What’s the Deal with Angels?
Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Have you ever heard that when someone dies, they become an angel? While this is a kind sentiment, it isn’t true. Angels are completely separate beings from humans. Because they are so different from us, they’re a fascinating and at times bizarre reality to learn about. So, what’s the deal with angels and what can we say about them really? We decided to investigate.

What Are Angels, Anyway?

In his book on angels, Peter Kreeft says that angels are “not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or ‘cool.’ They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors.” Kreeft goes on to offer a specific, helpful definition of angels as bodiless creatures who have both intelligence and free will, and who live in the presence of God, doing His will, and serving as His messengers.

Angels are pure spirit and truly otherworldly. They don’t belong in our physical universe since they don’t have bodies. As such, they’re able to think in a purely rational way. Kreeft explains that they’re “intuitive intelligences” which means that they “just know” and they “contemplate what they know: God, themselves, each other, and us: persons.” They are also capable of love because they can know and desire the good of another.

Without bodies, angels exist outside of space and time. This means that they can be anywhere and everywhere at the same time. It also means that their wills make a permanent choice for or against God, which cannot be changed or reversed. As pure spirit, they choose solely with their intellect, not affected by temptation, circumstance, or ignorance.

Angels were created before our universe was, and they were present at its creation. They will also be present at the end of time, ushering in Jesus’ second coming. In the meantime, angels are present with us every day as guardian angels and at Mass – and even after we die, they’ll live with us in God’s presence in heaven.

What Exactly Do Angels Do?

The term “angel: means “messenger” – and so they are often sent by God with messages, like when Gabriel the Archangel is sent to Mary at the Annunciation

When angels appear, they often begin with, “Be not afraid,” which suggests the reaction that they often receive from humans. They aren’t the cute cherubs we see on display on canvases at Hobby Lobby. However, they are beautiful because they are a reflection of God’s beauty and because they’re not affected by sin.

On a cosmic level, Kreeft says that angels stand “at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially in moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster – for bodies, for souls, and for nations.” Angels always work to achieve God’s will and always work for what is good. They warn, rescue, guide, enlighten, inspire, and protect.

The way in which angels do their work depends on their purpose. In the Bible, the angels are presented nine ranks or “choirs,” which designate their task. The lowest of these ranks is the guardian angels. Every person is assigned a guardian angel, who is always present to them in that role. As Kreeft explains, they serve as both “bodyguards and soulguards,” fighting off evil spirits and temptations and protecting us from harm. Since they do not have bodies and do not exist in space or time, our angels can be both present before God and involved in our daily lives.

Guardian angels are not only assigned to people, but also to communities such as cities, states, and nations. These communal guardian angels are the “principalities” found in the hierarchy of angels. Just like our individual guardian angels, the principalities have tasks or messages to give in human history.

How Do We Talk to Our Guardian Angels?

Our angels often communicate with us interiorly, through our imagination or intuition. We can probably think of a time when we suddenly felt inspired to do the right thing – this was likely our guardian angel! While they may suggest something or enlighten us, they also respect our free will and do not coerce us in our thoughts or actions.

We can communicate with our angels in prayer by revealing our thoughts and requests. They do not read our minds, but rather wait to hear our minds through prayer. Growing up, my abuela used to say that our guardian angels finish our rosaries if we fall asleep. Whether we need them for something specific or not, they’re always ready to listen and help!

While it may feel like a good practice to name your angel, it is not generally recommended. As we develop a personal relationship with our guardian angel, we may feel like we need to know what to call them. However, the Church has a few reasons for discouraging this practice. In many cultures, to name something is to have authority over it, such as when parents name their children, and we don’t have authority over our angels. There are also various points in the Bible when angels are asked for their names, but refuse to give them (Gen 32:24-29, Judges 13:18) revealing that they do not want their name known. Not knowing our angel’s name doesn’t hurt our relationship with them, though – with their intuitive intelligence, they always know when we’re talking to them.

How Do We Know Anything About Angels?

We can read about the existence of angels in various parts of the Bible. Angels appear to Abraham, Mary, and Joseph, to name a few. Jesus also speaks about angels throughout the Gospels, and St. Peter is even released from prison by an angel.

What we know about angels outside of the Bible is primarily found in the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, known as the “Angelic Doctor” for his work on these otherworldly creatures. Most of what we know about angels has its foundation in the work of Aquinas and has been developed over time in a field of theology called angelology (yes, that is a thing!).

While the study of angels has produced many answers to our questions, there will always be more unanswered questions about these mysterious beings. The best we can do is develop our relationship with our own guardian angel, in hopes that we will meet one day in heaven. Until then, we should be careful to“not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”

And now that you know more about angels, here’s a prayer you can offer to yours:

Angel sent by God to guide me,
be my light and walk beside me;
be my guardian and protect me;
on the paths of life direct me.

Victoria Mastrangelo

Educational Content Producer, 2019-present

Victoria Mastrangelo is a wife, mother of 3 girls, and high school campus minister at an all-girls’ school in Houston, TX. She is super nerdy and loves reading multiple books at once, trivia, podcasts, writing, and great coffee. She has a B.A. in Theology from the University of Dallas and an M.A. in Theological Studies from the University of St. Thomas (Houston). Being surrounded by so many awesome young women grows her passion for Catholic feminism daily. Her search for truth and beauty led her to a profound love of Christ, His Church, and the feminine genius. Victoria hopes that FemCatholic continues to inspire conversations and inspire women to find that same love for Christ, the Church, and their unique way of living our their feminine genius.

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