What is an angel? Is it a ghostly spirit, invisible and untouchable by humans that silently guide the human race? Are they warriors who wage a supernatural war against demons for the souls of mortals? Are they little imaginary friends that embody our conscience and teach us lessons? There are many ideas about angels, some true and some false, that float around the theological stratosphere, populating pop culture, entertainment, and literature. But the angels, though invisible, are a definitive group of creatures that were and are important to God’s plan for us.
Fr. Ed Broom joined guest host Patrick Conley on The Inner Life to talk about the reality of angels, their composition and essence, their status in the hierarchy of creatures, their moral plane, and the various roles they serve.
Father Ed began by explaining that God created the angels even before he created the material universe. Like human beings, angels were created in the image and likeness of God and with an intellect and a will. “According to tradition, there are different grades of perfection in the angels if you read some of the sermons of the Fathers of the Church, especially St. Gregory the Great. They actually specify that there are nine choirs of angels… They would be from the least perfect to the most perfect: angels, archangels, virtues, powers, principalities, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim.”
These nine choirs are split into three groups, each with a different purpose. The highest orders, the cherubim and seraphim, exist entirely and purely to praise and honor God, just like we are, as St. Ignatius said. “We are called to praise God.” The virtues, powers, principalities, dominions, and thrones are charged by God with ordering the universe. And finally, the angels and the archangels are tasked with assisting us, the sons and daughters of God. The angels personally assigned to us are the guardian angels and we see in scripture many times where the archangels are charged with assisting in important events (Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael).
Father Ed said that the first prayer he ever learned was the Guardian Angel Prayer when he was 4 years old. His parents made it abundantly clear to him that he had a guardian angel who would protect him not only from spiritual evils, but also from physical evils. But it’s our responsibility to remember to ask for their help:
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. Amen.
His father’s favorite image growing up was that of two children crossing a rickety bridge over a dark creek. And there, hovering behind them was a beautiful guardian angel, keeping them from harm.
It’s so important to remember that like God, angels are on our side and more powerful than we are. If we don’t employ their guidance and help, we are disregarding a relationship with a creature whose sole purpose is to protect us. We are wasting a resource and exposing ourselves to more danger than necessary.
Failing to use our guardian angel is like driving without a seatbelt. A listener called in to share her story of the angels’ intercession. Linda is a blind person and she was taking the bus to visit her friend in the hospital. After she got off the bus, she approached the hospital and was addressed by a man at the door. “Come with me.” She followed him, thinking he would lead her to the front desk. After some time following him, she found herself in a sort of basement. It was quiet, secluded, and cold. It was not the right place. She asked him to take her back but he responded, “Wait…right…here.” As she turned around to try and find her way back, two men came up behind her. “We’ll help you get out.”
As she was guided back up to the hospital to the front desk, she asked the front desk who the men that helped her were. “What men?” they asked. They hadn’t seen any men, only Linda approaching the desk by herself. She believes that God sent his angels to help her. Father Ed said he loves stories like that that so many of us have experienced. While we cannot prove them dogmatically, they act as private signs and reminders of God’s presence and care for each one of us. And even when we give in to weakness, His angels will be there to protect us.
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