A Word About Your Guardian Angel...

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From Fr. John Gabriel, Pastor of St. Paul
Feast of the Guardian Angels: 2 October, 2019

Why is it that one of the greatest gifts God gives us is usually something (or rather, someone) that most of us totally ignore?  Certainly the greatest gift God has given us is the gift of Himself, His Son, most especially in the Blessed Sacrament.  Another great gift God gives us is the Holy Scriptures and the Church with her teachings.  But perhaps the greatest gift God has given to you personally in a totally unique way (in that, my gift is different from yours) is your Guardian Angel!  Why does most of humanity (and I suspect even most Catholics) ignore their presence?

Why do I suspect this?  Because if we were aware of the presence of our Guardian Angels every moment of our lives we would never sin (and I know we do sin because I’ve seen it in the world and in myself).  It would be like a policeman with a body cam- everything he or she does is seen.  Sin is usually something we do in secret, when we think no one is looking or noticing, and if we knew someone important was noticing we would be far less inclined to sin.  If we were aware of the presence of our Guardian Angel at every moment of our lives we would also be far less inclined to fear, or to feel loneliness, or to wonder where God is.  And we would all be saints, because we would recognize that we have a coach but more than a coach, a GPS on the road to heaven but more than a GPS, a loving companion but more than a loving companion, and a personal bodyguard that is infinitely more than a personal bodyguard:  a ‘soul guard’- infinitely more than a bodyguard since the soul is infinitely more than the body alone.  Souls can exist without bodies (and do into eternity), but bodies, at least living ones, cannot exist without souls.  While your angel cares about your body, your angel cares infinitely more about your soul (and your body only insofar as what you do in it can infinitely effect your soul’s destiny).  Although today we love to use the word for other created creatures, never, ever consider any human person no matter how much you love them to be your ‘soulmate’.  Only God is your true soulmate, and your angel is involved in that relationship because your angel probably cares more about your soul than you do.

But what is an angel?  Is your angel a little child-like being with pretty wings sweetly singing you to slumber at night?  Or is your angel a person you once knew on earth who is now watching over you from heaven?  Perhaps a child or parent or friend who has died and is now your protector in heaven?  NO, NO AND NO!  Your guardian angel is none of these things, although it may be emotionally satisfying on some level to view them in this way.  Your angel is a different species.  Giraffes never in any circumstance either after death or during life become zebras.  So humans never at any time become angels. 

When the Bible speaks of angels, it doesn’t use cute or pretty language but rather strong and powerful language, mystical language, military language, and sometimes their presence evokes terror (as with the shepherds at Bethlehem that first Christmas night).  If you saw your Guardian Angel right now as your angel truly is you would fall down in fear and trembling and be tempted to worship it because it would be so amazingly beautiful but in a way you had never experienced beauty before.  That’s why, when God permits an angel to intervene corporeally on earth, that angel is often in disguise, as St. Raphael was in the book of Tobit, or why the author of the Letter to the Hebrews cautions us to be careful how we treat others because ‘some have entertained angels unawares.’  To fail to notice the ministry of an angel around you or fail to thank your angel for your angel’s ministry in your regard is to miss a tremendous opportunity, but it’s also stupid as it would be stupid to not notice Peyton Manning showing you how to play football or Mozart teaching you how to write a song or Michelangelo teaching you how to paint your ceiling.  And, by the way, it would also be rude.

Angels are pure spirits, powerful in ways we cannot even imagine here on earth.  Angels have intellectual powers far beyond anything we can know on earth.  For your angel, Stephen Hawking and Einsten were dumb.  In fact, you can understand about as much of your angel as your pet turtle or parakeet understands about you.  Polly or Fido or Puss’n’Boots may know (on some level) you are present in their midst and that you care for them and nourish them, and some might say they know that you ‘love’ them or that they ‘love’ you (whatever that means for an animal), but they can never know or understand exactly who you are, what you are made of, or of what your eternal destiny consists.  Some believe that angels probably view us as we view our pets: we love them, care about their present and future, and perhaps even worry about their eternal destiny- so your angel does for you even though you cannot know on this earth exactly what that ‘feels’ like for your angel.  If, after your death, your angel has been successful in helping you get to heaven, you will be eternal friends with your angel not as equals but as the general and the private who worked together to win the war and love one another because of that experience forever and now can enjoy the spoils together, in this case the eternal vision of the God-Who-Is-Love.  Your angel already beholds that vision, but you don’t yet.  Let your angel show you, or help you to understand the hint of that vision possible on earth.  And don’t make your angel work too hard to make you holy: your angel might be willing, but you need to work together as co-conspirators, not as a resistance fighter, and as soon as possible.

Your Guardian Angel is as close to you as you are to yourself when taking a selfie, and views you up-close and personal.  If you were to view another person all day every day that closely, you would probably be exhausted, disgusted, and most certainly bored.  Your angel is never bored viewing you, your angel recognizes what is at stake and, out of obedience to God, your angel cares for your salvation probably more than you do at any given moment (except perhaps the moment of your death).  Your angel is probably more horrified by your sin than you are, more joyfully exuberant by your virtue than you are, and more aware of what the loss of heaven is like than you will ever be in this life and hopefully will never discover in the next, at least if your angel can help it.  Your angel has existed longer than you can know and will exist for all eternity, but you are, in this moment, your angels primary focus (after God).  For you and you alone your Guardian Angel is ready and willing to engage in battle with those of his own species or nature who have fallen and rebelled against God and who, with as much resolve and intellect and power, are working for your downfall.  If you are in a state of grace, you need never fear these we call demons.  If you are not, you do need to fear them, greatly and immediately but not helplessly because that state of grace can be restored in you through confession, and your angel will lead you there if you are willing to go because your angel, like God Himself, will never force you to do anything.  If you are lost forever, will your angel be sad?  It’s hard to say as sadness is probably impossible in heaven, but most certainly your angel will still reverence God’s mercy and love that did all He could to save you even though you willed yourself (through your actions or inactions) to be separated from Him. 

Last month in our parish book club, in reading a book about angels, we read these words written by a monk of the Order of St. Benedict (and using the masculine pronoun for angels although, of course, angels have no gender) :  “(Your Guardian Angel’s) greatest joy is when he accompanies you to the altar to offer the Holy Sacrifice.  There he becomes absolutely radiant.  He stands like a deacon at my side.  He is completely at home in the liturgy of the Church, and he knows it inside out.  He sings with understanding, he bows profoundly, he teaches me how I am to conduct yourself in the presence of the Thrice Holy God.

At the moment of the Consecration, he becomes all luminous: beautiful with an indescribable beauty.  I feel him trembling with joy next to me.   And then he becomes utterly silent; he becomes like a flame of adoration.   Sometimes one feels, but ever so slightly, the hushed movement of wings of light.  And he and the other angels: they adore, they adore, they adore.  For him, Mass is never too long.  Holy Mass is what he loves most on this earth of ours: Holy Mass, and then adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  He is always directing me to the tabernacle.”

Thank God today and every day for so great a companion.

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