True devotion to the angels

The month of October, in addition to being the month of the Rosary, is traditionally dedicated to the angels. Today one hears a lot of talk about angels, but from a perspective that is not that of the Church.

There is a false devotion to the angels, which consists in imagining them as mythological creatures, attributing to them almost magical abilities to grant our wishes, satisfy our longings, apart from the observance of the universal law of God, that is, from respect for the objective order of creation.

In reality, according to Catholic doctrine, the angels are the invisible ministers of whom God makes use to govern created things. And since God, in His relationship with the created universe, is divine providence, the angels are the instruments that providence uses to order the universe to its ultimate end, which is God Himself. This means that the angels govern everything that moves in the universe, from the majestic world of the stars to the lowliest creatures. The universe is governed by the angels, present at every moment and in every place as instruments of divine providence. Through the angels, at every moment and in every circumstance of our existence, God exerts a profound and invisible action upon us, to guide us to our supernatural end. And we realise our vocation by respecting the order of creation and the natural and divine law that God has imprinted on our consciences.

This is why we pray to our guardian angel to “rule” and “govern” us. On 3 October 1959, Pius XII gave a talk to a large group of American Catholics in which, after recalling the beauties of visible reality, he moved on to the invisible, populated by angels, stating, “They were in the cities that you visited … they were your travel companions.”

Angels certainly are our faithful travel companions, but they are also warriors who ceaselessly do battle. Leo XIII, in the encyclical Humanum genus, recalls that the human race, after the rebellion of Lucifer, “separated into two different and opposing sides, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other for those things which are contrary to virtue and truth”. But the fight between Saint Michael the Archangel and the rebel angels did not end with the victory of Saint Michael, who cast Satan and his followers into hell at the first moment of creation. The battle waged by Saint Michael and his heavenly hosts continues and will continue every day until the end of the world. Each of us is called to take sides in this cosmic war, invisible but real.

From the first moment of creation, the angels sided for or against God, for eternity. We must make this choice in the historical time in which we live, and devotion to the angels helps us to serve God and fight with good effect against his adversaries. For this reason, devotion to the angels is an act of love for the supernatural order willed by God. This devotion is even more important than that which we have towards the saints. The saints are in fact models of virtue whom we must imitate, and to whom we must pray for their intercession. But they do not have, except in extraordinary cases, that power over creatures which angels ordinarily have over the created universe.

The angels are also central figures of history, in which they intervene as messengers of divine graces and celestial words. The great message of Fatima opens with the apparitions of the angel who, in the spring, summer and autumn of 1916, manifested himself to the three shepherd children in the guise of “a youth, fourteen or fifteen years old, whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it, and of great beauty”, as Sr Lucia would later declare. The visionary continues: 

“We got up to see what was happening, and saw again the angel. He was holding a chalice in his left hand, with a host suspended above it, from which some drops of blood fell into the chalice. Leaving the chalice suspended in the air, the angel knelt down beside us and made us repeat three times:

“‘Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, and I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which he himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of you the conversion of poor sinners’.

“Then, rising, he took the chalice and the host in his hands. He gave the sacred host to me, and shared the blood from the chalice between Jacinta and Francisco, saying as he did so: ‘Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men! Make reparation for their crimes and console your God!’. Once again he prostrated himself on the ground and repeated with us, three times more, the same prayer: ‘Most Holy Trinity…’, and then disappeared.”

It is with an extraordinary angelic prayer that the cycle of Fatima opens, and it is with the vision of the angels of the third secret that the message of Our Lady concludes. To the three shepherd children, Sr Lucia testifies, there appeared “at the left of Our Lady and a little above … an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire, but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand. Pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’”

Then the vision continued with a procession of bishops, priests, religious and laity, led by the pope, who climbed a steep mountain. At the summit was a great Cross of rough-hewn trunks, at the foot of which they were killed by soldiers shooting bullets and arrows. “Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels, each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”

We must not be afraid, because the angels are the executors of the divine plans of God, who always wills and brings about our good. In the dark hours of history like those we live in, let us entrust ourselves to the angels with deep love and immense trust.