Question of Faith: Unique Guardian Angels?
Q. Does each person have a unique guardian angel? If so, do angels have lifespans? Do they reproduce, or were all the angels necessary for the whole of human history created at the beginning of time?
A: Each Sunday during the Creed, we profess that God the Father is the maker of all things “visible and invisible,” acknowledging that creation surpasses our five senses. Alongside the empirical world of plants and animals, there is also a vast spiritual landscape inhabited by billions of beings. Humans stand between these two worlds with the capacity to learn about both. We
learn about the visible world through our observation or from science. The invisible world cannot be seen under a microscope or through a telescope, but it is nonetheless real. We learn about
it through the faith we place in God. Through scripture and tradition, God has revealed to us various facts about the spiritual life. One such truth is the existence of angels.
What is an Angel?
The word “angel” may evoke an image of a rotund, feather-winged, harp playing infant, but angels are much more awe-inspiring and impressive. Angels are purely spiritual beings who are exceedingly intelligent and powerful, capable of influencing the material world. Since angels are non-corporeal, it is impossible for them to either reproduce or die. Angels cannot make other angels, but God can. Like the human soul, God creates each angel specifically, and once God brings an angel into existence, that angel will always exist. In scripture, we hear about various types of angels with distinct missions. The Church Fathers organized them into nine groups, which we call choirs: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels. Guardian angels are stationed in the final choir.
Christ mentions guardian angels: “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew
18:10, also see Hebrews 1:14). Our guardian angels are special: They can simultaneously look at God the Father and watch over us. Various Church Fathers have elaborated on these words of Christ. St. Basil, for instance, said, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Both scripture and tradition, then, confirm that each of us has guardian angels. From the beginning of life to death, “human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 336). From the time of conception, there is a unique angel specifically assigned by God for the spiritual welfare of each person.
The Creation of Angels
If each person receives an angel when he or she is created, does this mean that God creates each person’s guardian angel at that time? Probably not. The traditional belief is that God created
all the angels at the beginning of time. Since God foresaw the existence of each person from the beginning of creation, He knew exactly how many guardian angels to create, and He paired each human and angel particularly.
We believe that guardian angels have two jobs – to worship God and help aid us in this life as we strive for heaven – and they have been at work since their creation. Our guardian angels, then, have been praying for us for quite some time, even before our births. It seems like a good idea to frequently ask our guardian angels for assistance.
It is a beautiful truth that our guardian angels are with us all the days of our lives. They assist us in this world, but they are more concerned with the life to come – where, hopefully, we will behold the face of God with all the angels forever.
Father David Endres is associate professor of Church history and historical theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary & School of Theology.