St Matthew ends his narration of the temptations of Our Lord with this verse: Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Let us look for a moment at this appearance of angels in Jesus’ life, for it will help us to understand their role – the role, that is, of their angelic mission – in all human life. Christian tradition describes the guardian angels as powerful friends, placed by God alongside each one of us, to accompany us on our way. And that is why He invites us to make friends with them and get them to help us.
In suggesting that we meditate on these passages of the life of Christ, the Church reminds us that during Lent, when we recognise our sins, our wretchedness and our need for purification, there is also room for our joy. Lent is a time for both bravery and joy; we have to fill ourselves with courage, for the grace of God will not fail us. God will be at our side and will send his angels to be our travelling companions, our prudent advisers along the way, our co-operators in all that we take on.
Holy Scripture and Tradition rightly give the name of angels to those pure spirits who chose God, his kingdom and his glory when they were given the fundamental test of freedom. They are charged with protecting all men. We read in the Epistle to the Hebrews: Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?
It is common doctrine that each and every man, baptised or not, has his guardian angel. The angel’s mission begins with the conception of a man and continues up to the moment of his death. St John Chrysostom affirms that all the guardian angels will gather together at the universal judgement in order to bear witness themselves to the ministry that they exercised through God’s command for the salvation of each man.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we find a number of passages which tell us about the intervention of these holy angels and about the confidence that the first Christians had in them.
This trust and veneration of our first brothers in the Faith for the angels is particularly highlighted in the account of the freeing of St Peter from prison: An angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell, and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly’. And the chains fell from off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Dress yourself and put on your sandals’. And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your mantle around you and follow me’.
As soon as he had been set free, Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a maid named Rhoda came to answer it. Recognising Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and told them that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, ‘You are mad’. But she insisted that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel’. This incident shows us what great affection the first Christians felt for Peter as well as the great naturalness of their faith in the guardian angels.
See on what intimate terms the early Christians were with their guardian angels. And you?
We too have to get to know them in a natural and confident way, and we will often be amazed at the help they give us to overcome in our struggle against the evil one. We receive valuable help from the good angels, messengers of God’s love. We have been taught by the tradition of the Church to direct our prayer to them: ‘Angel of God, you are my guardian, enlighten my mind, guard me, direct me and govern me, for I have been entrusted to your celestial care. Amen.’
Ways in which they can help us.
Angels came and ministered to him. The guardian angels have the specific mission of helping every man to reach his supernatural end. Behold, I send an angel before you, the Lord says to Moses, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. And the Catechism of the Council of Trent comments, Just as fathers, when their sons have to travel among bad and dangerous roads, make sure they are accompanied by people who can guard them and defend them from danger, so in the same way does our heavenly Father, as we set out along this path that leads to our heavenly home. He gives each one of us an angel. He does this so that, strengthened by his power and help, we may be freed from the snares cunningly set by our enemies, and may repel the terrible assaults that they make on us. He wants us to walk straight along the path with such guides, so that no obstacle placed in our way by the enemy should turn us aside from the way that leads to heaven.
Thus the mission of the guardian angels is to help men in the face of all temptations and dangers, and to bring good inspirations to their hearts. They are our intercessors, our guardians, and they give us their help whenever we invoke them. The saints intercede for men. The guardian angels not only pray for men, but they carry out duties towards them. If intercession takes place through the blessed in Heaven, through the guardian angels there is both intercession and direct intervention; they are at the same time advocates for men before God and ministers of God before men.
The guardian angel can also give us material help if this is good for our supernatural end or for that of others. We should never hesitate to ask them for favours in the little material things that we need each day; finding a parking space; not missing a bus; help in an examination we have worked for, etc. They can co-operate with us especially in the apostolate; their assistance is invaluable in our struggle against temptations and against the devil, and in our prayer. As well as taking our thoughts up to God, they bring God’s help to our souls, and they watch over them like good shepherds, communicating sweet messages and divine inspirations. The angels defend us against those wolves which are the devils, and they protect us.
We have to treat our guardian angel as we would a good friend. He is always on the watch, constantly prepared to give us his aid, if only we would ask him. It is a great pity when, through ignorance or forgetfulness, we do not sense the company of such a faithful companion, or do not ask him for help whenever we need it. We are never alone at moments of temptation or difficulty. Our guardian angel helps us; he will remain by our side until the very moment we leave this world.
At the end of our lives, our guardian angel will accompany us before God’s judgement seat, as the liturgy of the Church tells us in its prayers for the soul at the moment of death.
Devotion to the Guardian Angels and our friendship with them.
Have confidence in your guardian angel. Treat him as a lifelong friend – that is what he is – and he will render you a thousand services in the ordinary affairs of each day.
So that our guardian angel can give us his help, we need to let him know, in some way, our intentions and desires. In spite of the great perfection of their nature, angels do not have God’s power or infinite knowledge, so they cannot read what is in our consciences. We only have to speak to our guardian angel in our minds for him to understand and even to deduce from our inward thoughts more than we ourselves are able to express. That is why it is so important to treat our guardian angel as a friend.
As well as friendship, we owe our guardian angel veneration as one who is always in God’s presence, who contemplates him face to face at the same time as he is by our side.
Devotion to our guardian angel will be an effective help in our relations with God, in our work and in our relationships with the people around us, in the small and not so small conflicts which may arise in the course of our lives. During this Lent we should be especially aware of, and moved by, the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, where we see the most Holy Humanity of Our Lord comforted by an angel from Heaven.
We must learn to speak to the angels. Turn to them now; tell your guardian angel that these spiritual waters of Lent will not flow off your soul but will go deep, because you are sorry. Ask them to take up to the Lord your good will, which, by the grace of God, has grown out of your wretchedness like a lily grown on a dunghill. ‘Sancti Angeli, Custodes nostri: defendite nos in proelio ut non pereamus in tremendo judicio.’ Holy angels, our guardians, defend us in our fight so that we do not perish at the final judgement. Let us ask Our Lady, Regina Angelorum, to teach us to get to know our angels, particularly during this Lent.
Francis Fernandez Carvajal was born in Granada in 1938. A graduate in History from the University of Navarre, he also hold a doctorate in Canon Law from the Angelicum in Rome. He is a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature. Since his ordination in 1964, much of his pastoral ministry has been with university students. For more than ten years he was editor of he montly magazine PALABRA. Among his published works are Lukewarmness- the Devil in Disguise, Overcoming Lukewarmness, Through wind and Waves, and Commentaries on the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke
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