October 2, 2017: THE HOLY GUARDIAN ANGELS
October 2, 2017: THE HOLY GUARDIAN ANGELS
Rank: Greater Double.
“Behold, I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Respectfully observe him, and hear his voice,
and do not think him one to be contemned: for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and my name is in him. But if thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I shall speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee: and
my angel shall go before thee, and shall bring thee into the place which I have prepared.”
(Exodus, xxiii. 23)
given His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
(Ps, xc. 11-12)
O God, who, in thy wonderful providence, hast been pleased to appoint thy holy Angels for our Guardians: mercifully hear our prayers, and grant we may be always secure under their protection, and enjoy their fellowship for ever in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
The Guardian Angels let us sing
Appointed by our heavenly King,
To help our frailty and o’er-throw
Our crafty undermining foe.
Th’ Apostate Angel’s hopes now crost,
And all his ancient honours lost,
He vents his spleen on human race
Design’d by God to take his place.
O watchful Guardian, then descend,
Protect and shield us from the fiend;
Let no disease our souls molest,
And calm those ills that break our rest.
O Trinity, we praise thy name,
Whose God-head rules the triple frame.
Let every age, and every thing,
Thy endless glory always sing. Amen.
V. In the sight of the Angels I will sing to thee, O my God,
R. I will adore thee in thy holy temple, and praise thy name.
Prayer to our Guardian Angel.
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here;
Ever this day/night be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
“A plenary indulgence at the hour of death, to be gained by the faithful who have been accustomed to say this invocation frequently during life, provided that they go to confession and Communion, or, at least, make an Act of Contrition, invoke the Holy Name of Jesus, orally, if possible, or at least mentally, and accept death with resignation from the hand of God as the just punishment for their sins (Apostolic Brief, Oct. 2, 1795; S. C. Ind., June 11, 1796 and May 15, 1821).”
The Distribution of Offices among the Nine Choirs of Angels.
ALTHOUGH the solemnity of September 29 celebrates the praises of all the nine glorious choirs, yet the piety of the faithful, in the latter ages, desired to have a special day consecrated to the Guardian Angels. Several churches having taken the initiative, and kept the feast under various rites and on different days, Paul V (1608) authorized its celebration ad libitum. Clement X (1670) established it by precept as a feast of double rite on October 2, the first free day after Michaelmas, on which it thus remains in some way dependent. [Pope Leo XIII on the 5th of April, 1883 favoured this feast to the extent of raising it to the rank of a Greater Double.]
It is of faith, on the testimony of the Scriptures and of unanimous tradition, that God commits to His angels the guardianship of men, who are called to contemplate Him together with these blessed spirits in their common fatherland. Catholic theology teaches that this protection is extended to every member of the human race, without any distinction of just and sinners, infidels and baptized. To ward off dangers; to uphold man in his struggle against the demons; to awaken in him holy thoughts; to prevent him from sinning, and even, at times, to chastise him; to pray for him, and present his prayers to God: such is the office of the Guardian Angel. So special is his mission, that one angel does not undertake the guardianship of several persons simultaneously; so diligent is his care, that he follows his ward from the first day to the last of his mortal existence, receiving the soul as it quits this life, and bearing it from the feet of the sovereign Judge to the place it has merited in heaven, or to its temporary sojourn in the place of expiation and purification.
It is from the lowest of the nine choirs, the nearest to ourselves, that the Guardian Angels are for the most part selected. God reserves to the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones the honour of forming His own immediate court. The Dominations, from the steps of His throne, preside over the government of the universe; the Virtues watch over the course of nature’s laws, the preservation of species, and the movements of the heavens; the Powers hold the spirits of wickedness in subjection. The human race in its entirety, as also its great social bodies, the nations and the churches, are confided to the Principalities; while the Archangels, who preside over smaller communities, seem also to have the office of transmitting to the Angels the commands of God, together with the love and light which come down even to us from the first and highest hierarchy. O the depths of the wisdom of God! Thus, then, the admirable distribution of offices among the choirs of heavenly spirits terminates in the function committed to the lowest rank, the guardianship of man, for whom the universe subsists. Such is the teaching of the School; and the apostle, in like manner, says: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?’ (Heb, i. 14)
But God, magnificent as He is towards the whole human race, honours in a special manner the princes of His people, those who are most favoured by His grace, or who rule the earth in His name; the saints testify, that a supereminent perfection, or a higher mission in Church or State, ensures to the individual the assistance of a superior spirit, without the angel that was first deputed being necessarily removed from his charge. Moreover, with regard to the work of salvation, the Guardian Angel has no fear of being left alone at his post; at his request, and at God’s command, the troops of his blessed companions, who fill heaven and earth, are ever ready to lend him their aid. These noble spirits, acting under the eye of God whose love they desire to second by all possible means, have secret alliances between them, which sometimes induce between their clients, even on earth, unions the mystery whereof will be revealed in the light of eternity.
‘How profound a mystery,’ says Origen, ‘is the apportioning of souls to the angels destined for their guardians! It is a divine secret, part of the universal economy centred in the Man-God. Nor is it without ineffable order that the ministries of earth, the many departments of nature, are allotted to the heavenly Virtues; fountains and rivers, winds and forests, plants, living creatures of land and sea, whose various functions harmonize together by the angels directing them all to a common end.’
Again, on these words of Jeremias: How long shall the land mourn? (Jeremias, xii. 4) Origen, supported by the authority of his translator St. Jerome, continues: ‘It is through each one of us that the earth rejoices or mourns; and not only the earth, but water, fire, air, all the elements; by which name we must here understand not insensible matter, but the angels who are set over all things on earth. There is an angel of the land, who, with his companions, mourns over our crimes. There is an angel of the waters to whom are applied the words of the psalm: The waters saw Thee, and they were afraid, and the depths were troubled; great was the noise of the waters; the clouds sent out a sound, for Thy arrows pass. (Ps, lxxvi. 17, 18)’
How grand is nature viewed in this light! It is thus the ancients, more truthful as well as more poetical than our generation, always considered the universe. Their error lay in adoring these mysterious powers, to the detriment of the only God, under whom they stoop that bear up the world. (Job, ix. 13)
‘Air and earth and ocean, everything is full of angels,’ says St. Ambrose. ‘Eliseus, besieged by a whole army, felt no fear; for he beheld invisible cohorts assisting him. May the prophet open thine eyes also; may the enemy, be he legion, not terrify thee; thou thinkest thyself hemmed in, and thou art free: there are more with us than with them (IV Kings, vi. 16).’
But let us return to our own specially-deputed angel, and meditate on this other testimony: ‘The noble guardian of each one of us sleeps not, nor can he be deceived. Close thy door, and make the darkness of night; but remember, thou art never alone; he has no need of daylight in order to see thy actions.’ And who is it that speaks thus? Not a father of the Church, but a pagan, the slave philosopher Epictetus.
Let us listen to the Abbot of Clairvaux [St. Bernard], who here gives free rein to his eloquence: ‘In every place show respect to thy angel. Let gratitude for his benefits incite thee to honour his greatness. Love this thy future coheir, the guardian appointed for thee by the Father during thy childhood. For though we are sons of God, we are as yet but children, and long and dangerous is our journey. But God hath given His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk; and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon. (Ps, xc. 11-13) Yes; where the road is smooth enough for a child, they will content themselves with guiding thee, and sustaining thy footsteps, as one does for children. But if trials threaten to surpass thy strength, they will bear thee up in their hands. Oh those hands of angels I Thanks to them, what fearful straits we have passed through, as it were without thinking, and with no other impression left upon us, than that of a nightmare suddenly dispelled!
The Holy Angel-Guardians.
Amongst the adorable dispensations of the divine mercy in favour of men, it is not the least, that he has been pleased to establish a communion of spiritual commerce between us on earth and his holy angels, whose companions we hope one day to be in the kingdom of his glory. This communion is entertained on our side by the religious veneration with which we honour them as God's faithful, holy, and glorious ministering spirits, and beg their charitable succour and intercession with God; on their side by their solicitude and prayers for us, and the many good offices they do us. The providence of God, always infinitely wise, infinitely holy, and infinitely gracious, vouchsafes to employ superior created beings in the execution of his will in various dispensations towards other inferior creatures. According to St. Thomas, when he created the angels, he enlightened the lowest amongst them by those that are supreme in those glorious orders of spirits. It is clear, in the holy scriptures, that those blessed spirits which we call angels (as much as to say God's messengers) receive this very name from their office, in being employed by him in frequently executing his commissions in our favour and defence. That he does this on many occasions, both general and particular, has been abundantly shown elsewhere from the testimony of the holy scriptures. One of the most merciful appointments of God relating to this economy established by him between the blessed angels and men, is, that he commissions chosen high spirits to be particular guardians to each of us. In this providence are displayed the infinite majesty, wisdom, and power of God, and the excess of his goodness towards his creatures; also a deep foundation is laid of the greatest charity and the highest mutual joy in each other between the angels and the elect for all eternity in their happy society of heaven.
That particular angels are appointed and commanded by God to guard and watch over each particular person among his servants, that is, all the just, or such as are in the state of grace, is an article of the Catholic faith, of which no ecclesiastical writer within the pale of the church, in any age, ever entertained the least doubt. That every man, even among sinners and infidels, has a guardian angel, is the doctrine of the most eminent among the fathers, and so strongly supported by the most sacred authority, that it seems not to be called in question, especially as to all the faithful. The psalmist assures us, “He hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Ps, xc. 11) And in another place, “The angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear him, and he shall deliver them.” (Ps, xxxiii. 8) The patriarch Jacob prayed his good angel to bless his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasses: “The angel that delivereth me from all evils bless these boys.” (Gen, xlviii. 16) Judith said, “His angel hath been my keeper, both going hence, and abiding there, and returning from thence.” (Judith, xiii. 20) Christ deters us from scandalizing any of his little ones, because their angels always behold the face of God, who, with zeal and indignation, will demand vengeance of God against any by whose malice precious souls, which were their wards, have perished. (St. Matth, xviii. 10) Upon which passage St. Hilary writes; “It is dangerous to despise one whose cries and prayers are carried up to the eternal and invisible God by the gracious ministry of the angels.” So certain and general was the belief of a guardian angel being assigned to every one by God, that when St. Peter was miraculously delivered out of prison, the disciples, who, upon his coming to them, could not at first believe it to be him, said, “It is his angel.” (Acts, xii. 15) That St. Michael was the protector of the Jewish nation, or of the people of God, and that countries or collective bodies of men have, at least several, their tutelar angels, is clear from holy scripture. (Dan, xii. 1 &c) So unanimous and so express is the doctrine of the fathers, in asserting and illustrating this article of the Catholic faith concerning guardian angels, that it would require a volume to copy their testimonies. The devils, with implacable envy and malice, study to compass our eternal ruin, both by stratagems and open assaults. God is pleased to oppose to their efforts his good angels, by making them our defenders. If Almighty God permits the devils various ways to assail and tempt us, and, both by wiles and open violence, to endeavour to draw us into eternal ruin, will he not allow his good angels to exert their zeal for his honour, and their charity for us? No sooner had Lucifer and his adherents set up the standard of their revolt from God, but St. Michael and all the good angels entered upon a war against them, and executing the sentence which God passed upon them, expelled them out of their blessed abodes. Man being created to fill up the places of these apostates, Lucifer, with his associates, is permitted by God to spread his snares, and exert the efforts of his malice against us, that in these trials we may give proof of our fidelity, and may purchase, by victories and triumphs, that bliss for which we are created. Satan thus effects the ruin of innumerable souls, and the Holy Ghost gives us this warning: “The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath.” (Apoc, xii. 12) And such is his arrogance, that be trusteth that Jordan, that is, the whole race of mankind, may flow into his mouth, and be swallowed up by him.
The good angels, out of the same zeal with which they continue their war against these wicked spirits, come to our relief, according to the order established by divine providence. And God, out of his infinite tenderness and compassion for us, commands his highest spirits to watch over and to guard us. O my God! What is man that you should take such care of him, and give him for his governors the sublime princes of your heavenly court, the assistants of your throne! What am I but a worm of the earth, a slave to it, and to this body of filth, sin, and corruption? Must an angel, a creature so noble, so pure and holy, attend on me? “O wonderful condescension! O excess of goodness and love!” cries out St. Bernard. “He hath given his angels charge over thee.” (Ps, xc. 11) Who is he that hath given this charge? To whom and of whom hath he given this order? And what is its import? Let us seriously consider and weigh every part of this mystery? Who is he that hath given this charge? The Lord of angels, whom they obey. The supreme majesty of God hath laid a command upon the angels, and his own angels; those sublime, those happy spirits, who approach so near his divine majesty, his own domestics; and it is the care of thee that by this sacred command he hath intrusted to them. What art thou? Is not man rottenness, corruption, and the pasture of worms? But what dost thou think he hath commanded them concerning thee? “That they guard thee; that they keep thee in all thy ways. Nor do they loiter; they even bear thee up in their hands, as it were, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Shall we not praise such a goodness? We are also to consider the watchful attention of these blessed spirits over us.
A second motive or inducement which exceedingly endears us to their protection is, their compassion and charity for us. They consider that we are shortly to be their companions in eternal bliss; and are at present, by grace and the divine adoption their brethren, their dear fellow-members in God, dear to him who is their God and our God, and precious in his sight, being purchased by him at the infinite price of his incarnation, passion, and death. They, on the other side, see the miseries of sin into which we are fallen, the dangers which surround us, and the infinite evils under which we groan. Their compassion is the more tender as their charity is the more perfect and more pure, and as they are seated nearer to the infinite source or fountain of charity. They see the snares which the devils lay to entrap us, and they remember the cause of God, and the sacred war in which they are engaged against those his enemies. They, therefore, earnestly exert themselves in defeating their projects, and in protecting us: “For they love their fellow-citizens, by whom they long to see their breaches and ruins repaired,” as the devout author of the Soliloquies of the Soul, among the works of St. Austin, and with him Hugh of St. Victor, write. “Therefore they watch over and guard us with great care and diligence, in all places and at all hours assisting us, providing for our necessities with solicitude; they intervene between us and thee, O Lord, conveying to thee our sighs and groans, and bringing down to us the desired blessing of thy graces.”
St. Bernard! observes, that we owe to our guardian-angel “great reverence, devotion, and confidence: reverence,” says he, “for his presence, devotion for his charity, and confidence in his watchfulness. Penetrated with awe, walk always with circumspection, remembering the presence of angels, to whom you are given in charge in all your ways. In every apartment, in every closet, in every corner, pay a respect to your angel. Dare you do before him what you durst not commit if I saw you?” In another place he thus urges the same motive:— “Consider with how great respect, awe, and modesty, we ought to behave in the sight of the angels, lest we offend their holy eyes, and render ourselves unworthy of their company. Wo to us if they who could chase away our enemy be offended by our negligence, and deprive us of their visit. We must shun what grieves them, and practise that which gives them delight, as temperance, chastity, voluntary poverty, prayer with fervour, and tears. Above all things, the angels of peace expect in us unity and peace. Should not they be most delighted with that in us which represents the form of their own holy city, that they may admire a new Jerusalem, or heaven on earth? On the contrary, nothing so much provokes them as scandals and dissensions, if they discern any in us.” St. Basil enlarges upon the same argument to recommend to virgins the strictest modesty in all places. “Let the virgin, when she is alone,” says he, “fear and respect, first, herself and her own conscience; then her guardian-angel, who is always with her: ‘Their angels always see the face of my Father.’ (St. Matth, xviii. 10) A man ought not to contemn the face of the angel to whose care his soul is intrusted, especially a virgin, whose paranymph he is appointed, and the guardian of her fidelity to her spouse. Above all, she must respect her spouse himself, who is always with her, and together with him the Father and the Holy Ghost; not to mention the infinite multitudes of the angels, and the blessed souls of the holy fathers; for though they are not visible to our carnal eyes, they behold us with their incorporeal sight. If the virgin fears the eye of others, much more must she the sight of these who are so holy and excellent, and so much greater than any men. She dreads particularly the eyes of the multitude; now, it being impossible she should escape the observation of this so great and holy a multitude, she will be careful never to do any thing unbecoming her state.”
We must not only respect, but gratefully and devoutly love and honour our tutelar spirit. He is a faithful guardian, a true friend, a watchful shepherd, and a powerful protector. He is a high spirit of heaven, and a courtier of the immortal king of glory; yet his tender charity, goodness, and compassion move him, through the divine appointment, to employ his whole power in guarding and defending us. He often protects our bodies, as the devils have sometimes power to hurt them. But what does not he do for our souls! He instructs, encourages, secretly exhorts, and reproves us; he defends us against our enemy, often discovers his stratagems, averts many dangers, and comforts and supports us in our trials, and in the terrible hour of our death. He invisibly performs for us the offices which that angel who led the Jews into the promised land, did for them, and which Raphael performed to the younger Toby, in his journey to Rages: for he is our good and sure guide through the dangers of this life to eternal glory. What return shall we make by gratitude, confidence, respect, and obedience to this our faithful Raphael, our good angel! what praise and thanks do not we owe to God for so inestimable a benefit! Toby, reflecting on the great favours he had received from the angel Raphael, his faithful conductor, said to his father, “What shall we give him? or what can be worthy of his benefits? He conducted me, and brought me safe again; he received the money for me; he caused me to have my wife, and he chased from her the evil spirit; he gave joy to her parents; myself he delivered from being devoured by the fish; thee also he hath made to see the light of heaven, and we are filled with all good things through him. What can we give him sufficient for these things?” (Tob, xii.) That holy family, seeing the immense goodness and condescension of God in the benefits conferred upon them by his angel, “falling prostrate on their faces for three hours, blessed God.” (Tob, xii. 22) Ought not we to imitate their gratitude? “In God,” says St. Bernard, “let us affectionately love the angels, these glorious spirits which are to be one day our companions in glory and co-heirs, and are at present appointed our tutors and guardians by our Father. Let us be devout; let us be grateful to such protectors; let us love them, let us honour them as much as we are able,” &c.
We likewise ought to place a confidence in the protection of our good angel. To deserve his protection, we must, above all things, fly sin. Even venial sin troubles him. “As smoke chases away bees, and stench doves, so the ordure of sin driveth away the angel, the keeper of life,” says St. Basil. Impurity is a vice particularly abominable to holy spirits; and sins of scandal make the angels of the little ones whom we scandalize demand vengeance against us. God says, “Behold, I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Respectfully observe him, and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be contemned: for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and my name is in him. But if thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I shall speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee: and my angel shall go before thee, and shall bring thee into the place which I have prepared.” (Exodus, xxiii. 20 &c)
from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
O holy Angels our guardians, defend us in the battle, that we may not perish at the dreadful judgement.