Last year’s post on this subject prompted some interesting comments, but also embarrassed some readers. How can intelligent, educated people believe in ‘guardian angels’ — or in angels at all, come to that?
To take the latter point first. I have no difficulty believing in angels, though I suspect my belief about who and what they are is a little less simple (both senses) than many suppose. Spiritual beings whose dwelling is, metaphorically speaking, fire and flame, who see the face of God and proclaim his holiness, are not to be trifled with. They inspire awe and a godly fear. They are, as the bible says, messengers of God; and when God speaks, his message is apt to cause consternation because our own ideas are too little, too shallow. Mary, alone of all our race, heard the message of an angel and embraced what was asked in all its fullness. The rest of us hedge our responses round with qualifications, doubts and sometimes retractions.
That such mighty spirits should take an interest in each of us as individuals is breath-taking; but the thought that they are appointed to their task by God himself is more breath-taking still. St Benedict’s writes of angels in his Rule with the familiarity of one who prays and thinks much, who lives in a world where sign and symbol have not lost their efficacy and the spiritual and the physical are seamlessly interwoven. I think we are often embarrassed by such notions because we feel the need to protect ourselves against an avowedly spiritual vision. We have substituted something we call science for God and are unhappy at the idea that there is anything we cannot explain or rationalise even though we are, every minute, confronted by the inexplicable (and if you don’t believe me, just think about the unpredictability of your partner’s/friend’s mood at times).
It is an old Catholic custom to pray to our Guardian Angel every morning and ask him/her to be at our side; to watch and wait, to rule and guide. Childish? I think myself it would be petulant to refuse to ask the help of such a powerful being who is on God’s side rather than the world’s or the devil’s. Guardian angels will never be redundant until the human capacity for sin and foolishness is at an end.