One of the first prayers I learned as a child was the traditional prayer to my guardian angel. It’s short, simple, and easy to memorize:
Catholic educators and families do a very good job of acknowledging the physical and spiritual “guarding” portion of our angel’s job description. However, we seem to forget about all their other capabilities… even though we’re actually asking them to assist us in these ways every time we prayer this prayer. Let’s break it down…
Unlike humans, angels have infused knowledge. This means that everything there is to know about anything and everything, they already know it. This does not mean that they know the future, but rather that they have all knowledge of spiritual and material truth.
When God created them, he made them differently than us. Human beings gain knowledge through experience. Today, the most common way of attaining knowledge is through a traditional education, but obviously, we learn many other things that are not taught in school. The point is, we have to experience the truth in some way, shape, or form before we can understand it. This is not true for angels; they were created knowing these things.
Part of the duty of our guardian angel is to help enlighten our minds; they can assist us in our quest for knowledge. They have the power to influence us, but they will never disrupt our freewill. This comes in especially handy since one of the effects of original sin is a darkened intellect. This is why we ask our guardian angel “to light” our path. We’re asking him (technically they’re genderless, but they’re also persons so I don’t like referring to them as “it”s) to make things clearer for us.
If you’re studying for a test and struggling to comprehend the material, ask your guardian angel to “light” your mind. If you’re in the middle of a test and can’t seem to remember the right answer, reach out to your guardian angel for aid. Maybe you’re a professional, and there’s some coding you can’t figure out, or a case you can’t crack, or a medical issue that has you stumped. In all of these instances, as well as any other place in which you find yourself stuck at a stand-still, call upon your guardian angel. The saints can certainly intercede for you, but your angel can actually enlighten you. I mean, his sole purpose is to serve you in your pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty.
I mentioned in the last section that angels have no power over our free will. They can’t force us to do anything. By asking our guardian angels to “rule” over us, we’re asking for their assistance with moral decisions as well as discipline. Back in the Garden, when humanity was in it’s state of original personhood, we had complete control over all of our appetites. Our lives were balanced, we knew when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” We could easily distinguish between right and wrong. Sin changed that. In addition to the darkened intellect, another effect of sin was the weakening of man and woman’s will. Now, it’s common for our appetites and whims to “rule” us. It’s often easier to obey our weaknesses and tendencies than it is to stand firm and do the right thing. Sometimes we encounter situations with a lot of gray moral matter, and it can be very difficult to navigate, and we don’t even know what the right thing is in this particular circumstance. Our guardian angels are able to assist us with all these things. Just as their intellect differs from ours, so does their will. Their will is “fixed”, in contrast to ours which is free. What this means is that when they were created with infused knowledge, there was also a moment of decision. In this one moment, each angel chose whether they would or would not obey God. When they made their choice, it was definitive, there is no “changing their mind”. They can’t change their mind… they already know and understand everything. Thus that one choice to obey (or not to obey) became fixed. They will always obey… and they can help us to stand firm in our moral resolve as well.
This last task is very similar to the previous two. Having all knowledge and fixed wills, our guardian angel is one of the greatest tools God has given to us in this life. It is a common theme in the writings of the saints to remind mankind that we are merely pilgrims on earth, journeying to heaven. I don’t know about you, but anytime I’m going through something new or difficult, I want guidance. I want the wisdom of others. I want to be led. It makes sense to rely on my guardian angel for spiritual guidance. I often ask mine to guide me through dark thoughts, or disagreements with a loved one. I ask him to pray alongside me and for me. Sometimes when I can’t pray, I imagine myself behind him and ask him to pray in my place. I ask him to remind me to do the good things I promised I would do for another. I try to rely on him the same way one might rely on a travel guide. He knows more than I do about material and spiritual matters, and God gave him to me to help me. Imploring his aid actually makes him happy.
Today- in honor of the Feast of the Guardian Angels, spend some quality time with your spiritual comrade. Celebrate him, and thank him for all he does for you! St. John Bosco said that our guardian angel is our most faithful friend and companion. St. John Vianney said that our guardian angel tracks our merits in order to make a case for us at our personal judgment (he also says that Satan keeps a list of our sins). The angels do so very much for us, and most of it goes unnoticed and underappreciated. St. Bernard of Clairvaux encourages us to show affection for our angels, “…for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father.” We often forget that they are always present with us here on earth, but in heaven, we will be very aware of their presence and all that they have done for us. It makes sense to spend some intentional time with them now and to form a real friendship with them. After all, they already spend so much time with you!