Today, September 29, in the Catholic Church, we celebrate the feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, three archangels mentioned in Sacred Scripture. And this coming Sunday, October 2, we celebrate the memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels. So, today, I’m thinking about angels in general. We have individual angels and archangels as well as groups of angels, including guardian angels, Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Principalities, and Powers. All are pure spirits … except when they apparently take on human form, which is when they are sent to Earth for a particular purpose as mentioned in the gospels. The three archangels we celebrate today are declared saints in the Catholic Church.
The most famous is probably the archangel Gabriel. He was sent to earth to deliver a very important message – he announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the divine Savior (Luke 1:26-38). Michael and Raphael are mentioned in the Old Testament. Unnamed angels also appear in Scripture, such as to Zechariah (Luke 1:11-20) and Joseph (Matt 2:13 and Matt 2:19-20). Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his work Summa Theologica,describes the groups of angels mentioned above based on Scripture, Seraphim and Cherubim in the Old Testament (Isai 6:2 and Gene 3:24) and the others in the New Testament (Colo 1:16 and Roma 8:38 for example).
There are also “bad angels” or “devils.” Devils are led by Satan, also called Lucifer. The book of Revelation states the following about the bad angels before man was created (Reve 12:7-12): “War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it." These bad angels today, in the words of the Catholic prayer to St. Michael, “prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls” and this is a major problem for you and me. Our temptation to sin, including adultery and the rejection of the Catholic teaching, which are so common, result from his “wickedness and snares” here on earth.
And what of “guardian angels?” Their existence is supported by Sacred Scripture in the words of Jesus (Matt 18:10): “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.” The prayer to my guardian angel that I learned in elementary school and still use every now and then goes something like this: “Angel of God, my guardian dear to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light, to guard, to rule and guide. Amen.” I believe I have seen the interventions of my guardian angel in my life. Usually these take the form of a good Samaritan in human flesh, such as giving me directions when my travels take me completely off track. They are strangers. I do not learn their name. They are here, and then they are gone.
The photograph shows the sanctuary of the chapel at the Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House near Waverly, Nebraska. Notice the statues of the angels on either side of the tabernacle kneeling in adoration.