Tomorrow is the feast of the Guardian Angels. I wanted to take this opportunity to not only acknowledge them but also to explain why and how they have a very special mission to help each of us to get to Heaven. Then, hopefully, with this deeper understanding, each of us might be encouraged to deepen our relationship with our own personal guardian angel, who truly is a dear friend given to each of us by God.

In his book, Dominion, Catholic exorcist, Fr. Chad Ripperger, explores the intersection between spiritual warfare and human psychology. Being an exorcist as well as having earned a master’s degree in Thomistic studies, Fr. Ripperger has extensive and well-formed insight into the spiritual realm of the angels. While the book is hardly light reading, it is a useful resource regarding the angelic world, including a section devoted specifically to guardian angels, which is my primary reference for this piece.

After original sin entered the world, human judgment became clouded. This, in turn, led to us easily making poor choices, suffering the effects of our sin, and ultimately causing our path to Heaven to be more difficult. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the fallen angels are our enemies who seek our destruction by trying hard to derail our progress and tempting us to make choices that lead us astray. So, God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has assigned each of us a very special and personal angelic friend, whose sole mission is to help us get to Heaven – our guardian angel.

Fr. Ripperger tells us that our guardian angel helps us in two ways. First, intellectually, your guardian angel serves as a teacher who illuminates truth. He does this by introducing things to your imagination that help shed light on the truth to encourage you to judge rightly when making choices. Perhaps, when you are faced with a decision, you first examine all the possible outcomes, with some of them being good and some of them being less good, or even evil. Your guardian angel is there, making suggestions to your intellect so you may better see the right choice.

The second way our guardian angel helps us is appetitively. St. Thomas Aquinas generally describes appetite as something external from us, to which we are drawn, particularly something that will give us pleasure. Fr. Ripperger says, “angels have access to the lower appetites of man and so can inspire and incline man appetitively to want to pursue the good.” Your guardian angel cannot usurp your free will and compel you to make a certain choice, but he can offer suggestions to you that will incline you to the good. Typically, because these suggestions fall in line with orderly natural law, they will come with a sense of peace, as opposed to demonic suggestions, which will typically cause feelings of discomfort of some sort. While feeling peace versus discomfort is not a foolproof test, it is generally a good barometer for detecting your guardian angel’s influence over your thoughts and choices.

While it is not universally agreed upon by theologians as to when we receive a guardian angel, it is certain that we each have one, and, in certain circumstances, some individuals may have more than one. Fr. Ripperger goes into the various theological positions, noting that even St. Thomas Aquinas changed his mind on the issue of when we receive our angel, but for our purposes here, he says, we are assigned our guardian angel “more probably at conception and, therefore, at least at birth and that definitely…after baptism.” The primary idea here is that you can be fully assured that you have your very own personal guardian angel who has been tasked with the mission of guarding your soul for the purpose of getting you to Heaven. However, even more amazing than knowing that you have a personal angel is knowing that he said “yes” when God asked him to love you. Angels, as pure spiritual beings, do not learn the way we do. They do not learn through their five senses or grow in understanding through various experiences and deepening knowledge. At the moment of his creation, your guardian angel was given his mission, and he could either reject or accept that mission. Any angel who rejected his mission was condemned to hell, but out of love for God, your guardian angel agreed to love you from day one. Fr. Ripperger says that choice alone is a great foundation for us to reciprocate that love back to our guardian angel.

We have already mentioned that your guardian angel cannot undermine your free will. He can make good suggestions to you at every turn, but ultimately it is up to you to follow his advice. However, can your angel ever just completely give up on you, particularly if you just refuse to listen? Since your salvation is his sole mission, he cannot completely abandon you, but he can distance himself from you according to God’s will. Fr. Ripperger says, “there are certain times in which God wants to allow a particular individual to whom a guardian angel is assigned to suffer the attacks of the diabolic or some other spiritual or corporeal harm for the sake of that person’s spiritual well-being or advancement.” Think of a situation you’ve witnessed, or even a story of a great saint, where a person was so subject to temptation that they fell into such a state of deep sin, that they were shocked out of it, only to reach an even greater level of holiness and attachment to God. In other words, sometimes, in order to combat complacency or lukewarmness, God may ask a guardian angel to take a step back, so a person can fall far enough to facilitate a spiritual awakening and get the person back on track.

Now, with all this knowledge about our guardian angels, what are we called to do, practically speaking? We are called to have a relationship with them. You are invited to respond to this gift of friendship by offering your love and friendship back to your guardian angel. While your angel cannot read your thoughts, he can hear what you tell him, either out loud or mentally. You can actually talk to him, seek his counsel, and ask him to illuminate the good for you so that you may stay on the right path. The old cartoon image of having a good angel on one shoulder and a bad angel on the other is not far from reality. It is completely up to you as to which one you will listen. You have a very real, heavenly friend with you at every moment, and it is in your best interest not to squander that friendship. Additionally, be grateful, not only to God for giving you this gift, but to your angelic friend who loved and chose you before you knew and loved him. God willing, one day, we will each be united with our dear angelic friends in Heaven, where we can compare notes about the journey and share in the pleasure of adoring God in the beatific vision, side by side.

Read more about the nine choirs of angels.

Find recorded chaplets to the holy angels on our angelic playlists.

Hear my interview on the topic of angels on The Bishop’s Hour beginning at 32:20.

Find informative videos by Fr. Chad Ripperger on SpiritusTV.

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