It’s a familiar prayer:
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day/night be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
We probably all learned this prayer when we were children, and the image of a personal guardian angel—a celestial being appointed to watch over us—enfolded our childhood fears and joys. As adults, though, many of us have drifted away from that childlike confidence in a protector, but as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels on October 2, it might be time to revisit (and perhaps even thank!) our guardian angels.
Scripture never actually uses the term “guardian angel,” but the Bible is alive with their presence… you might even say, with the beating of their wings!
- Angels are assigned to protect human beings in Acts 12:6–10.
- Psalm 103:20-21 tells us that angels are celestial messengers that move at the speed of light to carry out God’s will.
- In times of peril, “guardian” angels are God’s servants sent to rescue us as we read in 2 Kings 6:13–17.
- Psalm 90:11 assures us that “he hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
- And, finally, angels involve themselves in every part of the fabric of human life, from the political affairs of nations as well as the smallest concerns of children (Isaiah 37:33 36; Matthew 18:10).
A Short History of Angels
We’re obviously fascinated by angels. Centuries of Christian art reflects that fascination, with angels as popular subjects for Byzantine and European paintings and sculpture.
Christian acceptance was initially based on the Jewish understanding of angels. By the fourth or fifth century, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (quite a name, isn’t it?) was writing about the “celestial hierarchy,” and by the middle ages theologians—including Thomas Aquinas—saw angels as being organized into several orders, or "angelic choirs.” Saint Jerome says, "how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it!"
Angels as assigned guardians came out of Judaism as well, and Aquinas expounded upon their guardianship: "On this road man is threatened by many dangers both from within and without, and therefore as guardians are appointed for men who have to pass by an unsafe road, so an angel is assigned to each man as long as he is a wayfarer."
“Let us affectionately love His angels as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide.” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
The most significant characteristic of angels, for most of us, is not their supernatural power or their magnificent beauty. Angels, specifically guardian angels, are compelled to work on our behalf. And we’ve all heard stories of miracles—a child being snatched from in front of a speeding car, disasters narrowly and oddly averted, a presence at a hospital bed—that cannot be explained rationally.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 make it clear: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
In his 2014 homily for the Feast of Holy Guardian Angels, Pope Francis told those gathered for daily Mass to be like children who pay attention to their traveling companion. “No one journeys alone and no one should think that they are alone,” the pope said. During the Morning Meditation in the chapel of Santa Marta, the pope noted that we often have the feeling that “I should do this, this is not right, be careful.” This, he said, “is the voice of our guardian angel.”
Your Guardian Angel
While we might feel closest to them during childhood, guardian angels are not only for children. Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer, and to present their souls to God at death. There's an angel watching over you, right now, even as you're reading this!
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments tells us that devotion to the holy angels results in a life filled with devout gratitude to God for having placed these heavenly spirits of great sanctity and dignity at the service of humanity, and serenity and confidence in facing difficult situations, since the Lord guides and protects the faithful in the way of justice through the ministry of his angels.
It doesn’t sound like a bad way to live, in gratitude and love, does it? If you listen hard, perhaps you will be able to hear the beating of holy wings in your life as well. Maybe those guardian angels aren’t just for childhood prayers, after all!
>> Get the children's book: Angel of God, My Guardian Dear