Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Angels & The Spiritual Life

God assigns us Guardian Angels as a most excellent provision to secure us in the covenant of His love, and to aid our fallen nature in overcoming self, the world and the devil. God knows we need such help! The Catechism quotes St. Basil about the Guardian Angels, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life (336).” The same section continues, “From its beginning until death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.” St. Thomas Aquinas states, “The angels work together for the benefit of us all.”

The Angels and the Spiritual Life

Throughout the whole course of life, the assistance of the angels given to the soul continues, and according to Origen, “not even sins can suppress it. They can only sadden the angel of the soul (Origen, Hom. In Luc, 35).” Since Origen teaches that we can “sadden the angel of the soul,” it seems proper that we can also gladden the angel of the soul by loving God and choosing to live according to His law of love.
Most Catholics are well aware that angels protect the soul from the ongoing attacks of the fallen angels, demonic spirits. Also, God has assigned a Guardian Angel to help us in His process of sanctifying the soul to become more Godlike. The universal call to holiness is a call to transfiguration or in the words of St. John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30).” Angels help the soul to progress in the spiritual life.
We can consider a teaching that has its source in the Gospel itself, the spiritual life appears as an imitation of the life of the angels and a participation in their life. According to Jean Danielou, S.J., “…it reintroduces the soul into the angelic creation. But the fact remains that the ascension of the soul leads it even higher than the angels. The Christian mystery is the exaltation of humanity above the sphere of the angels. This mystery, which is true first of all of Christ Himself, is true of the whole human nature which He leads along with Him as a retinue.” Danielou quotes Hilary, “The angels, then, appear first of all as aiding the soul in its spiritual ascension. It is through the ministry of the angels that we have received the opportunity to ascend to the things on high; they are lever-bars, sent for the service of the those who are to receive the heritage of salvation, to raise them to the heights of virtue.”

Angelic Aid

Here’s a practical example of how I experienced my guardian angel’s help in my interior life. One day in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, I experienced the prompting of my guardian angel to consider how I could grow closer to God by asking the Lord for the grace of greater contrition for my sins. My angel seemed to remind me of how the saints exemplified great contrition for their sins even to the point of tears. I began to realize that I was confessing my sins every two weeks in the same way that I did when I first experienced the Sacrament of Reconciliation—long ago! I believe my guardian angel prompted me to desire to go deeper in the Sacrament of Reconciliation—to the root of the same sin pattern, and into deeper contrition for having offended God’s law of love. I believe my guardian angel helped me to grow in the area of fear of the Lord.  Psalm 110:11 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” Fear of the Lord is the awareness that we are in His presence that is holy and just and that we are accountable to God for our motives, thoughts, actions and words. Fear of the Lord is a desire to live in harmony with the Lord’s righteousness and to honor Him in everything. I believe that my guardian angel aided me to grow in awareness of what offends God and what gives Him honor, and to experience much deeper contrition for sin, even to the point of tears. How cleansing those tears!
Growing in the virtue of fear of the Lord is one way to grow in the love of God that “casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).” Fear of everything but God is one of the most effective tactics of the demonic world. The demons aim to mock God by stunting the growth of the spiritual life of His people, to the point that the trajectory of the soul is not upward toward heaven but downward toward hell. My guardian angel helped me to understand this. Late in my life, and spiritual journey did I realize how very efficacious it is to have a real spiritual friendship and deep devotion to my good guardian angel! Now, I offer prayers of gratitude to God for my guardian angel often, and my angelic helper has become extremely tangible to my soul.

Angelic Affiliation

In his wonderful book, The Angels and Their Mission, Danielou helps us to understand the important role of the angels for our interior life, “…The soul is associated with the angels in its progress toward God not only in being assisted by them but also in that the spiritual life assimilates it to the life of the angels. This theme can be found already in the Gospel, where it is said that the “elect will be like angels of God in heaven (Matt.22: 30).” The perfect life is an anticipation of this final eschatological transformation. The spiritual life re-introduces the soul into heavenly familiarity with the angels.”
The soul is allied to the angels through its detachment from the life of sense. Our five senses can be portals of light or darkness, and that is why, in the Church’s ministry of healing, deliverance and exorcism, guarding the senses (what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell) is extremely important. Our spiritual life in this world should be in conformity with that which will follow, so that living in the flesh and finding ourselves upon the battlefield of this world, we ought not to live according to the flesh and join forces with this world, but we should already begin to conform with the life we hope for after that of this world. Therefore, Danielou writes, “That is why the Bride of Christ (Church) exhorts the soul to turn toward the powers of heaven, in imitation of their detachment, to attain the purity of the angels. This is the whole of the doctrine. Men are destined to participate after death in the life of the angels; the spiritual life makes them anticipate this condition.”

Prayer & Devotion to My Guardian Angel

Angel of God’s light, whom God sends as a companion for me on earth, protect me from the snares of the devil, and help me to walk always as a child of God, my Creator.
Angel of God’s truth, whose perfect knowledge serves what is true, protect me from deceits and temptations. Help me to know the truth, and always to live the truth.
Angel of God’s love, who praises Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who sacrificed His life for love us, sustain me as I learn the ways of Divine love, of sacrificial generosity, of meekness and lowliness of heart.
Thank you, my heavenly friend, for your watchful care. At the moment of my death, please bring me to heaven, where the one true God, Who is Light, Truth and Love, lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen. 
Kathleen Beckman


Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S., serves as Co-founder and President of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests (www.foundationforpriests.org). She is an author, radio host and retreat director who frequently speaks to priests, seminarians, religious and laity in the United States and abroad. Often featured on EWTN TV and radio, Kathleen hosts the weekly program Living Eucharist, which airs internationally on Radio Maria. She serves as spiritual director, advisory board member and faculty for the Pope Leo XIII Institute, and the Magnificat advisory team. Her new book, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, is available from Sophia Institute Press.

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