From the most ancient times, it has been the unanimous consensus of the Patristic Fathers and Doctors of the Church that each human being is protected by a guardian angel. “Are they not all ministering! spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” Heb. 1: 14. To minister is to serve, guard and help us. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” Psalm 34:7. Again, “he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways,” Psalm 90:11. Hence Jesus says, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven,” Mat. 18:10. And when St. Peter was delivered from prison, and came knocking at the door where his brethren were gathered, they, hearing his voice, could not believe it was him, saying instead, “It is his angel,” Acts 7:15.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “[f]rom its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession” (fn. omitted), and that “[b]eside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life,” quoting St. Basil’s Adv. Eunomium. (See CCC para. 336.). The venerable Baltimore Catechism (rev. ed. 1941) explains that “[t]he good angels help us by praying for us, by acting as messengers from God to us, and by serving as our guardian angels” (para. 42), “protecting us from harm” and “inspiring us to do good.” (Id., para. 43.).
Not only individuals but Churches, nations, and other communities are protected by Guarding Angels, just as Saint Michael the Archangel is the guardian of the Catholic Church, as he was of the ancient Israelites. As stated in the Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin of the Commission for the Information of the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops,commenting on the Latin Rite of the Guardian Angels, “[o]ur doctrine is: the Lord, with the ministry of the guardian angels, enlightens, protects, holds and governs not only individual persons, but the whole Church, peoples, cities and communities.”
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance
when he separated the sons of men,
he fixed the bounds of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
In 2001, during the pontificate of our late, great Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published the “Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines.” It notes that, through the centuries, “the Holy Angels have been adopted as patrons of cities and corporations; great shrines in their honour have developed such as Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, San Michele della Chiusa in Piemonte and San Michele Gargano in Apulia, each appointed with specific feast days; hymns and devotions to the Holy Angels have also been composed.” (Id., at para. 216.) Devotion to the Guardian Angels was strongly encouraged by St. Basil the Great (+378), who taught that “each and every member of the faithful has a Guardian Angel to protect, guard and guide them through life,” and by St. Bernard of Clarivaux (+1153), who was “a great master and a notable promoter of devotion to the Guardian Angels.” (Id., citations omitted.) Sincere devotion to the Guardian Angels has many salutary effects, including the inculcation of “devout gratitude to God for having placed these heavenly spirits of great sanctity and dignity at the service of man,” “an attitude of devotion deriving from the knowledge of living constantly in the presence of the Holy Angels of God,” and “serenity and confidence in facing difficult situations, since the Lord guides and protects the faithful in the way of justice through the ministry of His Holy Angels.” (Id.)
One of the greatest saints in our own century, St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, received inspiration from the Guardian Angels and Our Lady of the Angels: on October 2, 1928, the Feast of the Guardian Angels, he received God’s calling for his mission while hearing beautiful church bells ringing from Our Lady of Angels Church in Madrid, Spain.
I can’t easily forget the ringing of those bells on October 2nd, 1928: the bells of Our Lady of the Angels. My children, in your work, in your interior struggle, in your traveling along this road that goes uphill and has obstacles, know that you are not alone. You have the grace of God, you have the help of our Mother the Blessed Virgin, and you have the holy Guardian Angels.
The root of the astonishing fruitfulness of his ministry lies precisely in his ardent interior life which made Blessed Josemaría a contemplative in the midst of the world. His interior life fed on prayer and the sacraments, and expressed itself in a passionate love for the Eucharist, in the depth with which he lived the Mass as the centre and root of his own life, in his tender devotion to the Virgin Mary, to St Joseph and the Guardian Angels, and in his faithfulness to the Church and the Pope.
Thus, St. Josemaria encourages us to trust in our Guardian Angels: “Have confidence in your guardian Angel. Treat him as a lifelong friend — that is what he is — and he will render you a thousand services in the ordinary affairs of each day.” (The Way 562) St. Josemaria’s love of Our Lady of the Angels and the Guardian Angels surely were powerful forces of good: as the order he founded has borne rich fruit, gaining more than 60,000 members who do good works throughout the globe.
Dear brothers and sisters, we would be removing an important part of the Gospel were we to leave out these beings sent by God, who announce and are a sign of his presence among us. Let us invoke them frequently, so that they may sustain us in our commitment to follow Jesus to the point of identifying with him.
Just as the Patristic Fathers and Doctors of the Church believed in ancient times, so too does the Church believe today that devotion to the Guardian Angels — and to their Queen, Our Lady of the Angels — is a wellspring of blessings for individuals, institutions, and nations. “Have confidence in your guardian Angel. Treat him as a lifelong friend — that is what he is — and he will render you a thousand services in the ordinary affairs of each day.” (St. Josemaria; The Way 562.) “Therefore the Church confesses her faith in the guardian angels, venerating them in the liturgy with an appropriate feast and recommending recourse to their protection by frequent prayer, as in the invocation ‘Angel of God.'” Pope John Paul II, “Angels Participate in History of Salvation” (General Audience, Aug. 6, 1986).