By Fr. Glenn Jones:
The subject of angels often captivates people. There’s actually quite a number of references to angels in the Bible—315 by my BibleGateway concordance count, the number probably depending on the translation. But from cover to cover our angel guides are there—from Genesis to Revelation—just as they are from “cover to cover” of our lives.
Now, every October 2nd is a day we Catholics celebrate our guardian angels—spiritual protectors and guides we believe is given by God to each of us per Jesus words: “…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 18:10) … and also remembering the angelic guide of the Exodus Israelites: “I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20)
Now, angels are not the chubby cherubs fluttering about like butterflies around flowers as they are often depicted even in some baroque churches, but rather they are powerful spiritual beings. Of course, in our scientific day there is much poo-pooing of the concept of a non-empirical spiritual plane of existence … but is it really that hard to believe? Mathematicians and scientists speculate of many—if not infinite—other dimensions that we cannot physically discern, so why is a spiritual plane that we are ill-equipped to perceive so difficult to imagine? After all, “dark matter” is supposed to be much more plentiful than “normal” matter, and we can’t even find any. One might expect that mathematicians and scientists would be the most open to the possibility of “other-dimensional” beings at very least.
For analogy, imagine for a moment that we were strictly two-dimensional, with only length and width (goodbyyyye, Weight Watchers! 😊). Then imagine a being of a 3-dimensional existence poking through our flat 2-dimensional plane at points at will. The two-dimensional empiricist who had never witnessed such an ephemeral event would say: “Foolishness! Impossible! How can it be if we cannot see it … touch it … experiment on it … reproduce it? It matters not that others witness to it; I won’t believe it unless I can test it!” By our hypothetical 2-D nature, our perceptions would be very limited. Yet that does nothing to alter the existence of the 3-D being.
Similarly, angels are not limited to our own paltry 4-dimensional confine—or dimensions at all as we think of them. We are like waders in a wooded river in a deep valley—very limited in our range of perception. Is it so difficult to imagine another being perched on an overlook—perhaps on a white rock (ahem!)—who can see farther and wider? And is it so unimaginable, then, that that being itself has superior to itself a being who has access to, and even control of, all dimensions and planes of existence, as we might have of our own house? After all, if the concept exists, does not there exist already the “being” of the concept?
Now who says philosophy isn’t fun!!?
By why would angels, in all their power and capability, care a whit about us? Simple. Again an analogy: In solely material terms, a newborn baby is nothing to be esteemed … nothing compared to a well-educated, strong adult … and yet, you mama and papa bears, what elicits our joy, love and defensive instinct more than a newborn or little child? And as the child grows, love and protectiveness does not diminish an iota.
“Then why do angels not protect us from all bad influences?” Well, just as babies grow and mature, so do we as material/spiritual hybrids also do so in our own spirit. But we cannot protect children from themselves if they choose to stray from the good and beneficial. As a parent heart aches when a child does wrong, so do our guardian angels in a way, I think. And as a parent’s heart breaks when a child goes bad, may do are guardians in a spiritual way, I think … as well as all the angelic host, as we even in the general public do when we see youngsters with their infinite potential spiral downward to self-destruction.
Now, there are both good and bad angels, which again should not be that hard to believe per our previous argument. I liken the evil ones to pedophiles trolling the internet, and the good angels to parents and loving relatives. Guardians warn and protect best they are able by their ability allowed by God, but can scarcely prevent us spiritual youngsters from the enticing lies on that spiritual internet (“Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light!” (2 Corinthians 11:14)), and then from dodging protection of those truly who love him/her … going to rendezvous with evil, which inevitably ends tragically. Delving into the destructive and evil is not dissimilar to trying meth or coke, addiction growing ever stronger with each partaking … herculean efforts required to break away. And yet, like our loving relatives, our guardians are ever available to support us toward the good—spiritual “rehab”, as it were—with whatever grace and ability God provides them, along with their own prayers to God on our behalf.
Often people ask why some of the angels chose their fallen state, for all were created good. Heck if I know; it absolutely mystifies me. But pride, pride … always there to trip up. One might remember Milton’s in “Paradise Lost” as he places onto Satan’s tongue: “Better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven”… at which I can’t help but roll my eyes and think: “Yeah, well … how did THAT work out for you?” I would much rather have the joy of serving good than wallow in evil … be mired in selfishness. Now … if only we can keep that ideal before our mind’s eye every day and every moment … our joy will one day be complete.
And so, to my beloved, ever-present, ever-true, ever-faithful, lifelong companion, I pray:
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.
From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their (the angels) 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.
–from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 336.
Editor’s note: Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.