October 2nd is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. Although Guardian Angels have been venerated since the early days of the Church, it wasn't until the 17th century that Pope Clement X extended the feast day to the universal Church. It comes just two days after the Feast of the Archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael.
On this Feast of the Guardian Angels in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI said,
“Dear friends, the Lord is always near and active in human history, and follows us with the unique presence of His angels, that today the Church venerates as 'Guardian,' in other words those who minister God's care for every man. From the beginning until death human life is surrounded by their constant protection.”
And in a previous homily for today's feast Pope Francis has remarked,
“Ask yourself this question today: How is my relationship with my guardian angel? Do I listen to him? Do I say good morning to him in the morning? Do I ask him: Watch over me when I sleep?’ Do I speak with him? Do I ask his advice? He is by my side. We can answer this question today, each of us: how is our relationship with this angel that the Lord has sent to watch over me and accompany me on my journey, and who always sees the face of the Father who is in heaven?”
So, today is the day to tell your guardian angel "Thank You" for their daily guidance, and to show gratitude to God for assigning a powerful heavenly protector for your personal care. It is also a good time to make the resolution to pray to your Guardian Angel daily as our Holy Father admonishes us.
It might be a good idea to keep a guardian angel sacramental handy to increase your devotion to your guardian angel and help you to remember to stay closely connected with them throughout the day.
Guardian Angels in the Bible
Although not a dogmatic article of the faith, it is yet a firmly established Catholic belief that each individual person has their own guardian angel assigned to watch over their soul. There are three important verses in the Catholic Bible from which this belief is drawn:
Psalm 90:11: "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
Matthew 18:10: "See that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."
Hebrews 1:14: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?"
These verses have led St. Jerome, one of our early Church Fathers and Doctors, to conclude,
"How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it."
How Do Guardian Angels Work?
Many other Doctors of the Church wrote about our guardian angels, including St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, and St. Thomas Aquinas, whose metaphysical unpacking of these mysterious beings is the most thorough and authoritative.
According to Aquinas, our guardian angels have a good influence over us, but they cannot control our free will. Guardian angels influence or guide us by acting upon our intellect through our senses and our imagination. When they do this, they are influencing our will to do good and avoid evil. Their job is to help you get to heaven.
Thus guardian angels do not control us by any means, but they do greatly assist us in finding and doing God's will. Our guardian angels are also able to protect us from danger as well as assist us in prayer and meditation on the divine things of God.
The Saints on the Guardian Angels
We don't only have the Scriptures and the Doctors of the Church who tell us about our Guardian Angels. We also have the saints, some of which actually witnessed their guardian angel in action. In many cases their Guardian Angel was visible to them.
Saints who wrote about these experiences include St. Padre Pio, who could see his guardian angel would often send him on special missions; St. Faustina Kowalska, whose Guardian Angel accompanied her to observe the pains of the Holy Souls in Purgatory; and St. Gemma Galgani, to name a few.
For example, St. Gemma Galgani wrote much about her Guardian Angel in her autobiography, including this account:
“One evening, when I was suffering more than usual, I was complaining to Jesus and telling him that I would not have prayed so much if I had known that He was not going to cure me, and I asked Him why I had to be sick this way. My angel answered me as follows: ‘If Jesus afflicts you in your body, it is always to purify you in your soul. Be good.'"
The Office of Readings for Today's Feast
So let us give thanks to God for these amazing ministering spirits, and be open to the ways your guardian angel is daily helping you to do God's will.
In the Liturgy of the Hours for this feast day, the Office of Readings includes a portion of a beautiful sermon on Guardian Angels by St. Bernard of Clairvoux:
"'He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways'. These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you.
But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need. So let us be devoted and grateful to such great protectors; let us return their love and honour them as much as we can and should. Yet all our love and honour must go to him, for it is from him that they receive all that makes them worthy of our love and respect.
We should then, my brothers, show our affection for the 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. . . Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear? They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray. They are loyal, prudent, powerful. Why then are we afraid? We have only to follow them, stay close to them, and we shall dwell under the protection of God’s heaven."
This article has been updated and was first published in 2014. © The Catholic Company