Monday, August 12, 2013

What's the Deal with Guardian Angels?

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
 Bless this bed that I lay on.
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels ‘round my head.
One to guide, one to pray,
Two to keep me safe all day.

 So goes the modern version of an ancient English bedtime prayer. The original version, recited 100’s of years ago by children much more used to watching friends and family die, ended with the line, “Two to bear my soul away.”  

Both versions are comforting reminders of the two main responsibilities our Guardian Angels have been given: to protect and guide us during the day, and to escort us safely into the arms of our loving God at the moment of our death. 

My son has a childlike, unshakable belief in his own Guardian Angel. After living with him for 30 years, I’ve come to believe he has several on duty at all times. When he was 6 or 7, I woke up one night to the sounds of a conversation coming from, of all places, the bathroom. I got up to investigate, and while I couldn’t make out any words, I could definitely recognize Travis’ voice. I opened the door to find him sitting on the floor, teary-eyed, trying to control his sobs.

“Oh, Sweetheart, what’s the matter?” I cried.

“I” sob “had” sob “a nightmare,” he answered.  

“But who were you taking to?” I asked, checking to see if one of his brothers was hiding under the sink.

“My Guardian Angel,” he said.

He was so matter-of-fact that there could be no doubt he had either suffered a psychotic episode complete with beautiful hallucinations, or he had just experienced the blessed and consoling presence of his Guardian Angel.  

A few days later, I asked him to draw a picture of his angel. He willingly sat at the dining room table, notebook and colored pencils in hand. From the next room I heard him talking to himself, as he said, “Yes, that looks golden.”  

I assumed he was drawing her hair, as I always imagined angels had flowing blonde hair with a few glittery silver highlights. Or perhaps it was her wings that glowed. Or maybe she wore a flowing golden gown with a starry sash. 

When he showed me his picture, I was surprised to see she had medium brown hair, the outline of wings that were not colored in, and a blue gown. It was her face that was golden and glowing--a detail I find hard to imagine a child inventing.

In today’s world of science and technology, Guardian Angels seem to have been relocated to the category of imaginary friends and pleasant bedtime stories; things that are entertaining and appropriate for children, but expected to be outgrown and abandoned as we mature.

Yet St. Basil said, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd…” Notice he did not mention that they discriminate on the basis of age. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.” And St. Paul wrote, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”

Have you, as an adult, ever had an experience, perhaps a close call or an odds-defying incident that made you stop for just a moment to acknowledge your good luck or recognize the improbability of the amazing “coincidence?” Have you considered that you may have experienced the intervention of your Guardian Angel? 

Here’s the thing. Angels have been among us since creation, and they will be present at Christ’s return. In the meantime, we can all benefit from the mysterious and powerful help of our own Guardian angels. Perhaps it’s time to refresh in our hearts the little prayer we learned as children:
 Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guard, to rule and guide.

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