Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Under the Charge of the Angels

Yesterday was our family’s first trip to the Emergency Room. Little L (2.5) hit her head while playing and she must have hit it hard because she started howling more than her normal dramatic crying. When she still exhibited abnormal symptoms over an hour later I conferred with her doctor and took her to the ER. She changed for the best, and the doctor said she may have had a mild concussion but that we could not know for sure. I started to wonder after the hospital visit, if it might have been a lot worse had I not gotten into the habit of praying to my children’s guardian angels several years ago.

G (4.5) has been really excited about angels since the summer when her Vacation Bible School theme included angels. We started praying the “Angel of God” prayer everyday with the kids at that point. On Saturday, we went to an evening Mass at my grandparent’s parish, St. Raphael’s. They were given permission to celebrate the Feast of the Archangels even though it fell on a Sunday this year. There was a nice homily on St. Raphael and his acts in the book of Tobit.

As we drove from Cleveland to St. Paul on Sunday, I asked M to explain what St. Thomas says about angels. A few things about them stuck with me.

1. There are more angels than the sum of all material beings that have existed or will ever exist: that is a lot of angels!

2. Angels can control the material world. They have a real impact on us.

3. St. Thomas says that angels guard over individual humans, but also all of nature.

Today is the Memorial of the Most Holy Guardian Angels. The Gospel at Mass is from Matthew:
           At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
          "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
         "Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
          "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-10)
 I was wondering where angels came into that reading, since the theme throughout the readings had been angels. It did not surprise me that the Gospel started off being about little children, because since I have been a parent, angels have always been associated with little children. I think that children are more open to the promptings and protection of their angels. The Baltimore Catechism, in the chapter on sin, says that children are given a special grace to not commit a mortal sin. But then God gives us angels to guide all of us.

Here are two excerpts from St. Thomas on the Guardian Angels (P.1, Q.113, A. 1):
By free-will man can avoid evil to a certain degree, but not in any sufficient degree; forasmuch as he is weak in affection towards good on account of the manifold passions of the soul. Likewise universal natural knowledge of the law, which by nature belongs to man, to a certain degree directs man to good, but not in a sufficient degree; because in the application of the universal principles of law to particular actions man happens to be deficient in many ways. Hence it is written (Wisdom 9:14): "The thoughts of mortal men are fearful, and our counsels uncertain." Thus man needs to be guarded by the angels. 
 and:
As men depart from the natural instinct of good by reason of a sinful passion, so also do they depart from the instigation of the good angels, which takes place invisibly when they enlighten man that he may do what is right. Hence that men perish is not to be imputed to the negligence of the angels but to the malice of men. That they sometimes appear to men visibly outside the ordinary course of nature comes from a special grace of God, as likewise that miracles occur outside the order of nature. 
 Our angels are always urging us on to do the good, but since we are weak and deficient we often do not do good. Even so, we are still under the charge of the angels, and today is a good day to remember them and to remember to pray to them to help us be mindful of their urgings. And also to pray for the angels of the humans in our own charge. 

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