GUARDIAN ANGELS: You hear the term in many religious, as well as secular, settings. The idea of a lifelong, invisible protector is not contemporary. The concept is accepted throughout multiple communities and by various people of faith.
Since birth you might have been given small trinkets that depict some general celestial figure. I’m having a vision of a porcelain figurine – all white, and no face. It stands at perhaps five inches tall, and it’s most noticeable characteristic is a pair of elongated, feathered wings. With it comes a prayer card. The card is baby blue in color, much like a perfectly clear Spring sky, and laminated. The expression reads like a short poem and the font chosen is curly in design. The prayer sounds familiar, like you’ve heard it before in some far-away dream state.
Your human guardians encourage this belief for many years. After all, what is a more convenient tale for keeping small children from crawling into bed with them each night? But even into your adult years you find yourself coveting these same trinkets. You may have walked away from any childhood religious practices, but still find yourself glancing into the Hallmark store eyeing up the porcelain figurines, sharing the small poems on social media, and even pleading to said invisible protector when times get difficult.
Expressing belief over guardian angels is not contested by fundamentalists for being heretical or sneered at by the self-proclaimed “spiritual, but not religious” for being a result of internalizing conservative institutions. In fact, most (if not all) major world religions have some form of non-disputed angelology(s). The details about these angelologies are, like everything else, argued over; but it appears that a lot of people – myself included – really dig the idea of celestial hierarchy. This realization has recently left me to wonder, what exactly does the Catholic Church have to say on the matter?
I could write for ages about the theology of such hierarchies. Studying angels, which I may have already brought up a couple of dozen times before, happens to be my jam. However, with all the information that is available on the subject, that would be a daunting undertaking. I’m actually terrified at even the thought. Why then does it still feel like such an important topic to broach? Lately, I’ve been more-and-more interested in discovering what it is that draws me towards the spiritual. I guess I’ve always been fascinated in, what Tyler Roberts would describe as, that which is beyond reach; the intangible space holder that keeps our lives from falling into disarray. It’s a calling, if you will, and I’ve spent years trying to understand what “is beyond reach” by fundamental practices: attending mass, listening to “authoritative” figures, and praying for the understanding to click. I wanted my spirituality to bring me comfort. I wanted to know that what I choose to belief could even have the possibility of being accepted by God. What did I find out along the way? Fundamentalists don’t have the exact answers to salvation either. They can be perceived as reaching for their salvation just as far as anybody else.
So does that mean we can rationally take our porcelain figures and factory made prayer cards into adulthood? Hell, yeah. If guardian angels bring you comfort, something that is hard-pressed to find in this world, it is no one else’s place to take that spiritual comfort away from you. Hang your glass ornaments on the rear-view mirror of your car. Buy that angel stone you found in the holistic store. Tattoo those wings on your back. Much like our spirit guides, our guardian angels are here for us. They’re not wasting away worrying about the opinions of other mortals so we can rightfully follow their lead.
And how do your specific angels fit into your understanding of celestial hierarchies? That’s something that only you can decide. There is no concrete belief system about such matters – not even where the Catholic Church is concerned.
Hear me on this. The Catholic Church has not officially made an orthodox stance on guardian angels. Because of which, there is no article of faith to battle against your own personal understanding. This is a liberty, one that even the Church Fathers have been known to use to their benefit:
“How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” – St. Jerome
Thanks for that Jerome.
St. Thomas Aquinas believed it to be the lowest category of angels that are assigned to be guardians of humanity. However, John Duns Scotus and William Durandus would debate Aquinas’s claim. They’d rather argue that any member of the angelic race is capable of carrying out Divine order; therefore, a potential guardian for Creation. And yes, they mean any member of Creation. As guardians are assigned at birth, and carry us past the mortal death, the unbaptized also partake in this heavenly union. Whether or not one manages to be baptized does not severe this bond. God loves us all. Sorry, not-so-sorry, about that Saints Basil and Chrysostom. Not everything can be a Christian privilege, it’s wrong to be under the impression that people exist in this world who don’t deserve to reap the benefits of unconditional love.
And guardian angels? Yeah, I believe that they love us. They may have been assigned to us, like an arranged marriage, but who’s to say we all weren’t made for one another? And who isn’t looking to receive a little extra love while in this realm?
Granting you peace on this March night.