As a child living in the jungle interior of Suriname, South America, I frequently would visit the home of my widowed aunt and her two children who lived on the same mission compound as my family. One of the things in her home that captured my attention was the painting of the guardian angel watching over two small children crossing a very unstable bridge over a river full of rapids. The children seem so unaware of the danger, perhaps because they are young and innocent, but maybe because of the protection of their guardian angel.
Beyond that painting I don’t remember being taught that I had a guardian angel, yet I can also say nobody taught me to the contrary. Jesus actually teaches about guardian angels in the Gospel of Matthew (18:1-10 NRSV).
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.
“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.
And if that wasn’t enough the writer to the Hebrews (1:14) tells us: “Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” I can almost guarantee dear reader, that at some point in your life, you have a time in which you sensed protection from an invisible force, when you have looked back and maybe even declared, “God must have sent me an angel!”
God has assigned us this protection from our guardian angel. This angel continually sees the face of our Father in heaven. What a wonderful and sweet connection! This is better than any secret service detail afforded to the president and other high level officials. We don’t own the angel; we can’t tell the angel what to do; we don’t name the angel or try to control the angel.
Here is the prayer that Catholic children learn early in life:
Angel of God
My guardian dear
To Whom His love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide. Amen.
On this feast day of the Holy Guardian Angels, we pray, “O God, who in your unfathomable providence are pleased to send your holy Angels to guard us, hear our supplication as we cry to you, that we may always be defended by their protection and rejoice eternally in their company. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.