Holy Guardian Angels

Holy Guardian Angels (Memorial)
The Church has never formally declared that every individual has a protecting angel. However, a writer as far back as St Jerome said it was the “mind of the Church”. “How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from birth an angel commissioned to guard it,” he wrote in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew.

Belief in guardian angels was common among many cultures in ancient times. Examples can be given from Menander, Plutarch, Plotinus as well as from the Babylonians and Assyrians. In fact, it was their belief which was taken up by the Jews following their periods of conquest and exile.
In the Old Testament the evidence of protecting angels is frequent. Some examples: an angel led Lot to safety before the destruction of Sodom; during the Exodus an angel is appointed as leader of the Israelites and God tells Moses, “My angel will go before you” (today’s First Reading). There is the lovely story of the angel (Raphael) who took protective care of Tobias as he went in search of a bride and for medicine to heal his blind father (Book of Tobit).
In Psalm 90:11 we read: “For to his angels he has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways.” (Ironically, words used by Satan tempting Jesus to jump from the top of the Temple.) In the Book of Daniel (chap. 10) angels are entrusted to take care of particular districts. It is clear the Old Testament understood God’s angels as messengers carrying out his will, including the protection of people.

In the New Testament angels are frequently the links between God and his people. So we have Jesus say: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look up on the face of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10). There is the angel who consoled Jesus during his Agony in the Garden; it was an angel who delivered Peter from prison (Acts12:6-10). And in the Letter to the Hebrews we read: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14)
As children, many of us remember the prayer we were taught to say every night before sleep:

Angel of God, my guardian dear
to whom God’s love commits me here.
Ever this day/night be at my side
to light, to guard, to rule and guide.

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