“Do angels have free will? Could an angel that is currently in Heaven with God choose to fall right now?” (De Pere)
A fascination with angels is a hallmark of our time. Sometimes this reflects a genuine interest in angelic beings and God’s work through them. At other times, the interest in angels sadly reflects a rising form of New Age paganism or even a dabbling in the occult. Even a few misguided theologians relegate the angels to a kind of ancient and childish fable.
However, it must be stated that angels do indeed exist, that the entire Bible testifies to this fact and that our Catholic faith has always taught that God created angelic beings to be part of his glorious plan.
The angels were created by God to be his messengers and to do his bidding. In fact, the very word “angel” means “messenger” or “one who is sent.” We do not know their exact number, but we do know that it is beyond counting and myriads upon myriads serve the Lord. They are divided into groupings entitled as follows: angels, thrones, dominations, principalities, powers, archangels, cherubim and seraphim. The theological study of angels is called angelology.
Angels are spirits who sometimes assume a human form to achieve some mission which God has given to them. Because they are pure spirits, they are extremely intelligent and quite perceptive. Although they cannot read our minds, they are keen observers of our behavior. The church teaches that there are guardian angels which God has given to each and every person to guide the individual along the way of life. The feast of the Guardian Angels which is celebrated every year on Oct. 2 reflects this aspect of our Catholic faith. What our parents and teachers told us when we were young still remains true for us as adults — God loves us enough that he has even given us the help of an angel to guide us. If you’re worried about your guardian angel, don’t be. Once angels make their choice, it is permanent.
Sadly, some angels fell from God’s grace because of prideful disobedience. Lucifer, also known as Satan or the devil, is nothing more than a fallen angel. It is an open question as to why Lucifer and some other angels rebelled against God. However, it is generally believed it happened when God the Father revealed to the angels the salvation he would win for us human beings by sending his son, Jesus, to assume our human nature, to suffer and die for us, and to rise again to give us hope. Because of their pride and jealousy over what God would do to save us lowly human creatures, some angels rebelled.
Because angels are spirits with free will and because of their highly developed intellect, their choice to obey or rebel against God was a permanent one. Thus, demonic angels cannot repent because of their freely and knowingly chosen rebellion. They now roam the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Happily, God is stronger than any of the fallen angels and his divine plan and the Good News of Jesus Christ will triumph. While the angels remain a bit mysterious, they remain a marvelous part of God’s creation and yet another example of the nearness of the spiritual world to everyday life.
Fr. Girotti serves as vicar for canonical services and associate moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Green Bay.
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