THE FEAST OF THE HOLY ANGEL-GUARDIANS.
AMONGST the adorable dispensations of the divine mercy in favour of men, it is not the least, that he has been pleased to establish a communion of spiritual commerce between us on earth and his holy angels, whose companions we hope one day to be in the kingdom of his glory. This communion is entertained on our side by the religious veneration with which we honour them as God's faithful, holy, and glorious ministering spirits, and beg their charitable succour and intercession with God ; on their side by their solicitude and prayers for us, and the many good offices they do us. The providence of God, always infinitely wise, infinitely holy, and infinitely gracious, vouchsafes to employ superior created beings in the execution of his will in various dispensations towards other inferior creatures. According to St. Thomas, when he created the angels, he enlightened the lowest amongst them by those that are supreme in those glorious orders of spirits, It is clear, in the holy scriptures, that those blessed spirits which we call angels (as much as to say God's messenger) receive this very name from their office, in being employed by him in frequently executing his commissions in our favour and defence. That he does this on many occasions, both general and particular, has been abundantly shown elsewhere from the testimony of the holy scriptures.¹ One of the most-merciful appointments of God relating to this economy established by him between the blessed angels and men, is, that he commissions chosen high spirits to be particular guardians to each of us. In this rovidence are displayed the infinite majesty, wisdom, and power of God, and the excess of his goodness towards his creatures; also a deep foundation is laid of the greatest charity and the highest mutual joy in each other between the angel sand the elect for all eternity in their happy society of heaven.
That particular angels are appointed and commanded by God to guard and watch over each particular person among his servants, that is, all the just, or such as are in the state of grace, is an article of the Catholic faith, of which no ecclesiastical writer within the pale of the church, in. any age, ever, entertained the least doubt. That every man, even among sinners and infidels, has a guardian angel, is the doctrine of the most eminent among the fathers, and so strongly supported by the most sacred authority, that it seems not to be called in question, especially as to all the faithful. The psalmist assures us,² "He hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." And in another place,³ " The angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear him, and he shall deliver them." The patriarch Jacob prayed his good angel to bless his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasses;4 "The angel that delivereth
(1) See on the two Festivals of St. Michael, May 8, and Sept. 29. Also Instruction Pastorale de M. Jean Joseph de la Bastie, Evegne de St. Maio, Sur les Saints Anges, ann. 1758. (2) Ps. xc. 11. (3) Ps. xxxiii. 8. (4) Gen. xlviii.16.
me from all evils bless these boys "-Judith. said,¹- " His angel hath been my keeper, both going hence, and abiding there, and returning from thence." Christ deters us from scandalizing any of his little ones, because their angels always behold the face of God, who, with zeal, and indignation, will demand vengeance of God against any by whose malice precious souls, which were their wards, have perished.² Upon which passage St. Hilary writes ; ³ "It is dangerous to despise one whose cries and prayers are carried up to the eternal and invisible God by the gracious ministry of the angels." So certain and general was the belief of a guardian angel being assigned to every one by God, that when St. Peter was miraculously delivered out of prison, the disciples, who, upon his coming to them, could not at first believe it to be him, said, "It is his angel."4 That St. Michael was the protector of the, Jewish nation, or of the people of God, and that countries or collective bodies of men have, at least several, their tutelar angels, is clear from holy scripture.5 So unanimous and so express is the doctrine of the fathers, in asserting and illustrating this article of the Catholic faith concerning guardian angels, that it would require a volume to copy their testimonies. The devils, with implacable envy and malice, study to compass our eternal ruin, both by stratagems and open assaults. - God is pleased to oppose to their efforts his good angels, - by making them our defenders. If Almighty God permits the devils various ways to assail and tempt us, and, both by wiles and open violence, to endeavour to draw us into eternal ruin, will he not allow his good angels to exert their zeal for his honour, and their charity for us. No sooner had Lucifer and his adherents set up the standard of their revolt from God, but St Michael and all the good angels entered upon a war against them, and executing the sentence which God passed upon them, expelled them out of their blessed abodes.
(1) Judith xiii. 20. SeeExod. xxiii. 20. (2) Matt. xviii. 10. (3)- St. Hilar. in Matt. &vii. (4) Acts xi. 15. (5) Dan. xi. 1; ail. 1, &c.
Man being created to fill up the places of these apostates, Lucifer, with his associates, is permitted by God to spread his snares, andexert the efforts of his malice against us, that in these trials we may give proof of our fidelity, and may purchase, by victories and triumphs, that bliss for which we are created. Satan thus effects the ruin of innumerable souls, and the Holy Ghost gives us this warning : "The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath."¹ And such is his arrogance, that he trusteth that Jordan, that is, the whole race of mankind, may flow into his mouth, and be swallowed up by him.
The good angels, out of the same zeal with which they continue their war against these wicked spirits, come to our relief, according to the order established by divine providence. And God, out of his infinite tenderness and compassion for us, commands his highest spirits to watch over and to guard us. 0 my God! what is man that you should take such care of him, and give him for his governors the sublime princes of your heavenly court, the assistants of your throne ! What am I but a worm of the earth, a slave to it, and to this body of filth, sin, and corruption ? Must an angel, a creature so noble, so pure and holy, attend on me? " 0 wonderful condescension! 0 excess of goodness and love!" cries out St. Bernard.² " He hath given his angels charge over thee."³ Who is he that hath given this charge ? To whom and of whom hath he given this order? And what is its import? Let us seriously consider and weigh every part of this mystery ? Who is he that hath given this charge ? The Lord of angels, whom they obey. The supreme majesty of God hath laid a comand upon the angels, and his own angels, those sublime, those happy spirits, who approach so near his divine majesty, his own domestics; and it is the care of thee that by this sacred command he bath intrusted to them.
(1) Apoc. xii.12. - (2) Serra. 12, in Ps. xe. p. 862. (3) Ps. xc. 11.
What art thou? Is not man rottenness, corruption, and the pasture of worms? But what dost thou think hehath commanded them concerning thee? "That they guard thee; that they keep thee in all thy ways. Nor do they loiter; they even bear thee up in their bands, as it were, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Shall we not praise such a goodness? We are also to consider the watchful attention of these blessed spirits over us.
A second motive or inducement which exceedingly endears us to their protection is, their compassion and charity for us. They mushier that we are shortly to be their companions in eternal bliss; and are at present, by grace and the divine adoption their brethren, their dear fellow-members in God, dear to him who is their God and our God, and precious in his sight, being purchased by him at the infinite price of his incarnation, passion, and death. They, on the other side, see the miseries of sin into which we are fallen, the dangers which surround us, and the infinite evils under which we groan. Their compassion is the more tender as their charity is the more perfect and more pure, and as they are seated nearer to the infinite source or fountain of charity. They see the snares which the devils lay to entrap. us, and they remember the cause of God, and the sacred war in which they are engaged against those his enemies. They, there. fore, earnestly exert themselves in defeating their. projects, and in protecting us: " For they love their fellow-citizens, by whom they long to see their breaches and ruins repaired," as the devout author of the Soliloquies of the Soul, among the works of St. Austin,¹ and with him Hugh of St. Victor, write. " Therefore they watch over and guard us with great care and diligence, in all places and at all hours assisting us, providing for our necessities with solicitude they intervene between us and thee, 0 Lord, conveying to thee our sighs and groans, and bringing down to us the desired blessing of thy graces:"
(1) Cap. 27, Op. St. Aug. t. vi. Append. p. 86, ed. Ben.
St. Bernard¹ observes, that we owe to our guardian-angel "great reverence, devotion, and confidence : reverence," says he, "for his presence, devotion for his charity, and confidence in his watchfulness. Penetrated with awe, walk always with circumspection, remembering the presence of angels, to whom you are given in charge in all your ways. In every apartment, in every closet, in every corner, pay a respect to your angel. Dare you do before him what you durst not commit if I saw you?" In another place he thus urges the same motive :²—" Consider with how great respect, awe, and modesty, we ought to behave in the sight of the angels, lest we offend their holy eyes, and render ourselves unworthy of their company. Wo to us if they who could chase away our enemy be offended by our negligence, and deprive us of their visit. We must shun what grieves them, and practise that which gives them delight, as temperance, chastity, voluntary poverty, prayer with fervour, and tears. Above all things, the angels of peace expect in us unity and peace. Should not they be most delighted with that in us which represents the form of their own holy city, that they may admire a new Jerusalem, or heaven on earth? On the contrary, nothing so much provokes them as scandals and dissensions, if they discern any in us." St. Basil enlarges upon the same argument to recommend to virgins the strictest modesty in all places. " Let the virgin, when she is alone," says he,³ fear and respect, first, herself and her own conscience; then her guardian-angel, who is always with her:
(1) Serm. 12, in Ps. sc. (2) Serm 1, in feato St. Michael. n. 5 (3) Lip. de Vera Virginit. n. 740.
'Their angels always see the face of my Father.'¹ A man ought not to contemn the face of the angel to whose care his soul is intrusted, especially a virgin, whose paranymph he is appointed, and the guardian of her fidelity to her spouse. Above all, she must respect her spouse himself, who is always with her, and together with him the Father and the Holy Ghost ; not to mention the infinite multitudes of the angels, and the blessed souls of the holy fathers; for though they are not visible to our carnal eyes, they behold us with their incorporeal sight. If the virgin fears the eye of others, much more must she the sight of these who are so holy and excellent, anti se much greater than any men. She dreads particularly the eyes of the multitude; now, it being impossible she should escape the observation of this so great and holy a multitude, she will be careful never to do any thing unbecoming her state."
We must not only respect, but gratefully and devoutly love and honour our tutelar spirit. He is a faithful guardian, a true friend, a watchful shepherd, and a powerful protector. He is a high spirit of heaven, and a courtier of the immortal king of glory ; yet his tender charity, goodness, and compassion move him, through the divine appointment, to employ his whole power in guarding and defending us. He often protects our bodies, as the devils have sometimes power to hurt them. But what does not he do for our souls ! He instructs, encourages, secretly exhorts, and reproves us; he defends us against our enemy, often discovers his stratagems, averts many dangers, and comforts and supports us in our trials, and in the terrible hour of our death. He invisibly performs for us the offices which that angel who led the Jews into the promised land, did for them, and which Raphael performed to the younger Toby, in his journey to Rages : for he is our good and sure guide through the dangers of this life to eternal glory.
(1) Matt. xviii. 10.
What return shall we make by gratitude, confidence, respect, and obedience to this our faithful Raphael,.our good angel! what praise and thanks do not we owe to God for. so inestimable a benefit! Toby, reflecting on the great favours he had received from the angel Raphael, his faithful conductor, said to his father, What shall we give him? or what can be worthy of his benefits ? He conducted me, and brought me safe again; he received the money for me; he caused me to have my wife, and he chased from her the evil spirit ; he gave joy to her parents; myself he delivered from being devoured by the fish; thee also he hath made to see the light of heaven, and we are filled with all good things through him. What can we give him sufficient for these things?"¹ That holy family, seeing the immense goodness and condescension of God in the benefits conferred upon them by his angel, "falling prostrate on their faces for three hours, blessed God:"² Ought not we to imitate their gratitude ? "In God," says St. Bernard,³ " let us affectionately love the angels, these; glorious spirits which are to be one day our companions in glory and co-heirs, and are at present appointed our tutors and guardians by our Father. Let us be devout; let us be grateful to such protectors ; let us love them, let us honour them as much as we are able," &c.
We likewise ought to place a confidence in the protection of our good angel. To deserve his protection, we must, above all things, fly sin. Even venial sin troubles him. "As smoke chases away bees, and stench doves, so the ordure of sin driveth away the angel, the keeper of life," says St. Basil.4 Impurity is a vice particularly abominable to holy spirits; and sins of scandal make the angels of the little ones whom we scandalize demand vengeance against us. God says, " Behold, I will
(1) Tobe iii. 21. (2) Tole 22. (3) . In Ps. ire. (4) Horn, in Ps. xxxiii.
send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Respectfully observe him, and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be contemned : for he will not forgive when thou halt sinned, and my name is in him. But if thou wilt hear his *eke, and do all that I shall speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee : and my angel shall go before thee, and shall bring thee into the place which I have prepared. "¹
(1) Exod. xxiii. 20, &c.