The Holy Guardian Angels

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”. He wrote in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew:

How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from birth an angel commissioned to guard it.

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 in the Memorial’s First Reading:

I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. (Exodus 23:20)

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 91:11 we read:

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

Ironically, these same words were used by Satan tempting Jesus to jump from the top of the Temple.

In chapter 10 of the Book of Daniel, 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:

Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. (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 (Acts 12:6-10). And in the Letter to the Hebrews we read:

Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, 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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