From whom demons withdraw in terror and pain

The world’s quicksand is shifting under our feet.

More than ever we need the help that God sends us through the loving help of our Guardian Angels.

Yes, there are angels.  Open your Bible and, within a few pages, you’ll find angels.

From the Martyrologium Romanum (which you readers can put into perfect yet smooth and elegant English):

Memoria sanctorum Angelorum Custodum, qui, primum ad contemplandam in splendore faciem Dei vocati, a Domino etiam apud homines commissi sunt, ut iis invisibili sua, sed sollicita, praesentia adessent ac consulerent.

There are three types of persons, divine, angelic and human.  Of the three types, divine persons, the Holy Trinity One God, are uncreated.  Angelic and human are created persons.  Angels have no material component, but humans do.

Because angels are not limited by matter, or individuated in matter, and since they are purely spiritual persons, each angel is his own species. They are like in that they are angels, and unlike in that each one is particular to himself. There is, therefore, a hierarchy among the angels. But all of them always contemplate God, as angels can. They don’t have to be limited to any place, since they have no bodies. They simply are where they are in action.

So aligned are they with the will of God that when they appear in Scripture and speak, sometimes it is hard to tell when God is speaking and when they speak.

Our angel guardians can be from the anywhere in the myriads and myriads of ranks of the angels. They could be from the highest of the high or even from the lowliest little angel at the bottom of the hierarchy. But even the lowliest of the angels is beyond any human conception of mightiness. The least of the angels, were God to will or permit, could mash the cosmos into a little pea and flash the Big Bang again.

Provided that it falls within God’s will, from which it is impossible for them to stray, the material universe presents no obstacles to them. They know the essences of things directly, without having to figure them out.

Do you pray to your Guardian Angel? I sure do. I am constantly asking for help with problems and, especially, with other people. I will sometimes also ask the angelic guardians of other people to help me work something out when there is great need. And I, a weak sinner, have need all the time.

Though I loath the pastels and the foofy portrayal of these fearfully beautiful beings, I love idea behind the old pious images made for children’s bedrooms.  You see a bright yet obviously invisible angel preventing a distracted little kid from plunging off cliff as she tries to pick a pretty flower that is just out of reach.

They guide us dopey children back to a safer path.

We all all get into trouble and we all need this help.

God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, sends us mighty help before whom the fallen angels of Hell withdraw in terror and pain.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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28 Responses to From whom demons withdraw in terror and pain

  1. Nicholas says:

    I heard recently that priests and future priests (whom are known only by God) have 2 guardian angels.

    Have you heard this tid-bit, Father?

  2. Pingback: Our Guardian Angels | Catholicism Pure & Simple

  3. JARay says:

    May I ask Nicholas just why he supposes that a priest needs two guardian angels? I certainly have never heard this proposition before. As I write now I can hear in my mind’s voice (yes, it is singing) “Guardian Angel my guardian so mild/ watching beside me for I am thy child”

  4. NoraLee9 says:

    I have heard it. I had a priest friend tell me three, but he wouldn’t elaborate….

    I pray to and with my Angel Guardian all the time. He’s a lot smarter than I am, that’s for sure.

  5. Ed the Roman says:

    I thank him, too.

  6. Kerry says:

    David Warren also, on Sep. 29, has written about Angels. DavidWarrenonline(dot) com.

  7. Father,yes i do pray to my guardian angel,and,also, to Archangel Michael every day.My prayer to Michael is to defend us in battle-which is now!This is my first comment on your blog.I have been reading your writing for a year ,or two,now and it is brilliant,insightful,and so very true to the teachings of Holy Mother Church.The Mystical Body of Christ.God Bless.Philip Johnson.

  8. wanda says:

    Yes, Fr. Z., we sure need our angels, now more than ever. I pray the guardian angel prayer for my whole family and pray the St. Micheal prayer daily. Just got the Guardian Angel picture, protecting a little boy and girl as they cross a rickety bridge, for our grand daughter’s room. A priest blessed it for me – how’s this – father’s first name is Angel!

  9. Sonshine135 says:

    Your article is timely Father. I was contemplating during my Holy Hour yesterday that I am not praying for my Guardian Angel enough. We always seem to thank least those who do the most for us.

  10. Giuseppe says:

    “Provided that it falls within God’s will, from which it is impossible for them to stray…”

    Well, there was Lucifer. And I think he had a few angels on his side as well. Do post-Lucifer angels no longer have free will if it is impossible for them to stray from God’s will? If they do have free will, is it possible that more angels have been defecting to Satan?

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    I can’t remember who said that angels say, “Fear not!” but Victorian holy-card angels always look like they’re saying, “There, there!”
    With that said, there are some good depictions around – from the formal and symbolic presentation of icons to freer interpretations.
    Thus the great Arthur Szyk: Guardian Angel from “Andersen’s Tales”

  12. John says:

    For my morning prayers, I always say the Guardian Angel prayer each day for myself and another prayer I made up for the Guardian Angels of my children and grandchildren.

    Here it is: In the name of Jesus, I give thanks and praise to the Guardian Angels of my children and grandchildren. Keep them safe, guard them from harm and protect them from the evil one. I hope one day through the grace of God, the Blood of the Lamb, and the strength of the Holy Spirit to offer you my thanks face to face in the world to come.

    When I arrive at work I always thank St. Christopher for my safe arrival and St. Joseph for my place of employment. But this morning I also thanked my guardian angel for his presence and guidance and immediately felt some kind of emotional response.

  13. vandalia says:

    Giuseppe,

    I believe the point has to do with time. Now, when we talk about human time and angelic “time”, things can get very messy, very fast, but I will persist.

    It is true that angels have the free will to reject God. However, to put it as simply as possible, if we look at this from the perspective of human time, if they were going to reject God, they would have already done so. One of the reasons why Satan can not repent of her (if you want gender inclusive language, it works both ways) sin is because there is no concept of a later point of time for him to repent. There is no time to repent – there is only now. The same holds true for the “good” angels, for them, there is only “now.” It would be impossible for them to decide on, for example, October 2nd, 2014 to rebel against God, since they do not have that concept of time. For angles, there is either an eternal “yes”, or an eternal “no.” There is no possibility for them to change that decision, since it is, well, eternal.

    That is an incredibly simplistic way to look at it, but hopefully it helps.

  14. Sconnius says:

    You may need facebook to see this, but it’s pretty good

    “I’ve come to cast legions into hell and chew bubblegum. And as a non physical being I lack actual teeth, so guess what?”

    https://www.facebook.com/CatholicMemebase/photos/a.100239920125759.354.100237920125959/366709406812141/?type=1&theater

  15. Patti Day says:

    Giuseppi: Lucifer and his followers made their one-time choice to not serve. Michael and the faithful angels made their free choice to serve God for eternity. There is no danger that any of the faithful angels will defect.

  16. AngelGuarded says:

    I am particularly grateful to my Guardian Angel who has done heroic work for so many years. I wonder if my Guardian is “happier” now that I have come back to my faith, which is no small feat, considering the decades of disobedience tolerated by same. My Angel is truly an awesome being who is very good to me. My husband and I thank our Guardian Angels during mealtime prayers for keeping us safe and faithful to God and allowing us to be together for yet another meal.

  17. Mike says:

    Giuseppe: What OP Patti Day said, although up until a few months ago, I would have had that same question. During a business trip to Chicago in early September I attended an Aquinas conference by Canon Michael Stein at the Shrine of Christ the King on the topic of How Angels Know. While I wouldn’t dare paraphrase the Summa without a heavy disclaimer, my takeaway was that (a) angels exist in eternity, not in time, although they can act in human space-time; (b) angels, unlike humans, do not come into existence with darkened intellects and weak wills; thus (kind of) (c) their decision to serve, or not to serve, being fully informed and eternal, cannot change.

  18. Choirmaster says:

    Giuseppe:

    As I understand it, all angels have free will, fallen or not. The fallen angels, along with the greatest fallen angel, the Prince of This World, retain their free will in all things, and also retain their due province or power, or else he would not still be the prince of this world. Just like us: we retain our life, our will, and our estate whether or not we have fallen from God’s grace.

    What is permitted to them or prohibited is another matter entirely. Clearly, much is permitted. The same thing applies to us fallen corporeal beings: much is permitted to us, within our free will and the confines of our miserable state, for the working of evil.

    Regarding whether an angel could still fall, that is not possible. You have to remember that we see and speak of angels from the point of view of our material world, bound as it is within time and space. An angel, who is not material or temporal, making his choice between God and the void, appears from within Time to have made the choice in the past (since an angel will necessarily be fallen or not from the beginning of the universe), even though it was made in eternity without a past, present, or future. Therefore, the question is interesting, but the answer is ‘no’, there will not be more angels falling in future times.

  19. Laura R. says:

    AnAmericanMother: I can’t remember who said that angels say, “Fear not!” but Victorian holy-card angels always look like they’re saying, “There, there!”

    It was C.S. Lewis, in the preface to The Screwtape Letters, a book which provides a most helpful perspective on these matters.

  20. dochm13 says:

    Interesting you say each angel is its own species. I would have assumed all angels within a given rank would be of the same species.

  21. Giuseppe says:

    Thanks all for the wisdom re. angels, free will, and time. Mike, you are correct, as it turns out the Angelic Doctor did a lot of writing and thinking about this!

    Even though the choice to reject God was pretty quick and outside of time at creation, the whole thing seemed to drag a bit in Milton, that’s for sure!

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    Right you are, Laura. I didn’t verify my references . . . :-)
    Actually Lewis is a good default for a dry & pithy throwaway line. These little gems are scattered around throughout the Narnia books, e.g. “. . . although everybody wants to hear the stories, I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.” “. . . they made her an Inspector to interfere with other Heads, and then when they found she was no good at that either, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after.”
    “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” would be funny if it weren’t coming true.

  23. Laura R. says:

    AnAmericanMother, I completely agree with you about Lewis — so many good things that just stay with you over the years. I’d venture to say that he has given ol’ Screwtape a lot of headaches!

  24. FloridaJoan says:

    Several times a day, I pray to my and my grandson’s guardian angel for their help and protection. Also included is St Michael.

    pax et bonum

  25. Choirmaster says:

    You’re welcome, Giuseppe. We can also imagine eternity as something always present (i.e. in-progress yet unchanging), such that the fallen angels’ choice not to serve God is being made at this very moment (and then again in the next). Since, as Mike’s analysis of the Angelic Doctor states, the angels do not have a “darkened intellect” or a “weak will” or live within Time, their minds do not grow (they are not deceived) or change (which implies one thing then another over time), their intellects do not deepen (they were never dark or shallow to begin with), and their choice is constant, even if it appears repetitive to us.

    We can imagine, too, that eternity is something always in the future. Think of the Church Triumphant and her King who has conquered. Here in space and time this would appear to be an event that will happen in the future, even though in eternity He has already conquered, is already King, the Church is already triumphant, and the universe can do nothing other than begin and end in Him. Still, to us, it appears—and we speak of it—as if it is in the future.

  26. Martlet says:

    We were talking about angels this morning, as we drove through a beautiful mist over the German Hunsrück. As we returned this evening, dusk fell. Right now, the deer are very active and so I prayed “Holy Angels, dear Guardians, please protect us from the deer, and them from us.” No sooner was my whispered pray out of my lips when the thought came into my head, “Be careful of cats.” I hesitated a moment before saying this to my husband, but I thought that since it came right after prayer, I would speak it. “Be careful of cats,” I told him, explaining why. He slowed, and about 30 seconds later, a cat ran out in front of us. “Now THAT was cool,” he said. This morning, he was not so sure about praying to them. By the time we arrived home, he was.

  27. UncleBlobb says:

    “There is, therefore, a hierarchy among the angels.”

    There is also a hierarchy among mankind as well.

  28. Moral_Hazard says:

    If I remember correctly, in her book, St. Faustina asked Christ why angels only had one chance to choose God or not, and Christ answered that their intellect and understanding of God was so much greater that even the most learned human, once chosen, it was irrevocable.

    I echo another poster above who came back to the church after years of a sinful lifestyle in my hope that my angel guardian his “happier” that I’m trying to stay true to the Faith.