21f. Our Guardian Angels – How We Should Requite Their Love
Our guardian angel is our best and oldest friend. He has been with us from our birth, and will abide with us till the end. In all the ups and downs of our life, he has never once departed from our side. Even our coldness towards him, our utter forgetfulness of him, our rank ingratitude, have not been able to drive him from us. Our sins themselves, however heinous, have not silenced his voice of admonition and warning. They have only served to move him to pray more urgently for us, to chide and rebuke us, and to endeavour to rouse within us sentiments of bitter remorse, in order to bring us back once more to the narrow path.
We may choose for ourselves this one or that one among the saints, to be our specially beloved patron, but God himself has picked for us our guardian angel, and has given to him a very particular affection for us, and a very deep solicitude for our best welfare.
Behold, I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice ofhim, and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be condemned; for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and my name is in him. But if thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee. (Exodus 23:20-22)
These words were spoken by the Lord to his chosen people when they were on their way to the Promised Land. But we know that everything that befell them was symbolic of God’s dealings with his Christian people, and the Church herself applies these words to our guardian angels.
Here, then, we have clearly pointed out to us our duty towards our guardian angel. God wants us above all things to be docile to his voice, and not to imagine that we can disregard it with impunity. We owe him, doubtless, love and respect and gratitude, but we show these best by our fidelity in following at all times his guidance. His voice may be still and small to those who open wide their ears to the promptings of the passions, and of a worldly spirit, but by one who listens it can be distinctly heard above all inward strife, and the din and tumult from without.
Saint Bernard, commenting on the words of Psalm 90 – already quoted, “He hath given his angels charge over thee, that they keep thee in all they ways,” – lays down three duties that we owe to our guardian angels. The first is reverence, which the mere presence of so exalted a being demands of us. If we had an abiding sentiment of reverence for him, we should never permit ourselves to do aught in his presence that we should fear to do before the eyes of a man whom we respected.
The second duty is one of devotion, in return for all his affectionate love for us. We cannot doubt its depth and sincerity. It is enough for him that God has made us in His own image, that He has so loved us as to give His only begotten Son for us, that He has confided us to the keeping of the angels, as younger brethren of and future co-heirs with these holy spirits, in the heavenly kingdom.
The third duty is that of unbounded confidence in his watchful guardianship and protection. No real harm can come to us if we trust in him. He is ever on the alert; the demons can never take him by surprise. He is endowed with heavenly wisdom and will surely direct us aright amid the deceits and snares of the evil one. He has undoubted might to repel even the fiercest assaults of our enemies if we but recommend ourselves to him. We may go forward fearlessly under his protection, but we ought to strive to render ourselves deserving of it by frequently appealing to him in our various needs.
There is yet another duty which we owe to the guardian angels in general. It is one of reverence for those over whom they watch, how little soever and insignificant they may otherwise appear to be. Our Divine Lord makes the dignity which comes ot the little ones from the tutelage of their guardian angels, a very pressing motive for respecting them and avoiding aught that might prove a scandal or a stumbling block to them. And Saint Hilary, apropos of Our Lord’s warning on this head, has the following eloquent passage,
He has imposed the appropriate bond of mutual love, for those especially who have truly believed in the Lord. For the angels of the little ones daily see God; because the Son of man has come to save what was lost. Hence, the Son of man saves, and the angels see God, and the angels of the little ones preside over the prayers of the faithful. That the angels preside, we have on unquestionable authority. The angels then daily present to God the prayers of those who are saved through Christ. Hence it is a dangerous thing to despise one whose desires and petitions are borne to the eternal and invisible God through the dazzling ministry of waiting angels.
But if regard for their blessed guardians forbids us to show contempt for the little ones, surely our interest in their spiritual and physical welfare, whether proceeding from general motives or from some particular relationship which binds us to them, may well prompt us to pray often for them to their guardian angels, and to recommend them earnestly to those powerful protectors whom God himself has charged to watch over them and to keep them in all their ways. Parents and teachers who adopted this practice would doubtless quickly see the effect of their prayers in the greater docility of the children, and their more rapid progress in knowledge and in virtue.
For ourselves, too, devotion to our guardian angels cannot fail to be the source of many heavenly favours, but it should especially insure to us the possession of three precious gifts which are strikingly characteristic of the holy angels. The first is that of walking constantly in the presence of God. Never for a moment are they distracted from it. They are not allured by the pleasures of the world, they are not disturbed by the din and tumult of human passions. Their gaze is ever riveted on the face of their Creator, and their mind is absorbed in the contemplation of His unspeakable beauty.
The second treasure which this devotion should secure us is a true spirit of obedience. The angels are ever ready at God’s beck, and the accomplishment of His will is their greatest joy. They will gladly ask for us a like devotedness, and the habitual proposing to ourselves of their example will be a powerful incentive to us to endeavour to imitate them.
Lastly, the pearl of the virtues, holy purity, will be safe under their protection. It is called the angelic virtue, and the angels are eager to see us become by its practice most like unto themselves. The struggle is a hard one – in some cases it is fierce and unremitting – but by the grace of God and the assistance of our good angel, whom we should lovingly invoke while the combat lasts, the victory will be ours, and what a glorious victory it will be! To have overcome in our frail flesh and in spite of the treachery of the flesh, which is arrayed with the demons against us, all the wiles and malice of our wicked foe, and to have kept intact amid the most violent assaults the priceless heritage which we carry in vessels of clay – that, to be sure, is a triumph to which we may holily and wholesomely aspire, and for which we shall remain forever indebted to the encouragement and support given to us in the conflict by our ever-loving, ever-faithful guardian angel.