Recently, I saw a story on the news about a toddler walking on the roof of a porch wearing only a diaper. He had squeezed through an open window in the middle of the afternoon and was walking unsteadily towards the edge of the roof. A bystander suddenly rushed into the home and pulled him inside to safety. My mother remarked that the angels must have been watching over him.
We have all had an occasion when we narrowly missed being involved in an accident or mysteriously survived some danger. There are times when a friend we haven’t seen in a long time comes to mind, someone we later find out is going through a difficult time. They are all experiences we can’t seem to explain. Could our guardian be saving us from some danger or trying to make us aware of a person who needs our help and prayers?
The Role of Guardian Angels
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the role angels play in each of our lives. It states:
From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God. (CCC 336)
God has appointed an angel to walk with us during each moment of our lives. He is our inseparable companion, accompanying us throughout our journey, watching over us, and guiding us along the way. He protects us from harm and helps us to grow in our relationship with God.
The primary role of guardian angels is to lead us to everlasting life with God. Since they always behold the Father’s face in heaven, they reflect this divine light in our lives. Although they may at times protect us from physical harm, they are mainly concerned with protecting us from spiritual harm.
Our guardian angels act as God’s messengers. They don’t speak to us with words but through inspirations. They gently direct our hearts and minds to walk along the path that leads to heaven, but they always respect our free will. These angels act like instruments of the Holy Spirit, offering consolation, encouragement, protection, and guidance.
Our guardian angel is a great gift that God has given each of us and is a sign of His loving mercy. As Pope Francis said:
So that we are never left alone, God has put at each person’s side a guardian angel to support and protect us, to accompany us in life. It is up to us to perceive his presence, listening to his advice, with the docility of a child, in order to keep ourselves on the right path toward paradise.
A Biblical Understanding of Guardian Angels
The Bible offers us numerous examples of angelic guidance and protection. In the Book of Exodus, God promises Moses the assistance and protection of an angel when entering the desert and traveling to the Promised Land (Exodus 23:20-23). God commissions the angels to protect us in Psalm 91. It states:
For he commands his angels with regard to you,
to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you,
lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:11-12)
God sends the Archangel Raphael in human form to care for the needs of Tobit and his family in the Book of Tobit. He is sent in response to the prayers of Tobit and Sarah and acts as guardian, guide, teacher, and companion. The Archangel guides and protects Tobiah on his journey, leads him to his future wife, Sarah, and heals his father Tobit’s blindness.
At times, angels are sent to protect individuals from physical harm. On one occasion, St. Peter was imprisoned under King Herod. He was bound in chains and heavily guarded when an angel suddenly appeared to him on the night before his trial. The chains fell off of his wrists and the angel guided Peter past the guards and out of prison. He miraculously freed him and then vanished from sight. Peter’s first response was to run quickly to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where the community had gathered together and were praying for him. They couldn’t believe that he had been freed and was knocking at the door. They responded, “It is his angel,” (Acts 12:15).
Jesus says that each of us has our own personal guardian angel. He states:
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. (Matthew 18:10)
Jesus invites us to care for all people, especially those who are most in need since each person is precious in God’s eyes. We all have a glorious guardian angel who continually represents us in heaven and presents all of our prayers to God.
Saints and Their Angels
Throughout the centuries, many saints have described the caring guidance and protection of their own guardian angels. Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604) was known to serve dinner each day to twelve poor individuals. One evening, he saw a thirteenth person among his guests. It was a beggar he had encountered once before. Gregory had given him his last few coins and a silver platter his mother had given him as a gift. This beggar revealed to him that he was, in fact, an angel sent by God. The angel told Pope Gregory that because of his mercy and love, God had given him the Chair of St. Peter and had sent him to be his guardian for as long as he lived.
More recently, St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) was privileged to see her guardian angel and spoke with him regularly. He would deliver messages or letters from her to her spiritual director in Rome. When she would do something wrong she said her guardian angel would be severe with her, either reprimanding her, remaining silent, or giving her a harsh look. When she was sick or was eating little, he would show his caring side, asking her how she felt and encouraging her to eat something.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), a famous mystic, would care for the well-being of his spiritual sons and daughters with the assistance of that person’s guardian angel. On one occasion, one of his spiritual sons was seriously injured in a car accident. This man’s friend decided to ask Padre Pio to pray for him. When he went to the telegraph office to send him the telegram, he was immediately given a telegram from Padre Pio. In it, the future saint promised to pray for the recovery of his injured spiritual son. After his recovery, they both asked Padre Pio how he could have possibly known of his accident in such a short time. St. Padre Pio responded, “Do you think the Angels go as slowly as the planes?”
St. Padre Pio encouraged us to always remember our guardian angel. In a letter to one of his spiritual daughters, he explained:
Develop the beautiful habit of always thinking of [your guardian angel]; that near us is a celestial spirit, who, from the cradle to the tomb, does not leave us for an instant, guides us, protects us as a friend, a brother; will always be a consolation to us especially in our saddest moments.
Devotion to Our Guardian Angels
The Lord in his mercy has placed beside each of us a companion to accompany us on our journey. Let us always remember our guardian angel and be attentive to his voice. Most of us don’t physically see him or hear him, but he is always present beside us. He is our lifelong companion who guides and protects us each day. It is comforting to know that we are never alone even in the most difficult moments.
On October 2, the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Guardian Angels. Let us remember to thank our guardian angels for their love, care and constant prayers to the heavenly Father. Most of us don’t realize just how powerful and faithful a friend he really is.