"For He hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy
In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot
against a stone."
Psalm 102:20 "Bless the Lord, all ye His angels: you that are mighty in
and execute His word, hearkening to the voice of His orders."
From the very first Book of the Bible --
And [God] cast out Adam; and placed before the paradise of pleasure
Cherubims, and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of
the tree of life.
-- to the very
And he [an angel] showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the
street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life,
bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruits every month, and the leaves
of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no
curse any more; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it,
and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face: and his
name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more: and they
shall not need the light of the lamp, nor the light of the sun, because
the Lord God shall enlighten them, and they shall reign for ever and
-- angels are
present. In between Genesis and the Apocalypse of St. John, they are
shown helping, guiding, teaching, revealing, and interceding for and
punishing man in accordance with God's will. Cherubim guarded
Eden after the Fall to ensure man could not re-enter it, and they later
guarded the Ark of the Covenant. Angels appeared
Abraham, Agar (Hagar), Lot, and Gideon. Jacob dreamed of them climbing
and descending a stairway to Heaven. The archangel Raphael travelled
with Tobias. The archangel Gabriel taught Daniel and announced the
birth of St. John the Baptist and Our Lord. An angel appeared to St.
Joseph in a dream, telling him that the Child Mary is carrying is of
the Holy Ghost and will save His people from their sins. Another
angelic dream ensured that St. Joseph fled with the Holy Family to
Egypt before Herod carried out his Slaughter
of the Innocents. Angels
appeared to the shepherds to proclaim the birth of Jesus, stayed with
Our Lord during His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani, and announced
His Resurrection to the women who came to annoint His Body with spices.
It was an angel sent by Christ who pulled back the veil and revealed
Heaven and the future to St. John the Evangelist, recorded in his
Apocalypse -- and in that vision
angels are seen implementing God's judgment, while other angels stand
before the throne of the "Ancient of Days," adoring Him day and night.
Who are these creatures? What are their powers? What are they like, and
how are we to interact with them?
Everything but God is a creature 1 -- that is, the result of God's
creative work. Only the Most Holy Trinity exists Uncreated and has
existed since before time itself, since before "the beginning." Then,
Immutable in His Divine Essence, complete in Himself and needing nothing, the Ancient of Days brought
forth the created world ex nihilo -- out of nothing --
thereby starting the story that we are a part of. Imagine it!
There was nothing but Being Itself, Being Himself, and then the
great I AM spoke into existence everything from willow trees to stars
Now, Moses tells us in Exodus 20:11 that "in six days the Lord
made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in
them." From this we know that the angels, too, were created during
those six days (whether those "days" were literal, 24-hour days or
metaphorical isn't the point of this article). Futher, the angels
were created before the
earth was made, as Job 38:1-7 speaks of how the "sons of God made a
joyful melody" when the "corner stone" of the earth was laid. What
must be believed, then, is that the angels were created by God,
time, and at some point before the creation of all other
So, before He created the natural
world that we can readily see and touch and hear and taste, He created
praeternatural realm -- the realm inhabited by the creatures we call
angels. They were created to adore God, implement His will, and to
reveal His will to men. This last purpose is the origin of the very
word "angel," which comes from the Greek "aggelos," meaning "messenger"
("malak" in Hebrew).
They are beings without bodies like ours. The Fathers and
Doctors disagree as to whether they are absolutely "pure spirit," like
God, and so are completely bodiless, or whether they possess "subtle
matter," 3 but in either case
they can sometimes be seen, either because of the nature of subtle
matter, if that is the case, or, as St. Thomas Aquinas believed, in the
same sort of way that "air" can seem to "condense" to form
In either case, angels were created immortal, and with great power and
intelligence -- an intelligence so great that angels are sometimes
referred to as "intelligences." They are not omniscient, however, but
according to St. Thomas Aquinas, God infuses them with knowledge
according to their rank (see below). Neither can they read our minds,
but God may reveal to them our secret thoughts -- and they are able to
perceive the material world and to understand our thoughts by the
things we do and the way we appear. As an example, most of us are
unable to read others' thoughts in some telepathic way, but we are
quite able to see
sadness in someone's face. Angels can do this, too, but are able to
discern such things much better than we because of their astounding
intelligence. They are
able to act on our imagination, senses, and the intellect, but not
directly on our will.
They are able to affect the material world, too, just as you and I can,
only with much more strength. Remember how, on Easter morning, it was
two angels who rolled away the great rock that was placed in front of
Our Lord's tomb by Joseph of Arimethea. The stone was so "very great"
that the three women who went to the tomb were wondering how they could
move it -- but they arrived to find it moved away, and a "man" sitting
on it, with another "man" inside the tomb.
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of
James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint
Jesus. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they
come to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen.And they said one to
another: Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the
sepulchre? And looking, they saw the stone rolled back. For it was very
great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on
the right side, clothed with a white robe: and they were astonished.
of these "men" was so awesome, that it struck the guards with terror:
And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards
the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to
see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an
angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the
stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his
raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with
terror, and became as dead men. And the angel answering, said to the
women: Fear not you; for I know that you seek Jesus Who was crucified.
powerful, awesome in appearance, and they are numerous, like
the stars. Psalm 67 tells us how the "chariot
of God is attended by ten thousands; thousands of them that rejoice."
Daniel 7:9-10 describes God, the Ancient of Days, and how "thousands of
thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand
stood before Him." St. John writes in his Apocalypse:
And I beheld,
and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the
living creatures, and the ancients; and the number of them was
thousands of thousands.
In the Gospel
of St. Matthew, Our Lord asks St. Peter when he drew his sword
against the Roman soldier,
that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give me presently more than
twelve legions of angels?
At Holy Mass, we
praise God by singing the Sanctus which refers to Him as "Důminus Deus
SŠbaoth" ("Lord God of 'hosts'," meaning "multitudes" or "armies").
Yes, they are many. And there is an order to them in terms of rank.
About these multitudes, Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote:
The nine orders or "choirs" of the angels in a table format
so you can
visualize it all
We know on the
authority of Scripture that there are nine orders of angels, viz.,
Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations,
Throne, Cherubim and Seraphim. That there are Angels and Archangels
nearly every page of the Bible tell us, and the books of the Prophets
talk of Cherubim and Seraphim. St. Paul, too, writing to the Ephesians
[Ephesians 1:21] enumerates four orders when he says: "above all
Power, and Virtue, and Domination"'; and again, writing to the
Colossians he says: "whether Thrones, or Dominations, or
Principalities, or Powers" [Colossians 1:16]. If we now join these two
lists together we
have five Orders, and adding Angels and Archangels [St. Jude and 1
Thessalonians 4:15], Cherubim [Ezechiel 1, 10] and
Seraphim [Isaias 6], we find nine Orders of Angels.
Archangels, and Principalities: concern themselves
with the minute ordering of the universe and specific causes, including
the welfare of people. Each human being, each church, and each country
has a Guardian Angel.
|The 2nd triad
and Dominions: known as the "angels of
creation" because they concern themselves with the ordering of the
universe and a plurality of causes.
Cherubim, and Seraphim: concern themselves with
contemplating the glory of God. To read descriptions of the Cherubim,
see Ezechiel 1 and Apocalypse 4. It is the 6-winged Seraphim -- "The
Burning Ones," aglow with Love for God -- who sing
the Sanctus, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts" (Isaias 6:3).
mnemonic you can use to remember the angelic orders in
AN ARmy PRivate POker VIrtuoso DOminated THe CHampionship
Hildegard von Bingen's drawing of the choirs of angels.
Click to enlarge.
It seems that when most people think of guardian angels, they think
little children and the classic prayer they're taught to say just
before getting tucked in at night:
Angel of God, my
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this night be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
But guardian angels are not a matter of pretty little "fairy godmother
stories" we tell kids in order to comfort them and make them cozy.
They're real. Quite real.
Lord Christ Himself, when, speaking of the evil of
spiritual pride, told His disciples that they must become like
little children to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, and said of
"their angels in Heaven always see the Face of My Father Who is in
heaven" (Matthew 18:10).
No, guardian angels aren't just for children; each baptized person has
one (theologians differ as to whether each human being, baptized or
not, has one). St. Paul wrote
to the Hebrews that such angels are "ministering spirits,
sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of
salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). Psalm 90:11-12
puts it very clearly, "For He hath given His angels charge over thee;
keep thee in all thy ways. In their
hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone."
Think about it! Perhaps you're reading this late at night, alone in
your room. The house is dark but for the room in which you're sitting.
Alll is quiet aside from the occasional bark from a dog down the
street. But even now, in the dark and quiet, you are not alone.
You have a guardian angel with you, now -- right now -- protecting
you, looking out for you -- and your angel not only sees you, but sees
the Face of Our "Father Who is in Heaven." Imagine the power of
this Heavenly mediator! It's the job and
happiness of each of us to develop a relationship with our angel, to
honor, pray to, and rely on him. Daily prayer to your angel,
expressions of gratitude, asking your angel to be with and protect you
and pray for you
are all very important.
Pope St. Leo the Great advised us to "confirmate
amicitias cum sanctis angelis" ("Make friendships with the holy
angels"), but we can also call on the Guardian Angels of others to
over them, an especially important and beautiful thing for parents to
do for their children, or for a family member to do for a loved one
going through some sort of crisis. In a crisis, we can also request
Guardian Angel give a message to the Guardian Angel of another, with
the prayer that that message is relayed somehow to the other person and
that some wholesome action follow.
The life of Padre Pio is filled with such stories. In one instance, a
woman went to meet with him very late at night, but found his Capuchin
church closed. She prayed to her Guardian Angel to alert Padre Pio's
Guardian Angel that she needed to talk to him now, as her sister was in
grave danger of death. Suddenly, Padre Pio appears at the window,
yelling out, asking who it is who is calling him.
Once a California man who used to ask his Angel to send messages to
Pio was able to receive Penance from Padre. Afterward, he asked if
Padre Pio actually heard his requests through his own Angel. Padre Pio
responded with, "Do you think I am deaf?" -- and then proceeded to
relate to the Californian the content of his messages.
Our angels are our "spirit guides," but care must be taken to not fall
into occult practices while "making friendship" with them. With the
exception of obviously gifted and
saintly folks, such as Padre Pio, who did
see his Angel, we're not to
resort to human mediators who claim to see these spirits without strict
spiritual guidance from a holy priest (one obvious clue: if the person isn't
deeply Catholic and living a holy life, or if he is charging you money
to bring you messages "from your angel," stay away!). We're not to deal
"channelers," to use ouija boards to commune with spirits, or employ
any other occultic tools designed
to put us in touch with the spirit world. Nor are we to give names to
angels. Keeping in mind our angels' existence, and simple prayer --
requests for guidance, protection, and help, and expressions of
gratitude -- are all that's required, along with remembering the Feast
of the Guardian Angels on October 2. The attitude to have toward our
Guardian Angels was described by Padre Pio to one of his spiritual
daughters, Raffaelina, in 1914:
how consoling it is to know that we are always under the protection of
a heavenly spirit, who never abandons us, not even (most admirable
fact!) in the very act by which we displease God! How sweet this great
truth is for the believing soul! What can the devout soul fear that is
diligent in loving Jesus, and that always has such a distinguished
fighter present by its side? Oh, was he not perchance among those many
who, together with St. Michael the Angel there in the empyreal heights
defended the honor of God against Satan and all the other rebellious
spirits, finally reducing them to perdition and casting them into hell?
Well then, know that he is still powerful against Satan and
his satellites. His charity has not grown less, nor will it ever fail
to protect us. Form the beautiful habit of thinking about him always.
How close to us stands one of the celestial spirits, who from the
cradle to the grave never leaves us for an instant. He guides us, he
protects us like a friend, like a brother. This ought to be, moreover,
a constant consolation for us, especially in our saddest hours.
Know, O Raffaelina, that this good angel prays for you: he
offers to God all your good works that you accomplish, as well as your
holy and pure desires. In the hours in which you seem to be alone and
abandoned, do not complain about not having a soul-mate to whom you can
open (your heart) and to whom you can confide your sorrows: - for the
love of God, do not forget this invisible companion who is always
present to listen to you and always ready to console you.
O delightful intimacy, O blessed companionship! Oh, if only
all men knew how to understand and appreciate this very great gift that
God, in the excess of His love for men, has assigned to us this
celestial spirit! Recall frequently his presence: you ought to fix your
mind's eye upon him. Thank him, pray to him. He is so finely mannered,
so discreet: respect him. Have continual fear lest you offend the
purity of his gaze.
Invoke frequently your Guardian Angel, this benefactor
angel. Repeat often the beautiful prayer: "Angel of God, my Guardian
dear, to whom the heavenly Father's bounty entrusts me here; enlighten
me, guard me, guide me now and forever." How great, my dear Raffaelina,
will be the consolation, when, at the hour of death, your soul will see
this angel, who is so good, who has accompanied you throughout your
life, who was so ample in his maternal care! Oh that this sweet thought
may make you, may render you continually more fond of the Cross of
Jesus! This is namely what your good angel desires! May the desire to
see this inseparable companion of your entire life enkindle in you that
charity which moves you to desire soon to leave the body.
that we honor our Guardian Angels liturgically on the Feast of the Guardian Angels on October
must be made of the angels known as "the seven Archangels," but who are
actually seraphim in terms of their rank. They're called "archangels"
informally and in the sense that the prefix "arch" means "above."
We know there are seven of them because of Tobias 12:15:
"For I am the angel Raphael, one of
the seven, who stand before the Lord." Three of their names are given
(mentioned in Daniel,
Epistle of St. Jude, Apocalypse of St.
John), whose name means "Who is like unto God" and whose Feast, Michaelmas, is September
29. He is the one we call on most in our fight against evil, especially
with the Prayer to St. Michael. He is
pictured with a sword in hand, fighting Satan, or often holding the
scales of Justice, weighing souls. He is our angelic fighter.
(mentioned in Daniel
and Luke), whose name means "Strength of God"
and whose Feast is March 24, the day
before "Lady Day" (the Feast of
the Annunciation). Gabriel is the one who approached Our Lady
to tell her she will bear the Son of God. He's most often depicted in
art standing before her, often holding a lily. He is our angelic
(mentioned in Tobias), whose name means "Medicine of God" and whose Feast is
October 24. He is described in the book of Tobias as the
one who helps Tobias (aka "Tobit") catch a fish, and prepare a salve
from it which healed Tobias's father's theretofore blind eyes. He's
often shown holding a fish and/or accompanied by a dog. He is our
Scriptural Archangels: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel
Book of Enoch lists not only the Scriptural archangels, but the other
four, and names them thus:
The twentieth chapter of the Book of Enoch describes all of
the archangels like this:
- Uriel (chapters
IX, X, XIX, XXI, XXVII, LXXIX, LXXX)
- Raguel (chapters
- Sariel or Saraq‚Íl (chapter
- Jeramiel or
1. And these are
the names of the holy angels who watch. 2. Uriel, one of the holy
angels, who is over the world and over Tartarus. 3. Raphael, one of the
holy angels, who is over the spirits of men. 4. Raguel, one of the holy
angels who takes vengeance on the world of the luminaries. 5. Michael,
one of the holy angels, to wit, he that is set over the best part of
mankind and over chaos. 6. Saraq‚Íl, one of the holy angels, who is set
over the spirits, who sin in the spirit. 7. Gabriel, one of the holy
angels, who is over Paradise and the serpents and the Cherubim. 8.
Remiel, one of the holy angels, whom God set over those who rise.
archangels, it is St. Michael who typically plays the largest role in
the lives of Catholics. He, along with our Guardian Angels, is the one
we call on when dealing with temptation and evil. He's God's soldier,
and because we belong to God, he is our soldier, too. Much more will be
spoken of him in the section on spiritual warfare.
Not all of God's angels are good, however. Some rebelled against their
Creator and are now committed to taking with them to Hell as many souls
as they can.
1 In modern English, we
tend to think of the word "creature" as pertaining to "living things,"
but traditional use of the word refers simply to anything that is created.
This is why you will hear, for ex., in the exorcism of salt, a
reference to "creature salt" or, in the blessing of holy water, to
2 For St. Augustine's thoughts on
when the angels were created, see Book
XI, Chapter IX of his "City of God."
St. Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics that followed taught
that angels are pure spirit and not corporeal in any way. The
earlier, more Platonic belief of most of the Church Fathers is that
only God is pure Spirit, and that, though angels are not corporeal in
the way that we are, they are, in a limited sense, "corporeal"
in that they are made, in part, of "subtle matter" which is unlike
matter in the physical world. Most
Catholics tend to believe that
angels are totally incorporeal, a belief that stems from the fact that
this is what was taught in the good ole "Penny Catechisms" of better
times, but a Catholic may
believe that angels possess subtle matter.
4 St. Thomas
Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-I-51-2: "Although air as long as it is in
a state of rarefaction has neither shape nor color, yet when condensed
it can both be shaped and colored as appears in the clouds. Even so the
angels assume bodies of air, condensing it by the Divine power in so
far as is needful for forming the assumed body."