Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, Catholic Exchange <i>, and <i>Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
"Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life,” taught St. Basil.
“From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession,” declares the Catechism (336).
“He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways,” the psalmist confidently proclaims (91:11).
“These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of the angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection,” said St. Bernard of Clairvaux. “Why then are we afraid?”
Starting with the Feast of the Guardian Angels on Oct. 2, it’s high time we get to know and call on our own personal body and soul guard ever ready to enlighten, protect, instruct, and intercede for us.
Scripture is filled with the angels fulfilling these duties, Father Titus Kieninger of the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross pointed out during a conversation about the Guardian Angels. The order administrates Opus Sanctorum Angelorum (OpusAngelorum.org), an international movement promoting devotion to the Holy Angels.
Exodus 23:20 gives the basics: "See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.”
Jesus himself declares we have personal Guardian Angels in Matthew 18:10: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
The angels love us as we are and for what we shall become by Divine Call, explained Father Kieninger. They want us to become better because of the plan of God. That’s why our Guardian Angel guides us to the Church and the sacraments.
Our Guardian Angel alerts us to dangers. To defend us from evil, he turns our eyes to other topics so we don’t fall so easily into temptations. Father Kieninger told the story of a woman whose daughter called to say she was headed to Las Vegas with her boyfriend and would be home quite late. Afraid of the temptations for her daughter, the mother prayed in the daughter’s room for her Guardian Angel’s help. After a half an hour, the girl phoned to say she wasn’t feeling well and canceled the trip.
“The angels have influence over everything,” Father Kieninger said. (He recommended that parents read the book of Tobias which actually deals with the Archangel St. Raphael.)
Guardian Angels Can Direct
“The holy angels can direct, guard, defend, and alert us even through secondary cause. If young people won’t listen to their conscience, there still is the possibility the angel can arrange the circumstances so it works out well for us,” he said.
Father Kieninger shared a wealth of insight about our Guardian Angels. In our morning prayer, we should ask him to guide us through the day, understand every minute what God wants, and help us not to offend the Lord. Then we trust and go ahead with normal human reasoning.
The angels communicate through our intellect, thoughts, interior feelings, circumstances they arrange, and interior and exterior words (from ‘nowhere’ or spoken through another person). Father Kieninger recalled that a man told him when his grandmother was pregnant with her 11th child and considering abortion, she heard a clear voice: ‘Mary, don’t do this.’ After hearing it three times, she changed her mind. The man relating the story was the son of that 11th child.
“The angels don’t make great sermons. They are short in words,” Father Kieninger explained. Look at the directions to Peter in his cell (Acts 12:7-11): Get up. When Peter does, the next order comes. Peter has to make this act of faith in obedience. The angel speaks similarly to Joseph (Matthew 2:13). The Holy Spirit wants to underline how they obeyed punctually.
Moreover, “They rarely speak a great time ahead, but just direct the moment,” he says. St. Joseph and St. Peter are awakened at the last minute. “When you’re guided by the angels you do not have to think too much. You obey, but be prudent.”
If we’re prudently undecided if this direction or is coming from God, Father Kieninger advised to ask our angel to make himself clear. Plus using these tests.
First, is it against the 10 Commandments?
Then, very importantly, does it lead to our own glory or to God’s glory?
Does it bring us lasting peace or make us feel fearful, anxious, ashamed? In Scripture, the angels immediately say, Don’t be Afraid. In a certain sense we should not be nervous but have confidence.
Finally, “Angels never says anything against the Church teaching and the love of neighbor,” he noted. “If there’s a love of neighbor in conformity with the love of God, we can trust.”
In his book All About the angels, Father Paul O’Sullivan presents a number of ways our Guardian Angel helps and watches over us. He works 24/7 with no stopping to make us “better, holier and happier.
Our Guardian Angel prays for us continuously.
He is ever “whispering into our ears” recommendations that are wise and loving. At the same time, “Our angel may not interfere with our free will, but he can and does act on our memories, recalling vividly something we ought to do or warning us of something we ought not to do.” Acting “benevolently on our imagination and our reason, persuading us, urging us to correct our weaknesses, to fight against our evil inclinations, inspiring us with new ideals,:” and urging us on the “greater effort.”
He defends us from the attacks of the demons.
He saves us from many dangers and evils “of which we are utterly unconscious.”
He helps us in the “important events of our life.” For instance, if we go to him for help, he can obtain great blessings in choosing the right spouse and the grace of a happy marriage.
He can be an important counselor on business matters.
Our Guardian Angel can help us in suffering and in sickness.
Keep This in Mind Too
Father Kieninger referred to the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy for two important cautions. First, thinking everything is covered by spirits and thus denying freedom of will. Second, naming angels other than the three archangels already named in the Bible is discouraged. The reason is simple. You don’t call your own mother by her civil name ‘Mrs. Jones’ — you call her ‘Mom.’ Likewise address your Guardian Angel.
And when praying to them we’re advised not to be too concrete asking for things because we don’t know if they are the will of God. “The angels take great pleasure in helping us with our enterprises, when they are in accordance with God's will,” counseled St. John Vianney.
We have to make our plans for this afternoon, and so on, that should be guided and illuminated by the angels, but also be open to any change because, Father Kieninger said, “To be open is very important, when the angels give some correction.”
That brings up another major are we must take into account and apply concerning out Guardian Angels.
Don’t’ forget our angels guide us to Our Lady. The angel of Fatima prepared the children for Our Lady, and in Matthew 1:20, the angel said to Joseph, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary…” The angels are a guide to the Church, to God, and to Mary the Mother of the Church — and Queen of Angels.
Finally, St. Bernard councils, we “have to show the angels respect, gratitude, and love.” Thank them. Offering Holy Communion for our Guardian Angel in thanksgiving and gratitude. He’s a guard for our body and a guard for our soul given to us by God. So among our morning prayers we should always include our Guardian Angel in that well-known prayer we should have learned as a child:
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.