These faithful servants of God should also be sources of encouragement for us. Why? Because the angels are everywhere around us.
It's mind boggling to realize that all the socio-economic shutdowns, educational disruption, and public health crisis of the past six months are the result of one microscopic coronavirus spreading unseen across the globe. If this crazy year has proven anything, it's that there's a whole lot more going on around us than we can see.
While we know that's true in the biological sphere, we sometimes forget that it is also true in the spiritual realm. Every Sunday, we stand to profess our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things, visible and invisible." As Christians, we believe that God created not just earth, but heaven; not just all that's visible, but all that is invisible as well. And that means angels.
This time of year, the Church draws our attention to the heavenly host with the feast of the archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel on Sept. 29, and the feast of the guardian angels on Oct. 2. It's amazing that the same God who created humankind in his image also created orders of angelic beings. Of course, angels aren't the fat little cupids so often depicted in works of art, and we should thank God for that. Sure those little cherubs are cute and endearing. But the angelic hosts of God are purely spiritual beings. They are warriors, messengers, ministers to God himself who surround his throne and praise the Holy Trinity unceasingly.
And yet, the angels also have an earthly mission. The first angel mentioned in the Bible is the one who guards the entrance to the Garden of Eden after the fall. An angel was also sent to attend to Hagar after she and her son Ishmael were driven out into the desert by Abraham and Sarah. Three angels visited Abraham and announced that Sarah, though she was past a childbearing age, would give birth to a son within a year. Angels rescued Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jacob had a vision of angels ascending and descending on a heavenly ladder and spent all night wrestling an angel. Moses was accompanied by an angel when he returned to Egypt, and an angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites as the firstborn of Egypt died. Angels warned God's people to repent, strengthened the prophets, fought against Israel's enemies in battle, and accompanied faithful Jews into the fiery furnace and the lions' den.
In the New Testament, the Archangel Gabriel was sent to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Angels filled the Bethlehem skies with praise and announced the birth of Christ to Judean shepherds. They guided St. Joseph in dreams. On the threshold of his public ministry, angels ministered to Jesus in the desert. On the night of Christ's betrayal, angels strengthen him in Gethsemane. And on the third day, it is angels who meet the grieving women at the empty tomb and proclaim that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
These faithful servants of God should also be sources of encouragement for us. Why? Because the angels are everywhere around us. They are here to protect, defend, heal, and guide us. They come to console and strengthen us, to pray with us and for us. They are sent to bring us the word of God, to reveal our part in his mission, and sustain us in answering his call. They do all of this and more unseen and largely undetected.
We need not face our trials alone. When troubles come our way, when temptations overwhelm us, and obstacles to holiness seem to multiply on our path, we would do well to follow the advice of St. Francis de Sales: "Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs." The next time you encounter something that makes you want to shout "heaven, help us," have confidence that someone is already there to do just that.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.