Become acquainted with the angels

By | August 13, 2012

“Angel of God, my guardian dear… .” Next to the Our Father and Hail Mary this was probably one of the first prayers we learned as children. The Catholic Church has the sacred tradition of honoring and invoking angels, a tradition that began long before angels became popular within secular culture. It would seem unlikely that there is a church within our diocese that does not have some artistic representation of an angel. There are angel statues that hold holy water fonts and sanctuary lamps. Angel cherubs may be part of a Nativity crèche. Sadly, little of our church art depicts the seraphim, the magnificent six-winged spiritual beings, who stand about God’s throne.

Our human need is to picture angels as a glorified version of ourselves, with long flowing hair, billowing robes and neatly coifed wings; except for Michael who is usually dressed in armor as he drives the evil one back into hell. Our romantic vision of angels belies the important job they have been given to do. Angels are God’s servants and messengers who guide us to good and preserve us from evil.

Look around the church to seek out angel images. Look closely at their hands. The hands often indicate the job given to the angel. Hands folded in prayer or upraised — praise to God; hands extended toward a person — a message being delivered; or hands hovering over a person — the gift of angel protection.

Listen also for the angel reference when we pray, “In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy angel to your altar on high… .” This a great mysterious line to ponder. We do not say “by the hand of an angel,” rather “by the hands of your holy angel.” Could it be that God has one particular angel alone, “his” angel, whose purpose is to bring our sacrifice to God’s feet?

We know few angels by name. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are found in Scripture and are held in veneration in the church. On a less serious note, we should not ignore Clarence the endearing angel in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” In some European folk traditions the story is told that the very moment when our soul is infused into our body, our guardian angel leans down and whispers their name and one of our challenges in life is to awaken the memory of that name within ourselves.

As the angel ministers to the prophet Elijah, we too should be encouraged that we have an angel (or perhaps an entire legion) who are sent by God to care for us. With confidence we can look to that day when we come to know the “company of many thousands of angels” in the kingdom of heaven.

Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top