Saints and angels

Saints and angels

Every single human being, whether Christian or non-Christian, in a state of grace or a state of sin, enjoys the constant care of a unique angelic spirit not assigned to anyone else.

Angels are not omnipotent, and they cannot penetrate one’s inner thoughts any more than another human person can. But we can, by an act of our own will, share our thoughts and confide in our guardian angel.

If this is starting to sound a bit New Age, bear with me. I am not suggesting we can sensibly perceive our angels. We can’t look upon them with our eyes, or hear their whispered warnings, or commune with them mentally. (As a matter of fact, I made a considered attempt during my prayer tonight to learn the name of my guardian angel, and I got nothing.)

Nonetheless, the Church has always encouraged us to heed our guardian angels. The Church Fathers saw in the Sacred Scriptures advice not only for the Ancient Israelites to heed the guardian angel of their nation, but also advice for each of us. “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice.” (Ex 23: 20-21.)

Hence, St Ambrose insisted: “We should pray to the angel who is given us as a Guardian.”

St Bernard’s exhortations are even stronger:

“If we truly love our Guardian Angel, we cannot fail to have boundless confidence in his powerful intercession with God and firm faith in his willingness to help us. This will inspire us to frequently invoke his aid and protection, and ask his counsel in the many problems which confront us.”

St Thérèse implored her angel to kindle in her heart the same burning zeal for God which animated the angel. That’s a prayer I might use myself!

St Pio, who being a mystic was familiar with the angels in a way the rest of us are not, strongly encouraged devotion to one’s angel:

Develop the beautiful habit of always thinking of him; that near us is a celestial spirit, who, from the cradle to the tomb, does not leave us for an instant, guides us, protects us as a friend, a brother; will always be a consolation to us especially in our saddest moments.

St Josemaría fostered the habit of greeting the angel of every person he met — interiorly and indiscernibly. He also counselled conspiring with the angels when praying for and evangelising one’s neighbour:

Win over the guardian Angel of that person whom you wish to draw to your apostolate. He is always a great ‘accomplice.’

  • Adri

    Father John I wish to share this letter from Father Pio related to Guardian Angels. God bless.

    Dear daughter of Jesus,

    May your heart always be the temple of the most holy Trinity; may Jesus increase in your soul the ardour of his love and may he always smile on you as on all souls whom he loves. May most holy Mary smile on you throughout all the events of your life, and abundantly replace the earthly mother you lack.

    May your good guardian angel always watch over you; may he be your guide on the rugged path of life. May he always keep you in the grace of Jesus and sustain you with his hands so that you may not stumble on a stone. May he protect you under his wings from all the snares of the world, the devil and the flesh.

    Have great devotion, Annita, to this good angel; how consoling it is to know that near us is a spirit who, from the cradle to the tomb, does not leave us even for an instant, not even when we dare to sin. And this heavenly spirit guides and protects us like a friend, a brother.

    But it is extremely consoling to know that this angel prays without ceasing for us; offers to God all our good actions, our thoughts, our desires, if they are pure.

    For pity’s sake, don’t forget this invisible companion, always present, always ready to listen to us and even more ready to console us. O delightful intimacy, O delightful company! If we could only understand it!

    Always keep him present to your mind’s eye. Often remember the presence of this angel; thank him, pray to him, always keep him good company. Open up yourself to him and confide your suffering to him. Have a constant fear of offending the purity of his gaze. Know this and keep it well imprinted on your mind. He is so delicate, so sensitive. Turn to him in times of supreme anxiety and you will experience his beneficial help.

    Never say you are alone in sustaining the battle against your enemies. Never say you have nobody to whom you can open up and confide. You would do this heavenly messenger a grave wrong.

    As regards those interior locutions, don’t worry but be calm. What you must avoid is that your heart becomes attached to these locutions. Don’t give too much importance to them; show that you are indifferent. Neither despise love, nor long for such things. Always reply to these voices: “Jesus, if it is you who are speaking to me, let me see the facts and the effects of your words, that is, holy virtue in me.”

    Humble yourself before the Lord and confide in him, spending your energies by divine grace, in practicing the virtues, and then let grace work in you as God wishes. It is virtue which sanctifies the soul and not supernatural phenomena.

    And don’t confuse yourself by trying to understand which locutions come from God. If God is their author, one of the principle signs is that as soon as those voices are heard, they fill the soul with fear and confusion, but afterwards, they leave a divine peace. On the contrary, when the author of internal locutions is the devil, they begin with a false security, followed by agitation and an unspeakable malaise.

    I do not doubt at all that God is the author of those locutions, but one must be very cautious because often, the enemy mixes a lot of his own work through them. But this must not frighten you; this is the trial to which even the greatest saints and most enlightened souls were subjected, and they were acceptable to the Lord. You must simple be careful never to believe in these locutions too easily, especially when they concern how you must behave and what you must do. But you must receive them and submit them to the judgment of him who directs you. Then you should resign yourself to his decision.

    Therefore it is best to receive similar locutions with great caution and constant indifference. Behave in this way and everything will increase your merit before the Lord. Don’t worry about your spiritual life; Jesus loves you and very much, and you try to correspond to his love by always advancing more and more in holiness before God and men.

    Pray vocally also; as the time has not yet come to leave these prayers, and patiently and humbly bear the difficulties you experience in doing this. Be ready, also, to undergo distractions and aridity, and you must by no means neglect prayer and meditation. It is the Lord who wishes to treat you in this manner for your spiritual advantage.

    Forgive me if I end here. Only God knows how much it cost me to write this letter. I am very ill; pray a great deal that the Lord may desire to free me from this body soon.

    I bless you along with the excellent Francesca. May you live and die in the arms of Jesus.

    F. Pio

    • Beautiful advice. Thanks Adri!

  • Cathy

    Guardian Angels, they are very special to ones soul, I marvel at the reality that we have several in our house as there are several souls, quite a crowd haha!
    I am not sure, but I think that one is not supposed to name or seek the name of their Guardian Angel, as we are not an Authority over them, as it says in the Prayer ” to Rule and Guide”. Also one must be aware that if one seeks the name of their Angel, it can be that the Angel not respond but the diabolical instead. Any thoughts or further knowledge on this Fr. John?

    • You’re quite right, Cathy. Taylor Marshall blogged about this a few years ago: Naming Your Guardian Angel: Don’t Do It.

      According to the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 216 (under the heading about Devotion to the Holy Angels):

      The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture.

      Of course, seeking the name of one’s guardian angel is not the same as naming one’s guardian angel. Seeking their name is an old Catholic custom which some of the saints recommended. I heard of a homily recently from a pious and faithful priest who implied one is morally culpable if one is ignorant of the name of one’s angel.

      As always, discernment of spirits is advisable. The enemy is always ready to confuse and distress.

      • Cathy

        Morally culpable? I have to say that seems a little harsh, I think I will stick to just Guardian Angel.
        One will also notice that the named Angels in scripture, Gabriel, Raphael and Michael all end with EL, meaning of God. It is also mentioned in scripture reguarding seeking the name of an Angel Judges chapter 13 13:18
        And interesting passage regarding honoring an Angel above God, for it is He we should Honor and Adore and be thankful, Angels are messengers for God under His Authority. Authority over Angels does not belong to us as humans. Cheers for the Taylor Marshall link, it is actually quite clear to me the dangers of naming or seeking the name of ones guardian Angel, Demons are masters of trickery, to whom many have become victim.
        Do you know the origin of seeking ones Guardian Angels name?

  • Cindy

    I was wondering where I might be able to obtain a copy of that letter by Padre Pio posted by Adri. Such a beautiful and insightful letter that helped me immensely. I would like to have a copy for my own personal use!

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