The Holy Angels, by Father Richard Frederick Clarke, SJ

The Holy Angels“He hath given His Angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” – Psalm 90:11

This article contains a brief outline of Catholic teaching on the Angels. An acquaintance with the doctrine of the Church, on this point, cannot fail to prove useful at a time when many are proclaiming, far and wide, their disbelief in everything that lies beyond the region of sense; while others are coveting and striving to enter into undue, unlawful, and unholy communion with the spirit-world. It is true that we cannot with human eyes see the Angels as they really are, for they are spirits, but they have, at times, assumed bodies, and appeared to men, when the beauty of this their outward seeming, bringing to the mind all that is pure, bright and holy, has testified to their innate glory, dignity, power and splendor.

Thus, the prophet Daniel describes the Angel that stood before him: “And I lifted up my eyes, and I saw: and behold a man clothed in linen, and his loins were girded with the finest gold: and his body was like the chrysolite, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as a burning lamp: and his arms, and all downward, even to the feet, like in appearance to glittering brass: and the voice of his word like the voice of a multitude.” Meditation and reflection on the presence of the holy Angels will counteract that tendency which there is in the heart of man to fix his thoughts and desires on what is of the earth earthly, ever to cling to the fleeting and changeable, and lead him to contemplate love, and hope for what belongs to his spiritual nature, that “life that knows no death.” When we think of these heavenly spirits, we are reminded too of our Father’s love, Who has sent His Angels to guide and guard us in our battle with the enemies of our salvation.

The Name “Angel”

The name “Angel,” in its widest meaning, is applied to all those spirits whom God has created without destining them, as our souls, to union with a body. The complete spiritual substances – to use the language of scholastics – had their virtue tried, and some of them revolted against their Creator, and I were cast into hell. These are the demons or fallen Angels. Others remained faithful to God, who confirmed them in grace, and bestowed upon them the glory and happiness of heaven. These are the good Angels, these bright and holy spirits who stand round about the throne of God, offering praise, honor and benediction for ever and ever to the Lamb that was slain.

The name most frequently given to the Angels is “messenger”: in Hebrew, mal’ak, in Greek Angelos, which is rendered in the Vulgate by Angelus, and sometimes by nuntius legatus. Like “Apostle,” it is a name denoting an office, not a nature. Thus Saint Augustine says: “You ask the name of this nature: it is spirit; you seek to know its office: it is an Angel.” The name Angel is applied to men; to priests, (Malachi 2:7) to prophets, (2 Paralip. 36:15; Aggai 1:13) to bishops, (Apocalypse 1:20) to Saint John the Baptist, (Matthew 11:10) even to Christ and the Holy Ghost, in as far as they are sent of God. The good Angels are also called the Sons of God, saints, dwellers in heaven, the army of heaven. Only three Angels have proper names assigned them in the sacred writings, Gabriel (“God is strength”), Michael (“who is as God?”), and Raphael (“God heals”) (Daniel8:16, 10:13,21; Tobit 3:25) Other names are uncertain, and were rejected by Pope Zachary at the Roman Synod, in 745, and later on again at the Synod of Aix-la-Chapelle.

The Existence of the Angels

The belief in the existence of Angels flourished among the Jews before and after the Mosaic dispensation, consequently it could not have been derived from the Chaldees or Persians, for the Pentateuch was written before the Babylonian Captivity. Therefore, among the Jews, the error of the Sadducees, who denied that there were Angels, was remarkable. Among Christians up to the time of the Anabaptists and certain Socinians, the existence of Angels was scarcely even called in question. Protestants, however, through their denial of the in vocation of the saints, frequently forget the presence of the Angels, so that not without reason, perhaps, wrote he Anglican bishop Hall: “The good Lord forgive me, for that among my other offences I have suffered myself so much to forget as His divine presence, so this presence of His holy Angels.” Many rationalists, in accordance with their tenets, interpret angelic actions as purely natural events.

The Catholic doctrine upon the existence and nature of the Angels has been formulated for us by the Fourth Council of Lateran, 1215, and the Council of the Vatican, 1870, which affirm the existence and complete spirituality of these creatures of God. This doctrine is fully confirmed by holy Scripture. In the early books of the Old Testament, Angels frequently appear. When God drove Adam from Paradise, he placed before its gates the Cherubim. An Angel stands before Agar in the desert, and addressed her; two Angels come to Sodom and deliver Lot; Jacob, in his dream, sees the Angels, ascending and descending by a ladder that rose from earth to heaven. An angel appears to Balaam; an Angel, sword in hand, promises to help Josue; an Angel gives Gideon his mission.

Again, in the New Testament, we have apparitions of Angels to Zachary, to the Blessed Virgin, to Saint Joseph, to the Shepherds, to our Lord after His fast and after His agony in the garden, to the holy women after the resurrection. Our Saviour Himself speaks of the Angels as ever seeing the face of His Father, as separating the good from the wicked at the last judgment. In all these instances – very many more might be cited – Holy Scripture represents the Angels as personal beings endowed with understanding and will, that is, as gifted with a real, true personality, not as divine emanations, mere powers or ideas. Wherefore Saint Augustine says: “Although we do not see Angels…still we know from faith that there are Angels, and we read and possess in writing that they have appeared to many, hence we cannot lawfully doubt thereon.”

This belief in the existence of Angels was common to almost all the nations of the world. The Greek, the Roman, the Indian, the dweller in the woods of America, believed in Angels, or genii, or demons (daimonas), as they were termed by the heathen. Tertullian writes: “We affirm that there are certain spiritual substances, and the name is not new. Philosophers know of demons, for Socrates himself used to await the award of his divine mentor. The poets know of demons. Angels even Plato did not deny.” Whether we consult the Bible narrative, or the teaching of the Fathers, or the constant and universal tradition of almost all peoples, we must believe in the existence of Angels.

The Angel of Jehovah

Among the apparitions recorded in the Old Testament, there are many in which he who appears is called the Angel of Jehovah. Often too the same person who has just been called an Angel is after wards named God. The question, therefore, arises as to whether the Angel of these apparitions is God taken as the Trinity or God taken as the Son, Who is elsewhere called the Angel of the Testament. Very many of the Fathers have thought that in these apparitions it was not an Angel but God Who manifested Himself, for, they say, the person is called God and acts as God. Moreover, these apparitions served as foreshadowings of the Incarnation. Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory have favored a different interpretation, which at tributes these apparitions to the Angels. This opinion is followed by Saint Thomas and most theologians and scholastic exegetical writers. A third explanation of these apparitions under discussion is that Angels appeared, but that it was God Who spoke in them. This explanation, how ever, is not in harmony with the text of Scripture, according to which the words are spoken by the persons who appear.

The Creation of the Angels

Who brought these spirits into existence? Saint Paul tells us: “In Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones…or powers: all things were created by Him and in Him.” (Colossians 1:16) We know too from Holy Writ, that God is the author of all things, for “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” “He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created,” “He that lives for ever created all things together,” and it expressly places the Angels among the works of God: “All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord: O ye Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord.” The fourth Council of Lateran has defined that “God created together, in the beginning of time. out of nothing, both classes of creatures, spiritual and corporeal, the angelic to wit and the material, and then the human, as a composite of both spirit and body.” The Vatican Council has defined the same truth.

Origen seems to have thought that the Angels were created from eternity, a belief that does not tally with the sacred writings, which are convincing on this point. They represent eternity as belonging to God alone, and affirm that he existed before aught else was made. (Psalm 99:3; Proverbs 8:22; John 17:5,24; Ephesians 1:4) The common teaching of theologians is that the Angels were created at the same time as the material world. He who should deny this, would incur the note of temerity. As to where they were created, Suarez says: “Nothing has been plainly revealed to us in Scripture, or defined in the councils, or handed down to us with common consent by the Fathers.”

The Number of Angels

These Angels have been created, according to Holy Scriptures, in vast numbers. In Job 25:3 we read, “Is there any numbering of His soldiers?” In Daniel 7:10, “Thousands on thousands ministered to Him, and ten hundred times a hundred thousand assisted before His throne.” In the Apocalypse 5:2, “And the number of them was thousands of thousands.” Thus the Creator shows forth more abundantly His greatness, magnificence, and goodness, for “in the multitude of people is the dignity of the King.” (Proverbs 14:28) “We cannot,” says Father Faber, “meditate on the countless multitude of the Angels, without astonishment. So vast a populace, of such surpassing beauty, of such gigantic intelligence, of such diversified nature, is simply overwhelming to our most ambiguous thoughts. A locust-swarm, and each locust an Archangel; the myriads of points of life disclosed to us by the microscope, and each point a grand spirit. The sands of the seas and the waters of the ocean, and each grain and each drop a beautiful being, the brightness of whose substance we could not see and live: this is but an approximation to the reality. So theologians teach us.”

The Angelic Choirs

Holy Writ teaches us that the good Angels are divided into different orders, with definite names, but is silent on what constitutes the nature of each of these orders, what their rank in the heavenly hierarchy. The Fathers also are not in agreement upon this matter. The common opinion among theologians is, that the Angels are divided into three hierarchies, each of which is sub-divided into three orders or choirs. The first hierarchy consists of Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; the second of Dominations, Virtues, Powers; the third of Principalities, Archangels, Angels. (Isaias 6:3; Ezechiel 10:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; Romans 8:38; Colossians 1:16) According to Saint Thomas of Aquin, each Angel in these orders is of a distinct species. Saint Gregory the Great writes: “We say that there are nine orders of Angels, because – the Sacred Scripture is our witness – we know that there are Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers. Principalities, Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim.”

The distinction between assisting Angels (at the throne of God), and ministering Angels (to other creatures), appears to be one of offices and not of Angels, for it is probable that all the Angels at times perform either oflice. Raphael, the Arch angel who was ministering to the son of Tobias, speaks of himself as one of the seven who stand before the throne of God. However, certain theologians think that the three highest choirs fulfill the duties of ministering Angels only mediately through the other choirs. Yet these names are not taken from their natures, for of the assisting Angels, even the prophet Daniel says: “Thousands on thousands ministered to Him.”

Order Among the Fallen Angels

There is rank or order among the fallen spirits. we read of archai and exousiai in the epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, and Lucifer still seems to remain the chief of the demons. “If Satan be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?” But the Pharisees hearing it, said: “This man casts out devils but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” “And the great dragon was cast out, the old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduces the whole world: and he was cast unto the earth, and his Angels were thrown down with him.” Our Lord speaks of the fire “prepared for the devil and his Angels.” Thus in Paradise Lost the apostate Angel, racked with deep despair and vaunting loud, cries:

Here we may reign secure, and, in my choice, To reign is worth ambition, though in hell: Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.

The Superiority of the Angels to Man

The Angels, considered in their natural state, apart from their elevation by grace, are superior to man in his natural state. For the Angels are pure spirits, whereas man is a composite of spirit and matter. This superiority is declared in Scripture: “Thou hast made him a little less than the Angels.” Though this text is applied to Christ, still it is understood of man, for if the human nature of Christ is made a little less than the Angels, much more so is that of man which is not hypostatically united to the divinity. We read in the book of Job: “There is no power on earth that can be compared with him,” which text is generally under stood of Satan. The Apostle, writing to the Ephesians tells them that their “wrestling is not against flesh and blood: but against principalities and powers, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” Saint Augustine says that “the angelic world surpasses in its natural dignity all that the Lord has made.” We are speaking of man and the Angels in their natural state, for by grace the Blessed Virgin is raised above all creatures.

The Spirituality of the Angels

It is certain, though not defined, that the Angels are pure spirits, i.e., pure intelligences devoid of any kind of body, and without an aptitude for a natural union with a body. To deny this, would be a mark of great presumption. Before the Fourth Council of Lateran, the doctrine of the spirituality of the Angels was not clear to all, and some of the Fathers have spoken of the Angels as having bodies, while others have doubted. Others, how ever, have clearly professed this doctrine now general in the Church. Saint- Cyril argues that the Angels cannot be the fathers of the giants, “since they are without bodies.” Saint Ignatius of Antioch calls the Angels “bodiless natures” (asoeatous pheuseis), and Saint Gregory Nazianzen says the angelic nature is intelligible and incorporeal (noeten kai asomaton). Saint Gregory the Great asks if any one that is wise and right-minded “will say that the spirits are corporeal.”

However, many of the Fathers are to be under stood as speaking of a body improperly so termed, for some of them call every created substance a body, others call the Angels corporeal and composite in comparison with God, Who alone is absolutely simple. Upon this point the witness of Scripture is evident and unmistakable, at least to the mind of the modern Church. For though it recounts the appearance of Angels under human forms, it never assigns as natural to them union with a body, but always calls them spirits; “are they not all ministering spirits?” “Who makes Thy Angels spirits.” The Bible speaks of the spirit and of the soul of man, never of the spirit of the Angels; it distinguishes them from corporeal beings. They only appear to take food. (See Psalm 103:4; Matthew 8:16; Luke 10:20, 11:26; Acts 23:8; Hebrews 1:14; Apocalypse 1:4; Judges 13:19,20; Matthew 22:30; Luke 10:19,20; Tobit 12:19) The sons of God whose union with the daughters of men Genesis 6:2 speaks, and of, not Angels, but the descendants of Seth. The Angels are incorruptible and immortal, for death consists in the separation of soul and body. They could cease to be only by the direct omnipotence of God annihilating them. Angels can pass with lightning speed from one spot to another.

The Knowledge and Free-Will of the Angels

The Angels are endowed with a knowledge that far surpasses human intelligence, for Christ at times, in His discourses, introduces angelic knowledge as a climax to human knowledge. (Matthew 24:36) By their natural powers they cannot penetrate the mysteries of grace, nor can they read the secrets of the heart, unless it please God to reveal them, for God alone is the searcher of the reins and heart. “Thou alone (O God) knowest the hearts of all the sons of men.” (3rd Kings 39) God, Whose “word is living, more piercing than a two-edged sword, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” has not willed that man’s secret thoughts should lie open to be scanned by every passer-by. “Wicked and inscrutable is the heart of all,” says the Prophet Jeremias; “who shall understand it? I the Lord, searching the reins and hearts.”

Future free acts also are hidden from the Angelic intellect, unless God has made them known, for such knowledge is a special mark of the divinity. “Shew the things that are to come hereafter, and we shall know that ye are gods.” (Psalm 102:20,21; Apocalypse 7:3) When Daniel, by divine revelation, declared the dream of King Nabuchodonoser, the King cried out: “Verily, your God is the God of gods, and Lord of Kings and revealer of hidden things: seeing thou couldst discover this secret.” “The truth of divination I hold to be the distinct testimony of the divinity,” says Tertullian. The Angels are endowed with free-will, for they are represented in Scripture as obeying the commands of God, (Isaiah 41:23) as capable of joys and desires, and as worthy of rewards and punishments. Moreover, some of them fell, which necessarily proves that they are free agents.

Speech Among the Angels

The Angels can speak to one another as Scripture testifies. “And they [the Seraphim] cried one to another and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God signed to hell for their first sin. of Hosts, all the earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3) “If I should speak with the tongues of men and Angels.” (1st Corinthians 13:1) “And I saw another Angel ascending from the rising of the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice to the four Angels, (Apocalypse 7:2) “When Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended.” (Jude 9) They can speak therefore to God. They sing His glory, extol His power, consult His wisdom, praise His mercy. They can speak to man as the Archangel Gabriel did to Zachary and the Blessed Virgin, and the multitude of the heavenly army to the shepherds on the first Christmas. According to Saint Thomas, one Angel converses with another by directing his thought to the other by an act of the will.

The Trial of the Angels

The majority of theologians teach that the Angels were created in grace. But Hugo and Richard of Saint Victor, Peter Lombard, Saint Bonaventure think that for some time the Angels were left to their natural resources before they were elevated to a supernatural state. The trial of the Angels is not expressly recounted in Scripture, but that there was a trial cannot be doubted, for it is affirmed unanimously by tradition.

Moreover, it is certain that the demons were created in the beginning good, and like the holy Angels. Saint Peter tells us that the demons have been cast into hell because of their sin. (2nd Peter 2:4; see also Matthew 25:41, Jude 6) Whence it is manifest that the good Angels could have sinned and have been submitted to a trial.

From the sin of the bad Angels, which, according to the common opinion, was a sin of pride, “for pride is the beginning of sin,” (Eccl. 10:15) and in the book of Tobias we read, “Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind, or in thy words: for from it all perdition took its beginning;” and Saint Paul writes to Timothy “lest being puffed up with pride, he fall into the judgment of the Devil,” we cannot ascertain what was the nature of the trial. Probably it was not of long duration, for Scripture does not allow us to understand that any of the good Angels fell, yet supposes that the devils were con (2 Peter 2:4)

We do not know what was the number of those that fell and those that remained faithful; probably far the greater number persevered.

The good Angels, according to their diverse merits, have received heavenly rewards, and now enjoy the beatific vision through the good use they have made of grace. For in Scripture they are called the’ “elect Angels;” they are said “to see the face of the Father Who is in heaven;” to stand “round the throne of God,” to dwell in thousands in the heavenly Jerusalem; and we know that to merit such a supernatural reward, grace is requisite, for “grace,” says Saint Paul, “is life everlasting.”

The Assaults of the Evil Angels

It is of faith that there are demons, and that they tempt man – only, however, by the permission of God. We learn from Holy Writ that our first parents were tempted in the garden, that Christ Himself was tempted in the desert, that Satan entered the heart of Judas, that Ananias and Saphira were tempted to lie to the Holy Ghost. Moreover, the devil covered Job from the sole of his foot to the top of his head with a foul ulcer, nay, besides inflicting physical evils, he and his Angels possess the very bodies of men. (Matthew 4:24,8:16,12:24; Maccabees 1:32,34; Luke 7:21,8:2; Acts 16:16-18,19:12)

Christ our Lord in His parables points out the machinations of the devil; the Apostles, in their epistles, warn men against the wiles of this father of lies. We have too in the Church, among her ministers, the order of exorcist and rules and prayers for exercising are prescribed by the Ritual. Tertullian, in his apology, thus publicly challenges the heathens: “Bring out someone before your tribunals who is clearly harassed by a demon: if that spirit is hidden by any Christian to speak, so truly will he confess himself a demon, as elsewhere he falsely will give himself out to be a god.”

Many theologians hold that to each man a demon is deputed. However, it is the more common opinion that all temptations do not come directly from the devil, but also from man himself, who, in his trial-state, has

A traitor nestling close at home,
Connatural, who with the powers of hell
Was leagued, and of his senses kept the keys,
And to that deadliest foe unlock’d his heart.

Suggestions of the good and bad Angels cannot always be easily distinguished, for the demons often transform themselves into Angels of light, and when

They will the blackest sins put on
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows.

Hence, rules are necessary, and are given by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in the book of the Spiritual Exercises. In general, it may be said that the devils ever try to trouble and sadden; they notice, like a general attacking a citadel, the weakest point, and there direct their attack, but

When some child of grace, Angel or Saint,
Pure and upright in his integrity
Of Nature, meets the demons on their raid
They send away as cowards from the fight;
Thus oft hath holy hermit in his cell,
Not yet disburden’d of mortality,
Mocked at their threats and warlike overtures,
Or, dying, when they swarm’d like flies, around,
Defied them, and departed to his Judge.

The Offices of the Angels to God, and the Son of God

The offices of the Holy Angels to God are to praise Him, for “the morning stars praised Him together, and the Sons of God made a joyful melody,” to bless and adore Him, to carry out His orders and execute His judgments; “Bless the Lord, all ye His Angels: you that are mighty in strength, and execute His word, hearkening to the voice of His orders. Bless the Lord, all ye His hosts; you ministers of His that do His will.

They have special duties to perform to the Word made Flesh: “When he brought His first-begotten into the world, He saith: ‘And let the Angels of God adore Him.'” A multitude of these blessed spirits sang songs of joy and thanksgiving on the night that Mary brought forth the Infant Saviour and laid him in the manger. After his fast and temptation, after his agony in the garden, the Man of Sorrows deigned to receive consolation from an Angel. Now continually do they cry before the great white throne: “The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and benediction.”

Guardian Angels

It seems to be of faith that the Angels are deputed to guard men in general. The numerous apparitions of Angels to the Patriarchs, Moses, the Judges, the Kings, the Prophets, the Blessed Virgin, Zachary, Saint Joseph, the Apostles, recounted in Scripture, testify clearly to the general guardianship. “Are they (the Angels) not,” says Saint Paul, “all ministering spirits sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.” It is commonly held in the Church that each man individually – with the exception of Christ our Saviour – has a special Guardian Angel, for our Lord says: “Their Angels always see the face of My Father Who is in heaven,” where we should note that He says not Angel but Angels and “their”. This was the belief among the early Christians, for we read in the Acts that when the girl Rhode asserted that Saint Peter was at the door knocking, the faithful who had met for prayers in the house answered, “It is his Angel.” The words of the patriarch Jacob, and of Judith affirming that the Angel of the Lord had guarded them, confirm this belief. “I hold,” says Suarez, “that not only the just but even sinners, not only the faithful but even the unfaithful, not only the baptized but the unbaptized have Guardian Angels.” This is the common opinion of theologians and the Fathers.

In every resting-place, in every corner,” says Saint Bernard, “reverence your Guardian angel…if you consult faith, it proves to you that the Angelic presence fails not.” Saint Jerome exclaims: “Great is the dignity of the soul, since each has an Angel assigned to watch over it.”

It is the common opinion that nations, kingdoms, and provinces, have special Angels assigned by God to watch over them. Special passages of Holy Scripture support this opinion; the book of Daniel mentions the Angels of the Greeks and the of Persians, and in Exodus we read of the Angel that went before the camp of Israel. According to the Septuagint translation, (Deuteronomy 32:8) God has divided the earth into nations corresponding to the number of His Angels. The Angel of the Jewish people was Michael, who is now the special protector of the Universal Church, for which he fights. (Daniel 10:13,21; Exodus 14:19; Jude 9; Apocalypse 12:7. This belief in Guardian Angels flourished among the Persians, Greeks, and other peoples.)

The ministry of these blessed spirits to their charge, man, is plainly written on the pages of Holy Scripture. They are to protect the just, to inspire holy thoughts, to restrain and ward off the attacks of the demons, to avert dangers, to offer the prayers of the faithful to God, at times to inflict healing and salutary chastisements, to pray for those committed to their charge, to console the Souls detained in Purgatory, and at last to escort them to heaven. (Psalm 92:13; Hebrews 1:14; Genesis 18; Judges 13; Acts 5:19; Tobias 6,8:3; Judith 13:20; Tobias 12:12; Apocalypse 8; Luke 16:22)

These last services of the Angel Guardian are beautifully described by Cardinal Newman in the Dream of Gerontius.

The Angel speaks:

Softly and gently, dearly-ransomed soul,
In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,
And o’er the penal waters, as they roll,
I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.

And carefully I dip thee in the lake,
And thou, without a sob or a resistance,
Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,
Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance.

Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee as thou liest;
And Masses on the earth, and prayers in heaven,
Shall aid thee at the throne of the Most Highest.

Farewell, but not for ever, brother, dear!
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.

The Old Law Given through Ministry of Angels

Saint Stephen, in the Acts, and Saint Paul to the Hebrews, declare that the Mosaic dispensation was given to the Jews through the ministry of Angels – “who have received the law by the disposition of Angels and have not kept it.” Thus the superiority of the Christian revelation is shown, for it was brought into the world by the Eternal Son, for “in these days,” God “hath spoken to us by His Son, the brightness of His glory and the figure of His substance.” Though the Angels participate largely in the works of God, there are certain works that He reserves to Himself, for example, the creation of the world and the redemption of mankind.

Ministry of Angels in the Visible Creation

Certain Fathers and theologians have held that the Angels under God preside over the visible world. Saint Thomas says: “All corporeal substances are ruled by Angels.” We certainly have many instances of angelic ministry in the visible creation. The Scriptures tell us, that two Angels struck with blindness the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha, that an Angel destroyed the first-born of the Egyptians, that an Angel descended from heaven to move the waters of the Probatic Pool, that an Angel rolled away the huge stone from the mouth of the sepulchre.

Again, in the Apocalypse we read of “the four Angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds,” of “the four Angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and sea,” of “the Angel who had power over fire,” and of “the Angel of the waters.” Wherefore “every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every beautiful prospect,” writes Cardinal Newman of the Angels, “is, as it were, the skirts of their garments, the waving of the robes of those whose faces see God in heaven;” and again, “Above and below the clouds of air, the trees of the field, the waters of the great deep, will be found impregnated with forms of everlasting spirits, the servants of God who do His pleasure.”

The Honor and Devotion Paid to the Angels

Those who erroneously believed that the Angels created the world, and wrought the redemption of mankind, naturally rendered them a worship due to God alone. Probably for this reason Saint Paul warns the Colossians against a false religion of the Angels, and the spirit in the Apocalypse, before whom Saint John would have fallen prostrate, bids him desist and adore God. Scripture, however, is far from condemning that devotion which is paid to the Angels as the beloved ministers of God – nay, on the contrary, it encourages us to offer prayers to them, that they may present them upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of the Lord. Again we know that Josue took off his shoes from his feet out of reverence for the spot where these heavenly spirits had appeared.

The Catholic Church has ever honored the Angels, not with that supreme worship called latria, which belongs only to God, but with an inferior and relative honor, as the servants and chosen friends of God, known as dulia. She assigns them an office and a Mass in her liturgy, and exhorts her children to revere, love and pray to them, that they may ever experience the help and intercession of these holy spirits, to whose untiring care they have been entrusted by the divine mercy to be sweetly enlightened, lovingly tended, and faithfully shielded. “Despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that their Angels in heaven see the face of My Father Who is in heaven.” “He hath given His Angels charge over thee, to guide thee in all thy ways.”