Father Brian Meldrum was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2015 and served as the associate pastor at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Waterford. Before attending Sacred Heart Major Seminary, he was a music minister and theater director and member of St. Thecla Parish in Clinton Township. He is currently studying sacred Scripture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
“I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way.” (Ex 23:20)
In the not-so-distant past, after returning home from an evening out, a member of your family might have pressed a button on a little device near your home phone to “check the messages.” Today, the answering machine has probably disappeared from your family’s living room, and so too has the home, or “landline,” phone. Our world seems to be connected by instant communication. Direct messages appear on your Instagram, and text messages appear on your cell phone just waiting to be answered. Some friend, family member or co-worker is communicating a message to you. Hopefully, the person’s contact info is saved in your phone, sparing you from having to send the embarrassing message in reply: “Hey, sorry. Who is this?”
Your spiritual life is not so different from your daily life. Every day, throughout the day, God the Father communicates with you, his beloved son or daughter. Hopefully, you devote some time each day to “check the messages,” that is, you devote some time to pray. Hopefully, too, you have an ever-deepening relationship with the Father, never having to respond to him with, “Hey, sorry. Who is this?”
God communicates and reveals himself to people through various means: through the inspiring power of nature in the world, but also in the “light,” almost “silent sound” in your heart (see 1 Kgs 19:9-11 and especially 12); through sacred Scripture, the Church and the sacraments; through friends and family, like our “ancestors” who received God’s messages through “prophets” (Heb 1:1); and, most importantly, through God’s Son, “whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.” (Heb 1:2)
Throughout the history of human salvation that Scripture records, God also entrusts his messages to humanity to special messengers. We know them as the angels, an English translation of the Hebrew word for “messengers” (mal’akim). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the angels are “purely spiritual creatures” with “intelligence and will” who surpass “in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.” (330) The name “angel,” however, tells us less about what these spiritual beings are, and more about what they do. Throughout Scripture, angels communicate various messages. God entrusted the message of utmost importance — the message about Jesus’s incarnation and humanity’s redemption — to an archangel, Gabriel, who delivered this good news to the Virgin Mary. (Lk 1:26-38)
God entrusts messages for humanity to angels, but God also entrusts humanity itself to them. The angels guard God’s messages, faithfully delivering them to men and women, and the angels faithfully guard men and women too. Speaking about the most innocent among us, Christ instructs us: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” (Mt 18:10) Inspired by Jesus’ words about angels, the catechism teaches that, “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.” (336) Scripture speaks about angels guarding individuals like Sarah and Tobiah (Tb 3:17; 5:4-10; 12:12-14), God’s chosen people Israel (Ex 23:20; Ps 34:8), and even nations. (Dt 32:8; Dn 10:9-12)
Your guardian angel is there — and has been there all through your life — to protect you and to lead you closer to God. You can thank God and honor your guardian angel with that simple, rhyming prayer you learned as a child, “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.” The Church celebrates the Holy Guardian Angels on Oct. 2 and prays on that day, “O God, who in your unfathomable providence are pleased to send your holy Angels to guard us, hear our supplication as we cry to you, that we may always be defended by their protection and rejoice eternally in their company.”
Your guardian angel strives tirelessly that you might hear the message of God’s salvation for you in Jesus’ dying and rising. Your guardian angel, who is mysteriously present with you and at the same time before God’s face (see Mt 18:10), has been entrusted with the task of bringing you safely home after life’s perilous journey. At the end of the Christian funeral, the priest prays, “May the angels welcome you to paradise.” The guardian angels show that God wants nothing of his loving message of salvation to be lost in the message’s transmission. The guardian angels show that God wants none of those who receive this message to be lost, too.
In Scripture, three angels appear by name. Their names reveal God’s plan for those who experience their protection. Gabriel means “God is my might or strength” (Dn 8 and 9; Lk 1); Raphael means “God heals” (throughout the Book of Tobit); Michael means “Who is like God.” (Dn 10 and 12; Jude; Rv 12) While not personal guardian angels, these three archangels are powerful intercessors for all people before God. They can help you know the Father better. They can help you respond to the Father’s messages. Then your “hey” will be like Gabriel’s “Hail!” (Lk 1:28), your “sorry” will remind you of Raphael, “God heals,” and your “Who is this?” will sound like Michael, “Who is like God?”
All this so that you can be more like your heavenly Father, too.