This first essay was originally written for my Knights of the Magisterium Mental Health Ministry and is a very brief and concise explanation of the Catholic teachings of the Angels. This essay has since been expanded into a much longer series.
Angels have a very big role in the Bible and in our history. Angels are a Dogma of Catholic Faith; you cannot be a Catholic if you do not believe in the existence of angels. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in Paragraph 328:
The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.
For Jews, it is impossible to not believe in the literal beings known as the angels because the Old Testament makes numerous references to them. For them then it is an article of faith that cannot be ignored if you want to be a sincere and devout Jew. The same especially is true of Christians. In addition to what is given to us in the Old Testament, almost every book of the New Testament shows us that the angels are a real and active force in our lives. And since the life of Jesus as man and His eternal existence as God in the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity consists of numerous encounters with the angels, you cannot believe in Jesus as Christ if you do not also believe in angels.
So what are angels? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in Paragraphs 329-330:
329 St. Augustine says: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit', from what they do, 'angel.'" With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" they are the "mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word".
330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.
Christian doctrine thus teaches that the angels are spiritual beings who were created by God to serve Him. They can appear in human form and interact with us, but those bodies are only temporary illusions and pass away when their interaction with certain humans ends sin. As purely spiritual beings, angels thus do not have DNA and those bodies may feel tangible but are not part of the angelic nature and thus vanish after the encounter because they have no use for physical bodies as we do. But as created beings, they exist within time as we do and do not know the future unless God reveals it to them.
What is the purpose of the angels? The purpose of all of the angels is to serve God, praise God, worship God, and pray to God. In the process of serving God, they also protect us, pray for us, inspire us, encourage us, and guide us during our journey on Earth. Some early Christian traditions indicate that even after our death, the angels continue to guide us in our journey to our final place, whether it is to Heaven or to Hell. It is speculative that those who have to go through the final state of purification on the way to Heaven known as Purgatory might also have their guardian angels (Psalm 91:9-12; Matthew 18:1-4,10) with them during their time of purification of sin.
And yes, everyone has a guardian angel. As Paragraph 336 of the Catechism tells us:
From its beginning until 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." Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.
Our Guardian Angels love us and do everything within God’s Will to protect us from harm. Sometimes though we reject God’s protection, and by consequence theirs, when we reject God and we have to deal with the consequences of our sins when we do not repent.
Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy.” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. For this reason, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
How many angels did God create? According to Daniel 7:10, there are so many of them that the angels cannot be counted by human standards but they and God know how many of them there are. And yet, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, each angel is unique and no two angels are the same. Every angel is as distinct from one another as a dog is to a cat.
Are there female angels? No, and technically there are not any male either. Since they are spirits and do not have bodies, they do not have a gender and thus they cannot be male or female. For the same reason, technically God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are also not male. Jesus is an exception because He became both 100% God and 100% man when He was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary (John 1:1-3,14; Colossians 2:9).
All angelic beings have a purpose and perform different functions. According to theological traditions inspired from what the Bible makes reference to in various passages, there are nine choirs of angels organized in a heavenly hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. The Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones mediate upon the Person, Wisdom, and Judgment of God. The Dominions, Powers, and Virtues govern the forces of nature and the Universe as a whole. Finally, Principalities are guardians of nations and cities, Archangels are guardians of special people, and Angels are guardians and messengers to us all.
And we know the names of the seven archangels who lead the angelic host (Tobit 12:15, Revelation 8:2); three are mentioned in Scripture and four from historical tradition. They are Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Zerachiel, and Remiel. As of Council of Rome in 745 under the reign of Pope Saint Zachary, the Catholic Church officially only acknowledges the names of three of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael because they are the only ones mentioned by name in the Bible.
Angels are all around us even if we do not see them. For every human being present in a room, there is at least one angel present, if not more. Their ultimate purpose is to serve God and by consequence help us. They are guardians of the Universe, warriors against the forces of darkness, guardians of every human being, ministers of God’s sacred mysteries, and messengers of God’s Divine Plan.
Reflect upon the following readings from Sacred Scripture and meditate upon the purpose of the angels and by consequence our service and purpose to God. They are the perfect examples of love, loyalty, and fortitude.
Hebrews 1:1-14, 13:1-2
I am the Executive Director of a lay apostolate called the KNIGHTS OF THE MAGISTERIUM. Please take the time to check out the website where you can find links to my other essays and our work for the Catholic Church. http://www.knightsotm.org/
The Knights of the Magisterium (KnightsOTM) is a lay Catholic apostolate and a Nonprofit 501(c)3 headquartered in Southern California. Our mission is to teach the Catholic Faith and affirm the teachings and teaching authority of the Catholic Church and her Magisterium. Our goals are to teach at parishes and events through lectures, seminars, and conferences; to serve the needs of the community through outreach ministries; and to follow the Church’s call for the New Evangelism.