“God alone,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “can know the thoughts of hearts and affections of wills.”
So no, angels can’t read our minds.
But the angels—our guardian angels especially—can often tell what we’re thinking based on physical cues such as facial expressions.
It makes sense, if you think about it. A family member or a good friend can often tell what we’re thinking or feeling just by the slump of our shoulders or the very slight smile on our faces.
Our guardian angels saw us grow up. They’ve seen our faces and mannerisms since we were babies. They’ve been at our side 24/7 for all our existence, so they certainly can tell a lot through our subtle external signals (especially considering that their intellects are far superior to ours).
So does the fact that angels can’t actually mind-read mean that we always have to pray out loud to communicate with them?
No. We can, without the aid of articulated words, communicate any thoughts or prayers we desire to share with them. God allows such things through His power.
[Angels] can know specific thoughts that we willfully desire to communicate with them…Therefore, as soon as we make the decision to speak with or to pray to the angels, they will become aware of what we want to communicate to them.
—Fr. Matthew Hincks, ORC, Opus Sanctorum Angelorum
If you think about it, this is rather fun, since it’s so different from how we communicate with other humans. Words are, at best, only estimations of our thoughts. They are always a translation of sorts, never quite reaching the accuracy of the original language. It can even be a source of sorrow and frustration when we can only imperfectly convey our ideas through human language.
But with angels, we can convey our thoughts and prayers just as they are. Instantaneously. Presto. How cool!
And how comforting it is to have a friend with whom we can communicate so easily, who often already knows how we’re feeling…
Get to know our friends, the angels, in Good Catholic’s popular series Angels & the Supernatural. Here you’ll learn more about how angels know and think, their roles in the created order, how they assist us in doing good and resisting temptation, and how we can cultivate devotion to them. A fascinating journey into the world of angels! Sign up at Good Catholic today!