Priests & Guardian Angels

Guardian angels are hardy warriors that help pastors to sanctify their people

October 2 is the Memorial of the Guardian Angels. Once a year, the Church reminds us of an important tradition that points to God’s Providential care: that each human person receives a guardian angel to accompany him in life. Your path to heaven is not solitary; you are accompanied by someone who is already there, someone who wants to bring you there, someone who has been given a special mission by God. You have a friend in high places who is waiting for you. The Gospels tell us, for example, of how God sent the Archangel Gabriel as his special messenger to Zechariah and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to speak of John the Baptist and of Jesus. But do you consider that God has also put “his angels in charge of you,” too? (Ps 91:11). Does that tell you how precious you are to God?

Remembering this tradition is important, because the secular culture has created a kind of caricature angelology even as the Church tended away from speaking about angels. Let’s replace that hokey schlock with Catholic truth!

I encourage Catholics to speak (i.e., to pray) to their Guardian Angels daily. Ours is an age suffering from acute loneliness, yet God has given you a companion in all your ways. Don’t forget him!

But I have a special request today for priests. Do you pray, do you invoke the Guardian Angels of those persons entrusted to your pastoral care? Remember that God entrusts His angels to men in order to lead them to salvation. As priests, that’s your “business,” too. And you’re not in it alone.

I raise this idea having read somewhere that it was I think St. Jean Vianney who regularly invoked the guardian angels of his parishioners and penitents. That example seems worth emulation.

Some priests have recovered the Leonine St. Michael Prayer (“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…”) at the end of Mass. The prayer presents an image of spiritual warfare with Michael, the “prince of the heavenly host,” charged by God’s Power with casting into hell Satan and his minions prowling the world for spiritual destruction.

In that great battle, one cannot imagine angels as spiritual noncombatants. All have to take sides and make a decision for Good (i.e., God) or evil (i.e., themselves). I imagine it as the angelic version of the Petrine Confession at Caesarea Philippi, with God (first) asking: “Who do you say I am?”

My message to priests: If there were no spiritual pacifists in that war, then realize that your peoples’ guardian angels are battle-tested and hardy warriors, ready to do what it takes (provided they enjoy their charge’s cooperation, which is the challenge of love and grace) to bring them safely home. They value you as a co-combatant, marked by sacramental character to teach, govern, and sanctify those people. Should you not become an effective spiritual tag team?

Perhaps, as you offer Mass on this Memorial, you might want to make that alliance?

 

John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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