Husband & Wife Articles

Getting Real About Angels

by Mike Aquilina

Do you believe in Guardian Angels?

Of course you do. Jesus said they exist (Matt 18:10). The Scriptures elsewhere testify to their existence (Acts 12:15 and Psalm 34:7, not to mention the entire Book of Tobit). So we kind of have to believe in them, if we’re going to be Christian.

But do you really believe in Guardian Angels?

Blessed John Henry Newman made an important distinction between "notional assent" and "real assent." We give notional assent to a doctrine when we accept it on principle. We give real assent when we choose to live it out in a concrete way. These are not mutually exclusive categories. When we give one kind of assent, we strengthen ourselves for the other. Our belief should lead us to act. Our actions should fortify our belief.

When it comes to angels, most of us need to get real.

We recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday and profess our belief in God as creator "of all things seen and unseen," and maybe we have a passing awareness that we’re talking about angels there. But what difference does it make?

To dads, it makes a world of difference.

Think about what a Guardian Angel is. It’s a pure spirit created by God for two purposes (1) his own glory and (2) your service. That angel has been created for your sake, to make you truly happy and to get you to heaven.

And God has given him everything he needs to fulfill his mission. Your Guardian Angel is smarter than a hundred Einsteins, and stronger than the combined defensive and offensive lines of the Pittsburgh Steelers (on a good Sunday).

Your guardian angel is a powerful spiritual being who wants you to succeed at parenting. When you feel baffled, he has the answers. When you wish you had a little bit of help, he’s waiting for you to call upon him.

Do you call? Our Catholic tradition guides us in devotion to our Guardian Angels. Maybe you learned the little prayer when you were a kid:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,

To whom God’s love entrusts me here:

Ever this day be at my side

To light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

If you’re still saying that prayer, more power to you (quite literally). You’re keeping open a line of communication, and you’re establishing the habit of working with this supernatural help. You’re making yourself aware of your angel’s presence and sensitive to his subtle promptings. The more you do that, the more you’re likely to pick up on his guidance, which can’t be seen or heard in the way human communications can.

Of course, there’s nothing magical about the form of the prayer. Traditional prayers become traditional because they express things well and memorably. But we can talk to our Guardian Angels using our own words.

When we’re beginning to lose patience with a child (or a wife), we can ask our Guardian Angel for help. If the situation keeps getting worse, we can call on our kids’ Guardian Angels as well.

In fact, the system works best if we greet each child’s angel (silently, in your heart) each time the kid strolls into our presence. Greet your wife’s, too.

You’ll find that it changes the way conversations proceed. Suddenly it’s not just one-on-one. You have heaven’s help, which is subtler and more effective than most guys tend to be.

Think about it this way: What if my wife walked into my home office right now and dropped car keys onto my desk, saying, "Honey, there’s a Jaguar parked in the driveway, and it’s just for you. Through all our years of marriage I’ve been saving for this, and finally I can give it to you." What if I smiled and said, "How nice," and went back to work and never drove the car, never even thought about it? Would that show gratitude?

God has given us something greater than a Jaguar. We should thank him by taking our Guardian Angel with us in our travels.

Mike Aquilina is husband to Terri, father to six children, and executive vice-president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He is author of more than 30 books and co-host of eight series on EWTN.