|Castel Sant’Angelo Bridge, Rome
Today (October 2nd) is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. Unfortunately, in popular Catholic devotion this has been sentimentalized as applying only to little children. The Church’s tradition, however, has always reminded us that these extra-ordinarily powerful and wise angelic beings are guides throughout our lives, and that we should turn to them as adults for guidance and assistance in staying on the path to salvation. Pope Francis had a homily to this effect a few years ago wherein he calls them life’s “traveling companions.”
That’s why I like this depiction above (from the famous Castel Sant’Angelo Bridge near St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City). This guardian is gazing at the Cross, reminding us that one of the chief things these guardian angels do guard against is our taking our eyes of that Cross, on which we should focus our lives.
Today’s Divine Office (breviary prayer book) has a beautiful reflection on guardian angels by the great 11th century monk and abbot St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
It’s below, or you can access it here.
|From a sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaux
That they might guard you in all your ways
He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. Let them thank the Lord for his mercy; his wonderful works are for the children of men. Let them give thanks and say among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. O Lord, what is man that you have made yourself known to him, or why do you incline your heart to him? And you do incline your heart to him; you show him your care and your concern. Finally, you send your only Son and the grace of your Spirit, and promise him a vision of your countenance. And so, that nothing in heaven should be wanting in your concern for us, you send those blessed spirits to serve us, assigning them as our guardians and our teachers.
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 instil 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. We are God’s children although it does not seem so, because we are still but small children under guardians and trustees, and for the present little better than slaves.
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.