“Beside each believer stands……?……as a protector and shepherd leading him to life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #336). Can you fill in the blank to complete this sentence? There are several valid responses, however, the correct answer may actually surprise you. Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage as we learn more about our promised protector and shepherd, which leads us to life.
Book Excerpt. Chapter Twenty-Four: The Protection of Mercy (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy).
Feeling helpless and unsure, the despondent mother cried out, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? Joseph, my son, is made in your merciful image. He is your child as well as mine. Please, merciful Father, tell me how to reach him.” Getting no immediate response, she vowed to persist in her asking and interceding on his behalf. Later that week, while praying in a rocking chair near his bedroom, she received a response, as several unexpected visitors appeared before her. Seeing with the eyes of faith, for none were visible to the naked eye, she found herself within the very presence of an angel. Leading the group was a valiant warrior, and the leader of all angels, St. Michael the Archangel. He made no sound but simply called fourth four others. One by one, they each appeared before her.
From infancy to death, human life is surrounded by their (guardian angel’s) watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth, the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God, (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #336).
So, here we find our answer to the posed question. But what can we, as Catholics, actually learn about these angelic beings from Sacred Scripture and Tradition? Continue reading to find out.
Angels are mentioned throughout the pages of Sacred Scripture. In fact, they appear from the beginning to the end, from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation. As we read in the opening line of the Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Most of us are very familiar with these famous opening lines of the Bible, but how many of us are aware of creation’s deeper revelation contained within Paul’s Book to the Colossians? Here, Paul writes that all things in heaven and on earth were created through and for Jesus Christ, who is the very “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:16). Paul’s words illuminate many things, in regards to angels, including their intended purpose (to serve and honor God) and their relationship with humanity (as creatures of God).
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the angels serve as “messengers of his saving plan” and are “spirits sent forth to serve” for the sake of our salvation (CCC #331). How appropriate is it then that an angel, named Gabriel, announced the birth of our Savior to Mary in the small town of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-28)?
“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said,”Hail, Full of Grace. The Lord is with you.”
One angel announced the birth of the Messiah, however, many others would continue to minister and care for God incarnate, Jesus Christ, throughout His life on earth. Shortly after the Annunciation, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:19). Shortly after the birth of our Lord, in the small town of Bethlehem, an angel once again appeared to Joseph saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you otherwise. Herod is searching for the child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13). Here, we find two divine functions carried out by God’s angels, that of divine messenger and protector of humankind (Genesis 28:12 and Psalm 91:11). As a matter of fact, the word angel itself means “messenger”. Therefore, in this title, we learn something about their mission. But what of their nature?
According to St. Augustine, angels are spirits who are “servants and messengers of God”. They do not have physical bodies like humans. As purely spiritual creatures, they are personal, immortal, and possess intelligence, power and free will (Hebrews 1:14, Luke 20:36 and CCC #330). Throughout various Bible passages, we find mention of nine different orders of angels: seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), cherubim (Ezekiel 10:22), thrones, dominions, principalities and powers (Colossians 1:16), virtues (1Peter 3:22), archangels (Jude 1:9) and angels (Matthew 17:27). Of these, only three are named in Sacred Scripture, the archangel Michael (Daniel 12:1), Raphael (Tobit 12:15) and Gabriel (Luke 1:19).
Although angels are pure spirit, they can take on any form to accomplish the will of God. Most often, throughout the pages of Sacred Scripture, we find them taking on the appearance of men (Genesis 19:1-2). At other times, like at the site of the Lord’s resurrection, angels have appeared like a “flash of lighting” as “dazzling as the snow” (Matthew 28:3). So, you may ask, do angels actually have wings, as we so often see them depicted? In Isaiah 6:2, we read about angels with six wings and in the Book of Exodus, we find God instructing Moses to make a pure gold covering for the Ark, topped by the outstretched wings of two angels (Exodus 25:20).
When Jesus Christ came to earth, a new era began in the ministry of angels. Although we find their presence throughout the Old Testament, it was only through Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven that we find the “whole life of the Church benefiting from the mysterious and powerful help of angels” (Hebrew 1:14 and CCC #334). This is why the People of God, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, join with the angels and saints in offering praise, honor and glory to their King, Jesus Christ. For this is the ultimate mission of each of God’s creatures, including the angels, saints and each of us.
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and eyes all over, inside and out. Day and night, without pause, they sing: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, He who was, and who is, and who is to come!” (Revelation 4:8).
Moreover, the Church encourages all the faithful to pray to St. Michael, the archangel, for protection against the wickedness of Satan (the fallen angel), and to their own personal guardian angel for comfort, protection, guidance and care.
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. St. Michael, the archangel, pray for us. Amen
(Revelation 12:7-9) Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him.
Closing 3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.
Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).
Jesus, I trust in You.
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