An icon called “Angel of the Lord” was one of more than 80 Russian icons on display in a exhibit at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Conn in 2002. CNS photo
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Do you ever think about your guardian angel? You have one, you know. His mission from God to look after you is explained in the simple prayer that Catholics everywhere learn in childhood:
Angel of God my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide.
Interestingly, the much-cherished and ancient Catholic belief in guardian angels -- mighty spirits charged by God to assist human beings --has never been a formally defined dogma of the Church, but it has always been part of Catholic belief and piety. The Catholic Church’s 2000-year history of liturgy, prayers, hymns, and sacred art has been filled with the presence of Her belief in guardian angels. And for good reason. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of God assigning angels to protect and deliver his people. And, as you might expect, we see similar incidents of angelic protection in the New Testament as well.
In fact, the Lord himself explicitly taught the existence of guardian angels when 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” (Matt. 18:10).
Genesis 19 recounts the case of two angels who were sent by God to protect Lot and his family from a violent homosexual mob bent on harming or killing them. These angels not only struck down many of the aggressors with blindness, they then, if you will excuse the pun, spirited Lot and his family out of the city just before it, along with its wicked inhabitants, was obliterated by a hail of flaming brimstone that God caused to be rained down upon it in punishment for the terrible iniquities committed there (cf. Lk 17:29).
In Exodus 32:34 God promised Moses and the Israelites a special guardian angel saying, “my angel shall go before you.”
In Daniel 10 we see another startling incident in which a warrior angel is sent to speak with the Prophet Daniel. This angel had a “face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the noise of a multitude.” He explained to Daniel that he was fighting alongside “Michael” (i.e. St. Michael the Archangel) against the “Prince of Persia” (i.e. a wicked angel that oppressed the people of that region).
The Deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, chapters 5-6, 8-9, 12, contains yet another dramatic account of a powerful guardian angel, Raphael, who was sent by God to guide and protect the virtuous Hebrew youth Tobiah and Sarah, the young woman to whom he was betrothed (Tob 3:16-17). At one point, the Angel Raphael defeats the wicked angel Asmodeus, a demon, and “binds him hand and foot” (cf. Tob 8:3).
Here are several other scriptural reminders that God does indeed send his holy angels to light and guard, to rule and guide his people:
Psalm 91:9-12 -- “Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Exodus 23:20-22 -- “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. But if you hearken attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.”
Psalm 34:8 -- “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”
Daniel 6:19-22 -- “[T]he king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. When he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish and said to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live for ever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.’”
Acts 12:12-16 indicates that the New Testament-era Christians believed in guardian angels: “When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was 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. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and told 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!’ But Peter continued knocking; and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.”
Hebrews 1:14 -- “Are [Angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?”
Additional passages: Genesis 24:7; Numbers 20:14-16; Psalm 34:8, 35:5; 2 Maccabees 3:22-28, 10:29-30, 11:6, 15:23-24, Zachariah 1:8-11, 3:6-7; Judith 13:20; Acts 5:18-23; 12:6-11
Related sections in the Catechism: CCC 328-336
Patrick Madrid is an author, public speaker, and the publisher of Envoy Magazine. Visit his website at www.surprisedbytruth.com