Our modern world often seems to be obsessed with the idea of angels. It is usually confused about just who they are and what they do, but it is quite right about the importance of angels. When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, we find them everywhere we turn.
The coming of Jesus is announced and attended by angels. An archangel appears first to Zechariah and then to Mary. An angel appears in a dream to Joseph. Angels appear to the shepherds and sing “Glory to God in the highest.” And an angel — in the form of a star — leads the wise men on their long journey from Persia to Palestine.
Throughout the life of Christ, the pattern continues. Angels come and minister to him when he is fasting in the desert and in his great agony in the garden of Gethsemane. They are there at the empty tomb and they address the disciples on the Mount of Olives at his ascension.
But I think the most practical thing about angels we learned from his preaching. It was Jesus himself who revealed to us that everyone — even little children — has a guardian angel. He said: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
Think for a moment about his divine choice of a possessive pronoun. Jesus said: “their angels.” Their angels.
Each and every angel is smarter than a thousand Einsteins and stronger than the combined offensive and defensive lines of the Pittsburgh Steelers — and yet somehow it’s not we who belong to them, but they who belong to us!
You and I have guardian angels. They’re ours, and that’s an awesome gift from our heavenly Father. What does this mean for our devotional life? For our spiritual life? For our life of prayer? We need to make use of this great gift. We need to call upon them in our need.
Having a guardian angel doesn’t mean that we get to pass through life without suffering. No one passes through life without suffering. The angels know this, and they know their job. Their job is to get us to heaven — and I guarantee you that most of us will suffer quite a bit along the way there, and all of us will die. But they will help us so that we stay on task. So that we stay oriented to heaven. So that we move, as Jesus did, through suffering to glory.
But we shouldn’t treat them like superheroes who are waiting on a perch or in a phone booth till the moment when we’re in dire peril. They want to help us in seemingly smaller matters — domestic matters, routine decisions. These are the things that make up our real lives. Our angels want us to grow in holiness through these very ordinary moments.
We should call on them in our everyday lives: when we face temptation … when we’re struggling at work or in marriage or in parenting … or when we’re just plain tired and we don’t feel like smiling for others. We should remember always that our spouse and our parents, our children and our grandchildren — all have guardian angels — and we can and should call upon their angels for help in difficult conversations.
Maybe your mother taught you the prayer that mine taught me.
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love entrusts me here:
ever this day be at my side
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Mike Aquilina is the Executive Vice President of St. Paul Center
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