The Feast of the Guardian Angels
The Holy Church has instituted a special festival to recall to our mind the grace which God’s infinite mercy has bestowed upon us by appointing the holy Angels for our temporal and spiritual protection. This festival should remind us to give thanks to God for this great benefit and to show our gratitude to the holy Angels for their care and solicitude. That this may be performed with due zeal and devotion, consider well the following remarks. The Almighty created a countless number of heavenly spirits, by nature immortal, and bestowed upon them especial graces. I say, a countless number; for it is said in Holy Writ: “Is there any numbering of His Soldiers!” (Job. xxv.) By “soldiers,” are understood His Angels. Somewhere else it is written: “Thousands of thousands ministered to Him and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him.” (Daniel, vii.) These Heavenly Spirits are divided into three classes, and each class into three Choirs; hence they consist of nine Choirs.
The first, and highest is composed of the Seraphim; the second, of the Cherubim; the third of the Thrones; the fourth, of the Dominations; the fifth of the Principalities, the sixth, of the Powers; the seventh, of the Virtues; the eighth, of the Archangels; and the ninth, of the Angels. All surround the throne of the most High, constantly praise His infinite Majesty, and are ever ready to execute His commands; still, each of these Choirs has its separate function, as we are taught by Theologians. From the last, or ninth Choir, God has assigned to each human being, a Guardian to protect him. Hence they are called Guardian Angels. Thus the Holy Church teaches, and it cannot be doubted that this teaching is true, as it is founded on the words of Holy Writ. To each human being is given an angel, a prince of heaven to protect him in soul and body, to cheer him in adversity, to console him in sorrow, to strengthen him in temptations, to assist him in danger, to prevent him from doing evil, to incite him to do good, and thus lead him to heaven, if he is obedient to his Guardian Angel.
Just as in former times. God gave to the Israelites a special Angel to guard them and to lead them into the promised land, according to the words: “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;” (Exodus, xxiii;) so He gives to each man an Angel to protect him on the road of this life, to lead him happily to Heaven, of which the promised land was the type. Pause here, my dear reader, and consider the greatness of this mercy of God towards us. As long as the world has existed, we have never heard of a monarch, who gave one of his noble courtiers the command to be continually at the side of a common peasant, or other man of low estate, to take care of him and lead him safely to a far-off land. But what was never heard of in a temporal king, this and much more our holy faith teaches us is done for us by the great and merciful God, the King of heaven and earth. He has given to every one, even to the most wretched being, one of the Princes of heaven, to take care of him, constantly to accompany him, and to open for him the gates of the eternal world.
How priceless a grace! How infinite a goodness! Judge yourself, my dear reader, if you have not every reason to offer thanks to the great God, Who has shown such infinite kindness towards you, and who is thus solicitous for your salvation. Today especially, ought you to render thanksgivings to Him; and for this purpose the festival which we celebrate was instituted. Reflect, also, how the Angels, to whose care God has confided us, regard us. They are perfectly satisfied with those whom God has given into their charge, be they poor or rich, of high or of low standing. They perform their mission with the greatest love and solicitude. “They love us,” says St. Bernard, “because Christ has loved us.” They prove their love by deeds; they avert many dangers of body and soul from us, and protect us most miraculously; they prevent us from doing wrong, and animate us to do good; they fortify us to resist the temptations of satan. When we have been guilty of sin, they incite us to do penance, to appease the wrath of God, and to turn from us His well-merited punishment; they rejoice when we do penance, and convert our hearts to God; they offer our prayers, fasts, and other good works to the Almighty, and pray to Him for us. They do not leave us, asleep or awake, well or sick; they assist us in life and in death, and accompany our souls to the Judgment-seat of the Most High.
Holy Writ is full of examples which prove all that I have here said. Many more examples are found in the history of the church, and in the Lives of the Saints. An Angel saved the famished Ishmael from danger of death. An Angel preserved the life of the obedient Isaac, by checking the drawn sword of his father. An angel led the pious Lot out of Sodom, and thus saved him from being burned with the rest of the inhabitants. An Angel protected the Israelites against all their enemies. An Angel fed the prophet Elias in the wilderness, and strengthened him to proceed on his long journey. An Angel delivered the pious king Ezekias and the city of Jerusalem from many thousand enemies, by slaying them all in one night. An Angel preserved the prophet Daniel unharmed in the midst of the lions, and brought the prophet Habacuc to feed him. An Angel kept the three companions of the same holy prophet uninjured in the furnace of Babylon. An Angel accompanied the young Tobias as guide during his journey, and instructed him in what manner he should marry the chaste Sarah, to prevent the Evil one from harming him, as had been done to seven others, who had been slain by the devil. Besides benefiting him in various other ways, he saved him also from the danger of being devoured by a monstrous fish. It was the same Angel who had offered the prayers of the elder Tobias to the Almighty, and who afterwards, restored him to sight. An Angel shielded the chaste Judith in great dangers of soul and body. An Angel instructed the Centurion Cornelius how to save his soul. An Angel delivered St. Peter from prison and the danger of death. An Angel preserved the life of St. Paul, and of others, who were with him in the ship. Many other similar events are found in Holy Writ, and in the Lives of the Saints. And what are all these but proofs of the love and solicitude of the Angels for us?
Reflect upon your past life, and see if you yourself have not received sufficient proof of the devotion and care of your holy Guardian Angel? That you have not lost your life in many dangers which encompassed you; that you have been guarded from many sins; that you did not die in your sin, but have time to do penance; that you have received so many spiritual and temporal favors and benefits from the Almighty: all these, and many other favors, are to be ascribed to the powerful protection, the love and care of your holy Guardian Angel and to his intercession with God in your behalf.
In consideration of so many blessings, of such watchful protection, such indescribable devotion and solicitude, you must reasonably conclude that you owe especial gratitude to your holy Guardian Angel. Of course, you have first to render thanks to the Almighty, who placed you under the protection of so noble and kind a Prince of heaven. But St. Bernard exhorts us also to show ourselves grateful towards those, who, obeying the command of God, watch over us so lovingly, and assist us in all our needs. “Let us be full of devotion and gratitude towards such powerful protectors,” says he; “let us return love for love, and endeavor to honor them with our whole heart.” When God promised to the Israelites to send an Angel to protect them on their journey and lead them to the promised land, He added: “Take notice of 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; ” which means that he represents God. (Exod. xxiii.) These words show you how you must prove your gratitude in deeds.
“Honor him,” this is the first thing which God demands. “Honor him,” because he is an Angel of God, a representative of God, a great Prince of heaven. ” Honor him,” because God has raised him to great glory; he sees the face of the Most High, and often acts in His name. “Honor him.” You honor your Guardian Angel if you call with confidence on him in all your cares, especially when your soul or your body is endangered, in great temptations, in life and death. Tobias had hardly perceived the danger of being devoured by a monstrous fish, when he called to his faithful guide, who was an Angel: “Sir, he cometh upon me!” He asked help and received it instantly. Why should you not call, with equal confidence, to your Guardian Angel, especially when the hellish monster, the roaring lion, as Holy Writ calls him, the devil, the Evil One, tempts you to sin, and thus endeavors to devour you?” As often as a great temptation or sorrow approaches you,” writes St. Bernard, “call to your guide, your protector, and say: ” Sir, help me, or I go to destruction!”
“Obey his voice,” says the Lord. He speaks to your soul by interior movements or inspirations. For instance, if you are in danger of sin, he calls to you: “Depart from evil, avoid sin.” If you are surrounded by occasions of evil, he calls to you: “Withdraw from here! Flee hastily.” If you have committed sin, he exhorts you: “Do penance! Return without delay to your God!” In like manner, he admonishes you interiorly, to practice good works, to be more zealous in the service of God, more solicitous for your salvation. Obey this voice, this call of your holy Guardian Angel. If you do not, you despise him, which is contrary to the command of God, who will surely net leave it unpunished, as it is an offense done, in some respect, to His Majesty. Always obey the voice of your Guardian Angel, and offend him not by disobedience, as otherwise you will not be worthy of his protection.
In conclusion, I will give you a memorable admonition of St. Bernard. He urges you, constantly to call to mind the presence of your Angel, and duly to honor him everywhere. This, however, says he, should be done principally by avoiding sin. For it is contrary to all the respect you owe him, to sin in his presence. “In all places,” these are the words of the holy teacher, “In all places, manifest to your Angel that honor which is due to him, and dare not commit in his presence what you would not dare to do if I were near.” Elsewhere, he says: “Let us walk in such a manner before the eyes of the Angels, that we do not offend their sight.” “We must guard ourselves not to offend them, and hence we must assiduously perform all those exercises which we know are agreeable to them, as temperance, chastity, voluntary poverty, devout prayers, &c.” Impress these words deeply in your heart; for they contain the best advice as to the means you should employ to honor your holy Guardian Angel, and to assure yourself of his loving and powerful protection during your life, and at the hour of your death. Avoid everything that you know is displeasing to him, and practice, with great zeal, all that you are convinced will be agreeable to him.
I. The Almighty has placed you under the protection of an Angel. Render thanks to Him this day for so great a benefit. Give thanks also to your Guardian Angel for all the love and care which until now he has always bestowed upon you. Show him always due honor, in accordance with the admonitions of the Lord. Let no day pass on which you do not, at least morning and evening, place yourself under his powerful protection. Do the same if you are harassed by care, sorrow, sadness or temptation, and in all dangers that beset your soul or body.
Pray frequently to him to guard you especially in the dangerous combat you will have to wage with the spirit of hell in your last hour. The holy Church counsels you to do this, when in the name of all the faithful she thus invokes the holy Guardian Angels: “O, all ye holy angels, our protectors; guard us in the combat, that we may not be lost in the fearful Judgment.” Remember that your Angel is always near you, especially in Church and when you are tempted to sin. Do nothing of which you would be ashamed in the presence of an upright and dignified person. Obey the voice of your Angel, as God himself commands. The Angel speaks to you deep in your heart; he admonishes you through sermons, confessors and devout books. Despise not his exhortations, but follow when he calls you.
Avoid whatever may displease him, and do all that is agreeable to him. Sin, as an offense to God, is displeasing to him, especially all sin against chastity. Avoid it. Good works, zeal in the service of God, the frequent and pious partaking of the holy Sacraments, a modest deportment in Church, are all pleasing to him; hence, practice them faithfully. In this manner, you will make yourself worthy of the powerful protection of your Guardian Angel, during your life and at the hour of your death.
II. Your holy angel is most perfectly obedient to the Almighty. Following the command of God, he has taken charge of you, and experience has convinced you that he performs his mission well. Be you also obedient to your God. He has entrusted to you a precious, immortal soul, and has commanded you to take good care of it. Take heed that it suffers nothing; this will be for your own benefit. If you have children, servants, or others under you, God has also given them into your care. Be obedient to God and do your duty. Before all things be solicitous for their salvation.
Your Guardian Angel is a pure spirit. He has the greatest horror for the least shadow of impurity. Imitate him. Detest every thing, however trifling it may appear, that is unchaste. Do not regard anything as trifling, which may injure chastity; for, nothing can be a trifle, that is displeasing to the Divine Majesty or to your Guardian Angel.
Your holy Angel accompanies you joyfully to Church. He there worships, with great veneration, in the company of many other Angels, your Savior truly present. . Imitate him. Rejoice to go to Church and there worship your God, with angelic reverence and devotion. Say your prayers in such a manner, that your holy Angel may offer them to the Almighty with pleasure. Do not profane your devotions, by unnecessary conversation, by idly gazing around, by indecent manners or other similar irreverences. God requires an unspotted sacrifice, and your holy Angel will not present any other to the Divine Majesty.
Although your Guardian Angel has charge of you, and is constantly with you, he nevertheless enjoys the divine presence and glorifies and praises God unceasingly. Imitate him, by frequently thinking of God during your day’s work; by working in His presence and by praising Him, as well by those prayers which you say at stated times of the day, as also by renewing your good intentions, and by short pious ejaculations. If you follow your holy Angel on earth, you will also enjoy his society in heaven. The Venerable Bede writes; “If we desire to attain to the society of the holy Angels in heaven, we must neglect nothing to follow them on earth.”
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.