Memorial to our Guardian Angel – Feast day – 2nd of October
Do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that they are angels in heaven always looking upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10).
Jesus speaks these words immediately before he teaches the Parable of the Lost Sheep that shows Jesus’ deep love for each and every person, for each of the “little ones.” Not only does He seek out the lost and straying sheep, He also gives them their own guardian angels, who always look upon the face of God, and whose sole task is to care for us, to get us to Heaven. It is these angelic beings whom we honour today.
The fact that every person is assigned a personal guardian angel is deeply rooted not only in Scripture, but also in the writings of the saints and the teachings of the Church.
In the Psalms we read,
“For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11–12).
Saint Jerome, in commenting on the above-mentioned passage from the Gospel of Matthew, says, “The worth of souls is so great that from birth each one has an angel assigned to him for his protection.”
More recently, Pope Saint John Paul II taught, in a General Audience on August 6, 1986, “God has entrusted to the angels a ministry in favour of people. Therefore the Church confesses her faith in the guardian angels, venerating them in the liturgy with an appropriate feast and recommending recourse to their protection by frequent prayer”.
Finally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Saint Basil, says, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life” (CCC #336).
Though the reality of guardian angels is often spoken of to children as a comfort to them when they face fears, the guardian angels are for all of us, and we ought not forget about our own. Angels are not only intercessors, they are mediators. This means that God entrusts them with His divine power, to act in His name and on His behalf, to deliver His grace, reveal His Truth, direct us down the right path, and protect us from evil.
Though God is fully capable of distributing His grace Himself, it is His will that all He bestows upon us come to us through mediators who are instruments, cooperating with His divine plan.
The memorial that we celebrate today did not become a universal feast until the latter part of the seventeenth century, when Pope Clement X placed it on the Roman Calendar. Pope Leo XIII elevated the feast and emphasised its importance in the late nineteenth century.
Around the time he did so, he also composed the “Saint Michael the Archangel” prayer and mandated that it be prayed at the end of every Mass. The feast of the Archangels is celebrated September 29, and a few days later, the memorial for all the guardian angels. These two feasts emphasise the fact that God uses some angels for specific purposes that affect all people and that He uses guardian angels to care for each of our specific needs.
Based upon the Old and New Testaments, the teachings of early Church Fathers, and the detailed teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Church generally accepts that there is a hierarchy of angels consisting of nine choirs that are further divided into three triads. The first triad consists of the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. Their duty is exclusively the service of God, worshiping Him continuously. The second triad consists of the Dominions, Virtues, and Powers. These three choirs are tasked with the governance of the created Universe. The third triad consists of the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. These beings are closest to humanity and act as mediators between God and man.
Thus, though Saint Thomas defined the guardian angels as the lowest of the choirs of angels, this should only be understood to mean that their direct concern is the care of humanity.
Nonetheless, they continually behold the vision of God.
Regarding the function of the guardian angels, Saint Thomas Aquinas says that every person receives an angel at birth. This means that guardian angels are not tied to baptism but to human activity in this world, specifically human activity that begins at birth.
These angels are not recycled, so to speak, but are assigned to one person and one person alone.
The guardian angels can act upon our senses and imaginations, inspiring us one way or another. They can put ideas before our minds to direct us toward God’s will, but they cannot control our wills.
By working upon our senses, they can cause us to feel what is right or wrong and urge us to make the right choices. They act contrary to the fallen angels, or demons, who tempt us through false reasoning and base sensate delights.
Finally, in Heaven, the guardian angel’s role of leading us to salvation will be complete., Saint Thomas believed that even in Heaven they will have the role of communicating with us and continuing to enlighten us with God’s never-ending and deepening Truth.
As we honour the celestial hosts of the guardian angels, ponder your own angel today.
In Heaven, we will enjoy an eternal face-to-face relationship with our angels. That relationship will be perfectly steeped in the love of God, and our union with them will be unbreakable.
While on earth, we often pay little attention to our angels, but they are forever attentive to us. Though we might not always speak prayerfully to our intercessors and mediators, try to do so.
Have confidence that you have a mediator who stands before God and does nothing other than plead on your behalf, continuously working to bring you to eternal salvation.
Oh Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here; ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen. Angels of God, pray for me. Jesus, in you I trust.
A happy St. Patrick’s day to everyone, near and far.
There is a wonderful portrait gallery in London, just around the corner from the National gallery. There you find portraits of all kinds of people going back over several centuries. The art of portraying someone well on canvas is a very special one. If we happen to be familiar with the person who is being portrayed, we instinctively know by looking at the portrait whether or not it is a good one. There is more involved in portraying someone well than representing accurately the physical features of the person. A good portrait artist will always capture something of the spirit of the person.
The beatitudes in today’s gospel reading could be understood as a portrait of a disciple of Jesus. There, Jesus paints a picture of what it means to be his disciple. More fundamentally, the beatitudes are a portrait of Jesus himself, a kind of self-portrait. The beatitudes describe his core attitudes and values. He more than anyone one else is poor in spirit, trusting in God before all else; he is gentle, in that he is firmly committed to God’s purpose, yet without any trace of arrogance; he is the one who mourns because people are not doing what God wants, and who, himself, hungers and thirsts to do God’s will; he is merciful to all who are broken in body and spirit; he is pure in heart in that his heart is not divided but is totally given over to the love of God and the service of all God’s children; he is the peacemaker who seeks by his life and his death to reconcile all people to God and to each other. He is the one who was prepared to be persecuted in the doing God’s will and in the carrying out of God’s purpose.
If the beatitudes are a portrait of Jesus, they are also a portrait of what we are called to become as followers of Jesus. The beatitudes announce that those who live by these attitudes and values of Jesus are blessed because of the future that God has in store for them. When we hear the beatitudes we might be slow to recognize ourselves in the portrait that they present. It would be a pity to look upon the beatitudes as a lofty ideal that Jesus lived to the full but that is far beyond us. When Jesus spoke these beatitudes he was looking at men and women like ourselves, and he was declaring them blessed because, to some extent at least, they fitted the portrait that he was presenting. We should all be able to find a niche for ourselves somewhere among the beatitudes. In the fourth beatitude, for example, Jesus declares blessed those who hunger and thirst for what is right. This beatitude does not declare blessed those who are doing what is right, what God wills as Jesus reveals it. It declares blest those who keep on striving to do what God wants, those who hunger and thirst for it. This beatitude acknowledges that doing what God wants is a goal that always lies ahead of us. What matters is that we never cease to strive forward towards that goal, that we do not allow ourselves to become complacent. We do not give up the struggle to reach for what God is calling us towards. In the words of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we ‘strain forward to what lies ahead’, we ‘press on towards the goal’. Even though we repeatedly fall short, as long as we earnestly seek to do what God is asking of us, and keep alive our desire to respond to God’s call as it comes to us through God’s Son, we are declared blessed, we are congratulated.
The previous beatitude, the third one, refers to those who mourn. Those who hunger and thirst for what is right will invariably be people who mourn, in the sense that they will be aware how far they have yet to go, and that will sadden them. Commentators on the beatitudes say that ‘those who mourn’ are best understood as those who are painfully aware that God’s kingdom has not yet come in their own lives or in the society that they inhabit. In other words, they mourn over the presence of sin and evil in themselves and in others. ‘Mourning’ in that sense is the evitable accompaniment of hungering and thirsting for what is right, while knowing that our hunger and thirst is far from being satisfied. The ‘mourning’ mentioned in the beatitudes is akin to the weeping of Jesus because the people of Jerusalem did not recognize Jesus’
From Fr. Martins Daily Reflections
Lord of perfection, You call me to journey with You up the high mountain of holiness. May I always see this journey as one that is glorious and fulfilling. I choose the life of perfection to which I am called and pray that I will always be open to the deepest moral truths You wish me to live. Jesus, I trust in You!