For he 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.
– Psalms 90:11-13 (Douay Rheims)
Since men first gazed up at the stars, they have wondered about beings other than us, found in the reaches of far-away realms. The ancient Greeks contemplated the possibility of other worlds populated by intelligent beings, and during scientific preoccupation of the Renaissance, our musings over the possibility of extraterrestrial life out there in the far reaches of the galaxies expanded further. In the 20th century, the interest of the human race in this topic exploded, as mankind for the first time took steps on otherworldly soil, and the planets — if not the stars — were suddenly within our reach as our great machines thrust us beyond the boundaries of the planet we call home.
And yet from the first moment Adam opened his eyes to look upon a world created for his dominion, from the instant that Eve was stirred to life from Adam’s side by the finger of God, an ancient and majestic race of intelligent, inhuman creatures walked unseen amongst us. Telepathic in nature, constrained neither by time nor space, fiercely intelligent, older than imagination, capable of controlling the forces of nature, powerful enough to turn worlds to ash with no more exertion than an act of the will, this collection of wondrous celestial beings exist with a foothold not just in our world, but in the worlds beyond: either the incomparable and perpetual brilliance of the Beatific Vision, or the insufferable and eternal darkness of hell.
Ranked in nine choirs — Seraphim, Cherubim. and Thrones; Dominations, Principalities, and Powers; Virtues, Archangels, and Angels — these beings of pure spirit were the firstborn of God’s creation. If the very existence of the innumerable and varied angels were not enough to stagger the mind, there is a further and more humbling truth: through the mystery of divine providence, every human being who has ever lived has received one of these titans of creation for their personal guidance and protection.
“The first choice that your guardian angel made was to love you.” So says Father Chad Ripperger, exorcist and expert on angels and demons. Those angels assigned to our protection had to accept this commission. It was surrounding this choice that they retained their designated place before the throne of God, or fell into perdition through a refusal to serve. Your guardian angel in fact loves God through you, making this a mission of utmost importance. “On his side,” Fr. Ripperger continues, “there’s only love, and only a desire for your salvation, a desire for your intellectual and spiritual well-being.”
The closeness between us and our guardian angels is a two-way street. We can invoke them. We can build a relationship with them. We can communicate with them – and at times, they with us. Our guardian angels seek always to be our sure guide and protection, so the impetus is on us to accept and nourish the connection. Fr. Ripperger instructs us:
“How much involvement your guardian angel has in your life – aside from what God allows – is directly proportionate…to how involved you get him in your life. If your complaint is that your guardian angel isn’t helping you very much, just go stand in the mirror to look for the cause. Because the fact is that if you’re praying to him more, he would be able to communicate with you more, you would be empowering him more by asking him to help you, asking him to give you this enlighten…this understanding, you’d empower him to actually help you more. If you never pay any attention to him, he’s just not going to be able to help you very much.”
Through popular representations in contemporary art and culture, many of us associate angels with something cute or kitschy, but this pop piety and sentimentality fails to do them justice. Each of us journeys through life with an unassailable, unseen companion who is both a fearsome warrior and an incomparable intellect. A being who beholds at every moment the Face of God, and may reflect a ray of His divine light into the darkness of our fallen minds. It’s a reality both terrifying and awesome to consider. Even now, as I write — or as you read — your angel is with you, watching, a silent sentinel standing against Satan and those who serve him.
In one of his more well-known sermons, St. Bernard of Clairvaux preached about the reality of our heavenly companions:
With what great reverence should you treat this word! What devotion should you proffer it; what great confidence should you place in it. Reverence because of their presence; devotion because of their benevolence; confidence because of their solicitude. Walk carefully, in all thy ways, as one with whom the angels are present as He has given them charge. In every lodging, at every corner, have reverence for thy Angel. Do not dare to do in his presence what you would not dare to do if I were there. Or do you doubt that he is present whom you do not behold? What if you should hear him? What if you should touch him? What if you should scent him? Remember that the presence of something is not proved only by the sight of things.
In this, therefore, brethren, let us affectionately love His angels as one day our future coheirs; meanwhile, however, as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. Why should we fear under such guardians? Those who keep us in all our ways can neither be overcome nor be deceived, much less deceive. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; why do we tremble? Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide. As often, therefore, as a most serious temptation is perceived to weigh upon you and an excessive trial is threatening, call to your guard, your leader, your helper in your needs, in your tribulation; cry to him and say: “Lord, save us; we perish!”
On this feast of the Guardian Angels, it would behoove all of us to make a commitment to build a real relationship with the angel assigned to our care, and to daily strengthen it. This requires more than a simple recitation of the “Angel of God” prayer most of us learned as small children – though that’s a good start. Entrust to your guardian angel your worries and cares; ask for his assistance with tasks you find difficult in study or in work (for his knowledge of things ascertainable is complete); have recourse to him in moments of temptation; seek his guidance in finding things lost; send him to protect those you love in times of trouble. Learn about the angels, their choirs, and their functions. Make an effort to know and understand them as well as you can. The heavenly host is as numerous as the stars, and they are mighty in the service of our God.
Perhaps today you might consider praying the following prayer to these, our often-forgotten friends, thanking them and imploring their intercession for those who need it most:
Oh pure and happy spirits whom the Almighty selected to become the angels and guardians of men: I most humbly prostrate myself before you to thank you for the charity and zeal with which you execute this commission. Alas, how many pass a long life without ever thanking their invisible friends, to whom they owe a thousand times their preservation! Oh charitable guardians of those souls for whom Christ died, oh flaming spirits, who cannot avoid loving those whom Jesus eternally loved, permit me to address you on behalf of all those committed to your care, to implore for each of them a grateful sense of your many favors and also the grace to profit by your charitable assistance.
Oh angels of those happy infants who are as yet ‘without spot before God,’ I earnestly beseech you to preserve their innocence. Oh angels of youth, conduct them, exposed to so many dangers, safely to the bosom of God, as Tobias was conducted back to his father.
Oh angels of those who employ themselves in the instruction of youth, animate them with your zeal and love, teach them to emulate your purity and continual view of God, that they may worthily and successfully cooperate with the invisible guardians of their young charges.
Oh angels of the clergy, of those ‘who have the eternal Gospel to preach to them that sit upon the earth,’ present their words, their actions and their intentions to God, and purify them in that fire of love that consumes you.
Oh angels of the missionaries who have left their native land and all who were dear to them in order to preach the Gospel in foreign fields, protect them from the dangers which threaten them, console in their hours of discouragement and solitude, and lead them to those souls who are in danger of dying without Baptism.
Oh angels of the infidels and pagans, whom the true faith has never enlightened, intercede for them, that they may open their hearts to the rays of grace, respond to the message delivered by God’s missioners and acknowledge and adore the one true God.
Oh angels of all who travel by air, land or water, be their guides and companions, protect them from all dangers of collision, fire, and explosion and lead them safely to their destination.
Oh guardian angels of sinners, charitable guides of those unhappy mortals whose perseverance in sin would embitter even your unutterable joys, was not established in the peace of God! Oh join me, I ardently beseech you, in imploring their conversion!
And you, oh guardian angels of the sick, I entreat you especially to help, console and implore the spirits of joy for all those who are deprived of health, which is among God’s most precious gifts to man. Intercede for them, that they may not succumb to despondency or lose by impatience the merits they can gain in carrying with resignation and joy the cross which Christ has laid upon them as a special token of his love.
Oh angels of those are at this moment in the agonies of death, strengthen, encourage and defendthem against the attacks of their infernal enemy.
Oh faithful guides, holy spirits, adorers of the divinity, guardian angels of all creatures, protect us all; teach us to love, to pray, to wage combat on earth, so that one day we may reach heaven and there be happy for all eternity!
Oh angels of those who are lingering in purgatory, intercede for them that God may permit you to bring them some balm; console them that they may know that we are praying for them and that we ask you to join in our entreaties. Amen.
All you guardian angels, orate pro nobis!
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Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.