Memorial of the Guardian Angels
The term guardian angel refers to the belief that each person has an angel who is available to shepherd their soul through life, and to help bring them to God. The feast of the guardian angels first appeared in Spain during the sixteenth century. It was extended to the universal Church and made obligatory in 1670 by Pope Paul V who authorised a feast day in honour of guardian angels. Pope Clement X changed the date to 2 October and Leo XIII, in 1883, upgraded the date to a double major feast.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church proclaims that “from infancy to death, human life is surrounded by the angels’ watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (CCC, n. 336).
This teaching on angels also comes directly from Christ who said, “See that you despise not 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”. Matthew 18:10.
We have learnt previously (see the feast of the Archangels, 29th September) that there are nine choirs of angels. It is from the lowest of the nine choirs, the nearest to ourselves, that the Guardian Angels are selected.
An angel is a pure spirit created by God. The Old Testament theology included the belief in angels: the name applied to certain spiritual beings or intelligences of heavenly residence, employed by God as the ministers of His will.
The English word “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, which means ‘messenger’. In the Old Testament, with two exceptions, the Hebrew word for “angel” is malak, also meaning ‘messenger’. The prophet Malachi took his name from this word. He was himself a messenger, and he prophesied about the coming of “the messenger of the covenant”, Jesus Christ.
Mostly, we use the word angelic to describe another person’s nature. We wrongly attribute this word to the Angels nature, thinking this is what it ought to be referring to. St. Augustine teaches us that, “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel’.
For example the office of the cherubim was to be involved in the worship and praise of God. They also keep Adam and Eve from slipping back into Eden. The angels saved Lot and helped destroy the cities of the plains and in Exodus, Moses follows an angel, and at one point an angel is appointed leader of Israel. Michael is mentioned at several points, Raphael figures large in the story of Tobit, and Gabriel delivered the Annunciation of the coming of Christ. In all these cases their office is described not how ‘sweet’ ‘lovely’ or ‘kind they are’. The office of the Guardian angels is to shepherd our soul.
In today’s first reading we find the word “lord of hosts” seven times. The word hosts is a translation of the Hebrew word sabaoth, meaning “armies”—a reference to the angelic armies of heaven. Thus, another way of saying “Lord of hosts” is “God of the angelic armies of heaven.”
Think about it; God does not only have his armies of angels in heaven, he has one for each of us on earth. Imagine a billion angels amongst us.
My mother taught me to love my guardian angel. She taught me this prayer which many mothers, I am sure taught their children. I share that prayer with you on the feast of the guardian angels.
Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day (or night) be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.