Our Guardians Near
October 2, 2013
The Guardian Angels who minister to each soul, and whose feast the Church celebrates on October 2, are, in an unusual sense, vigilantes. A vigilante is at root one who keeps vigil: one who watches. These mysterious watchers are a gift to us, but we tend to neglect them in our thoughts after our days of nursery and primary education begin to wane. This may be related to the major way we tend to learn about them. Guardian Angels have the dubious privilege of belonging to the category of saints to whom rhyming prayers are addressed. An Irish-American woman in my undergraduate days said that women in her family prayed thus to Jesus’ grandmother: “St. Ann, St. Ann, find me a man.” I once saw an Italian-American monsignor with car trouble get into the car saying: “Mother Cabrini fixa my machini.” But more universal in our language is the prayer to the Guardian Angel:
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, Rule and guide.
Rhymes can be helpful and prayerfully uttered, but they can also become a kind of linguistic kitsch that leads to whimsy more than serious reflection. The sing-song of the playful phrases can remain merely nostalgic. The rhyming prayer is simple, and can be thought childish; but in reality, it reveals the childlikeness to which all Christians are called. In the gospel for the feast we read:
Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. 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 (Matt 18:3-5, 10).
Various saints who displayed great childlikeness, even if they could never be suspected of childishness, meditated upon the reality of the Guardian Angels’ presence and prayed to these beings who watch over us, who see our faces and God’s. Blessed Peter Faber, roommate of St. Francis Xavier at the University of Paris and one of the first Jesuits, always prayed to his Guardian Angel before preaching, and to the Guardian Angels of his listeners. St. Jose Maria Escriva was said to silently greet the Guardian angel of all whom he met. Our Guardian angels are concerned for us as wayfarers, as people on a journey that is sometimes dangerous, on which we can lose course. The permanent home of the angels is our destination: heaven, where Jesus Christ has ascended, He who has taken our nature and flesh to himself so that heaven may be our home too. May these messengers of God guide us in the ways of humble, childlike adoration before the God who seeks for us.
Image: Koloman Moser, Church Design for the Right Side Altar of a Guardian Angel