Seven things you can do to follow the angels in heaven
On Sept 29 we celebrated the Feast of the Archangels Michael (“who is like God”), Gabriel (“God is my strength”) and Raphael (“God heals”), and Oct 2 was the feast of our Holy Guardian Angels.
Angels are a gift from God.Their existence is a “truth of faith”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 328) From birth to death, our lives are surrounded by the watchful care and intercession of angels. (CCC 336)
Who are they? St Augustine explained that “these spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel’.” (CCC 328, 329)
Their office is that of messenger (from the Greek angelos) and intermediary. “God is humanity’s universal teacher and guardian, but his teaching to humanity is mediated by angels.” (St Thomas Aquinas) We too are called to be messengers and intermediaries of God to those who need to hear his Good News but do not know him or are unable to hear him, to give strength to the weak in body and soul, to heal woundedness and to reveal the power and wisdom of God to help them fight their spiritual battles.
This is how we must be like angels for others:
- We must have a relationship with God
Jesus said of little children, “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). Like the angels, we too must converse with God in prayer often to ask him for direction, to hear how he wants us to minister to the people in our lives, or to just sit in his presence and adore him face-to-face.
- We must never cease to praise God
St Hildegard of Bingen describes angels as “pure praise without any trace of a bodily deed”. The highest form of praise we can give to God is when we gather as His People at Mass. The angels teach us how to present ourselves as a pleasing sacrifice to God: “With what humility should we assist at Mass, if we realised that our guardian angel was kneeling beside us, prostrate before the majesty of God! With what eagerness should we not ask him to offer our prayers to Jesus Christ!” (St John Marie Vianney) This should be our disposition even if we are unable to attend Mass during this time of Covid-19 and can only enter into spiritual communion with the Lord.
- We must have a relationship with others
“Since God often sends us his inspirations by means of his angels, we ought frequently to offer him our aspirations through the same channel – call on them and honour them frequently, and ask their help in all your affairs, temporal as well as spiritual.” (St Francis de Sales) If we genuinely want to be another’s angel, we must be willing to invest time and love to respond to frequent appeals for help and guidance, especially if we are looked up to for our experience or wise counsel.
- We must be prepared to “wrestle”
More often than not, our message from God is a difficult one, or not one that others want to hear. If they disagree or do not listen to us, we may have to engage them as did the angel with Jacob in Genesis 32: 24,25 and persevere in consoling them or helping them see and remove the obstacles in their spiritual lives, imitating the angel who ministered to Jesus during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43) and the angel who rolled the stone away from the empty tomb at his resurrection (Matthew 28:2)
- We must be humble always
St Augustine warned, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” Satan was a fallen angel of light. He fell because he was jealous of us. “Although the angels are superior to us in many ways, yet in some respects they fall short of us, for we, rather than they, have been created in God’s image.” (St Gregory Palamas, Eastern Orthdox saint) Let us not fall into the same trap.
- We must protect our hearts and others from evil
God has called us and set us apart to be the living stones of His spiritual house, the Church, built on the cornerstone of Christ. (1 Peter 2:5) When God created the Garden of Eden, He sent angels to keep it from the contamination of sin and pride (Genesis 3:24). God commanded angels to be set on the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple of Solomon to protect the Holy of Holies within. (Exodus 25:18-20; 1 Kings 8:6-7)
If we are to be angels on earth, we must protect hearts from sin, and safeguard bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. St John Bosco, who like many of the saints, wrote from experience, taught, “When tempted, invoke your angel; he is more eager to help you than you are to be helped. Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him: he trembles and flees at the sight of your guardian angel!” And what more St Michael the Archangel who fights for us on a cosmic level. (Daniel 12:1, Revelation 12:7)
- We must teach others about the angels
“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.” Many of us were taught this little prayer in our childhood – and now we know why. Let us be messengers of the good news of angels and “Let us be like the holy angels now. If one day we are to be in the angelic court, we must learn how, while we are still here, the manners of the angels.” (St Vincent Ferrer)
Mary, Queen of Angels
The psalmist asks the Lord in wonder, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?…
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