Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Feast of the Guardian Angels
October 2, 2013
Ex 23:20-23, Ps 90, Mt 18:1-5.10
To listen to the audio recording of this homily, please click here:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- The feast of the Guardian angels is an opportunity for all of us to thank God for the gift of our Guardian Angels. In a materialistic world that believes that the only things that exist can be observed empirically by the naked eye or under a microscope, it is important for us to emphasize what we proclaim in the Creed each Sunday, that we believe all that God created, “things visible and invisible.” The angels participate in that invisible reality. The Catechism describes, “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition (328).
- Rather than talk about the theology of guardian angels, I’d like to talk about the practical impact the Guardian Angels are supposed to have in our lives. That’s what the readings today want us to focus on. God said to the Israelites in the first reading, “I will send an angel before you to guard you as you go and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Give him reverence and listen to all that he says. Offer him no resistance. … Listen carefully to his voice and do all that I say. … My angel will go before you.” Psalm 91 reinforces this message. “For you has he commanded his angels, to keep you in all your ways.” And in the Gospel Jesus reminds all of us that we’re all given angels from our earliest days and that our angels, in addition to serving us, are also simultaneously adoring God. “See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.”
- So let’s talk about various practical impacts they can have on us.
- The first is to help us to finish one day and begin the next well. Many saints have relied on the Guardian Angels as “alarm clocks” to get them up on time and help them begin to sanctify the day from the first moment. They’ve prayed to them to help them sleep well, to avoid nightmares, and to live an heroic moment at the beginning of the day, when our weak human nature just wants to stay in bed. Entrust the night and entrust the morning to the Guardian Angels.
- Second, pray to your Guardian Angel. We have that beautiful prayer that many of us have said since childhood. “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Be ever this day at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide, Amen!” This prayer opens us up to his action. He seeks to fill us with the light of God’s truth. He seeks to guard us from the evil one. Blessed John XXIII called him a “bodyguard,” but we need to allow him to protect us. The Guardian Angels are like God’s secret service, but we need to be docile to this protection detail, rather than, like certain president, have them look away embarrassed as we seek to do evil. He seeks to rule us by serving us and helping us to live up to the holy rule of God. He seeks to guide us all the way home to heaven. He is our best friend. He cares most about our salvation and sanctification. How lucky we are to have him. Praying to him helps us to recall this help.
- Third, pray with your Guardian Angel. The Guardian Angel is always before God’s throne adoring him. He can teach us reverence. He can help us maintain the presence of God. He can pray with us. When we’re conscious of his presence, we are never alone. When we’re praying the Rosary, we should be conscious of the accompaniment of our Guardian Angel. They can pray with us as we examine our consciences, for they’re very much aware of all our sins. They can amplify our prayers of praise, of thanksgiving, of petition.
- Third, do the apostolate together with your guardian angel. Whenever I’m having pastoral conversations with others, especially when people are resistant to the faith, I remember that it’s not a one-on-one conversation, but also my guardian angel and the other’s guardian angel are also present, trying to help me be God’s servant to bring the other to God. It’s 3 on 1, and I always like those odds. I ask the other’s guardian angel to help me find the words necessary. St. Josemaria Escriva used to greet the guardian angel of another person as the person entered the room. What a reminder of another person’s dignity! St. Francis de Sales used to greet the guardian angels of all those in Church when we would climb the pulpit to preach, so that they might assist him in preaching in a way that would really inspire the listeners to conversion and holiness. Padre Pio used to tell people that if they wanted to request his prayers and they couldn’t get to him because of geography or the crowds, to pray to his guardian angel. Once a busload of pilgrims on their way to San Giovanni Rotondo was caught in a terrible storm on a mountain pass in the Appennines. They remembered his words and prayed to his angel and came through unharmed. When they finally arrived at the Shrine, before they had a chance to inform him about their journey, Padre Pio smiled and said, ‘Well, my children, last night you woke me up and I had to pray for you.” We should regularly pray through saints’ guardian angels. I was very moved in Paray-le-Monial, at the Church where St. Claude La Colombière was buried, where there’s a beautiful mosaic of Jesus’ Sacred Heart on a throne surrounded by the fire of his love and so many saints who were apostles of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Behind each of them, however, in the mosaic was his or her guardian angel.
- Fourth, ask your guardian angel to help you to pray the Mass well. They teach us reverence. They know that it’s truly God here and they want to help us pray the Mass in the right way. A few months ago in the bulletin I printed the thoughts of a Bolivian Mystic Catalina Rivas about the role of Guardian Angels in the Mass. She said, “Suddenly, figures I had not noticed before began rising out of the pews. It was as if another person were coming out of the side of each person sitting in the Cathedral. Before long, the building was full of beautiful young beings clad in snow-white robes. They moved to the center aisle and processed toward the altar. Our Blessed Mother said: “Observe. They are the Guardian Angels of everyone present here. This is the moment when your Guardian Angel brings your offerings and petitions before the Lord’s Altar.” I was utterly astonished. These beings had beautiful faces, radiant beyond imagining. Despite the feminine-like beauty of their faces, their bodies, hands, and stature were clearly masculine. Their bare feet seemed to glide over the floor. Some of them carried golden, bowl-like objects that gleamed with a golden-white light. The Virgin Mary said to me: “These are the Guardian Angels of those who are offering up this Holy Mass for many intentions. They know what the Divine Liturgy means. They have something to offer to the Lord… Avail yourself of this moment to make an offering of yourself. Offer your sorrows, your pains, your hopes, your sadness, your joys, and your petitions. Remember the Mass has infinite value. Therefore, be generous with your offerings and petitions.” Behind the first group of angels came others who had nothing in their hands…The Virgin Mary said: “These are the angels of those present here who never have anything to offer. They have no interest in experiencing each liturgical moment of the Mass. They have no gifts to bring to the Lord’s Altar.” At the end of the procession came other angels with sorrowful-looking expressions. They walked with their hands joined in prayer, their eyes downcast. “These are the Guardian Angels of those who are present here but who do not wish to be; that is, those who have been forced to come, who come out of a sense of obligation but without any real desire to take part in the Holy Mass. The angels walk sadly because they have nothing to bring to the Altar, except their own prayers… Do not sadden your Guardian Angel. Ask for much; ask for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world, for your families, your neighbors, for those who ask for your prayers. Ask; ask for much, not only for yourselves, but for others as well. Remember the offering that most pleases the Lord is the one in which you offer yourself as a holocaust, so that upon His descent Jesus may transform you by His own merits.”
- As we thank God today for the gift of our Guardian Angels, let us thank him in the best way possible, by becoming docile to all the ways they seek to enlighten, guard, rule and guide us, as together with them we adore the presence of God about to come down on our altars!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
A reading from the Book of Exodus (23:20-23)
“See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and heed his voice. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin. My authority resides in him. If you heed his voice and carry out all I tell you, I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. “My angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites; and I will wipe them out.
Psalm 91 — He has put his angels in charge of you, to guard you in all your ways
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”
God will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague, Will shelter you with pinions, spread wings that you may take refuge;
God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon.
No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew (18:1-5.10)
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
“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.