The Angelic Reality

The existence of angels is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition (CCC 328). They have intellect and will, they are personal and immortal. God first created, from nothing, pure spirits whom we call angels. They are intelligent persons like us but they do not have physical bodies as humans do. Angels have greater intelligence and power than humans. They are pure spirits â€" that is, they have no bodily element at all â€" simply minds and wills, minds knowing and wills loving, both at an intensity of power beyond our comprehension. The cute and cuddly baby angels that we sometimes see on Christmas cards bear no relation whatsoever to the invisible and matterless reality of angels. Angels, like humans, were created to worship and serve God.

Angels were created by God before man. They form a hierarchy of nine choirs: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Dominations, Virtues, Powers; Principalities, Archangels and Angels (Scripture uses nine different names when speaking of angels - Gen 3:24; Is 6:2; Eph 1:21, 3:10; Col 1:16; 1Thess 4:16; Jude 9). Upon God's creation of the angels, they were tested to see if they would freely love Him and obey His commands. Some of them (Scripture suggests a third of them, Rev 12:4) led by Lucifer (the angel of light), refused to serve the Lord, they rebelled against Him and were cast into Hell (2 Pet 2:4), where those who do not want to be with Him are sent. Jesus came to undo the work of Satan (1 Jn 3:8).

All angels were good when they were initially created by God, but some became evil by their own free choice. We call these disobedient spirits: devils, demons or fallen angels. They are still led by Lucifer, who is also known as Satan (meaning enemy of God). They try to turn all creation away from God, for they do not want God's creatures to serve Him. The angels' choice, for or against God, was final and irrevocable. Humans are often given another chance, and another, and another. Not so angels. Humans have bodies that change, humans can change their minds. Angels are body-less, they cannot change.

The spirits who loved God and obeyed His commands were admitted to the Beatific Vision. They are called faithful or good angels; they were led by Michael the Archangel (Michael means 'who is like God?'). Michael says to the Devil in the Epistle of St Jude (v. 9): 'May God rebuke you', hence the prayer to St Michael by Pope Leo XIII. These angels assist us in living holy Christian lives so that we can serve God on Earth and come to live with Him in Heaven when we die. God has assigned a good angel to each one of us. This angel is called our Guardian Angel and his mission is to help us on our way to Heaven. From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life" (CCC 336, St Basil). God denies to no-one the general helps towards salvation. Amongst the general helps we include the assistance of guardian angels. Every human being has a good angel assigned to him for his protection against evil. "Have confidence in your Guardian Angel. Treat him as a lifelong friend â€" that is what he is â€" and he will render you a thousand services in the ordinary affairs of each day."

Sheed, F., Theology for Beginners. Sheehan, Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, p. 320 St Thomas Aquinas (otherwise known as the ‘Angelic Doctor’) Summa Theologiae I, q. 113, a.2 Saint Jose Maria Escriva, The Way

* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.