-old Sister Anne was the picture of a guardian angel guiding two children along the path. 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.”
Another Sister has a similar tale. When she entered the convent, postulants wore mantillas in the chapel. One day on the way to the chapel, as she went down the marble staircase, she raised her arms to pin on her mantilla. Suddenly she tripped and pitched forward. She felt an arm around her, preventing her from falling down the stairs, but no one was in sight! Sister believed it was her guardian angel who protected her.
As a family drove along on a Sunday, they wanted to go to Mass. The mother told the two boys in the backseat, “Pray to your guardian angels that we find a Catholic church.” The boys prayed to their angels, whom they had named John and Tom. The father turned a corner, and there was a Catholic church. It was the Church of the Guardian Angels!
Although we are under an angel’s care, we shouldn’t take risks: Never drive faster than your angel can fly!
It’s thought that an angel is appointed to care for each town. In fact, according to Jewish midrash, every blade of grass has an angel bending over it and whispering, “Grow, grow.”
Would you like to learn more about angels? My book The Catholic Companion to Angels is chock-full of information and interesting facts about them.
If you would like to start an interesting conversation, ask people if they believe in angels!
• When has an angel come to your rescue?