Servant of God Father John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary offers this definition for Guardian Angels:
GUARDIAN ANGEL. A celestial spirit assigned by God to watch over each individual during life. This general doctrine of an angel’s care for each person is part of the Church’s constant tradition, based on Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Fathers of the Church. The role of the guardian spirit is both to guide and to guard; to guide as a messenger of God’s will to our minds, and to guard as an instrument of God’s goodness in protecting us from evil. This protection from evil is mainly from the evil of sin and the malice of the devil. But it is also protection from physical evil insofar as this is useful or necessary to guard the soul from spiritual harm. A feast honoring the guardian angels has been celebrated in October, throughout the universal Church, since the seventeenth century. It now occurs on October 2.
I have never had to be convinced of the Truth of this teaching.
There is little doubt in my mind that I survived the 1970's and the 1980's simply because I have one incredibly powerful Guardian Angel.
The little suburban Catholic school girl let loose on the streets of Berkeley in 1974 (and later LA, Hollywood, NYC and various port o'calls throughout Europe) should not be alive today, let alone a Franciscan University certified Catechist for RCIA. The fact that I lived long enough to find the rooms of the appropriate 12 step program and return to the Catholic Faith is nothing short of a miracle. I have no doubt that miracle is the result of very hard work by my Guardian Angel.
Many people make the mistake of doubting the existence of Guardian Angels because of the evil that exists in the world. I can understand that temptation. After all, where are the Angels when that six year old girl is being raped by her brother or the three year old boy is being burned by his mother's latest boyfriend? Where are the Guardian Angels during the beheadings and crucifixions taking place right now in Iraq at the hands of Muslim fanatics?
However, I think we are missing the point when we look at the horrors of the world and claim that the perpetration of evil proves there is no God or no Angelic Protection. I think, it is the actual existence of evil that proves the existence of God and His Army.
I think evil is the absence of what ought to be there, the absence of good. I believe all things have been created as good but it is our own embracing of that which is evil that allows for horrors to happen.
Think about it - if every single Muslim in Iraq (Sunni or Shiite) was to suddenly sit upright and think, "This whole convert by the sword business is so 5th century. We lost the Battle of Vienna because it doesn't work. We need to stop it right now." there would be peace in a very large section of the world. In other words, if every single Muslim in Iraq (Sunni or Shiite) was to make a deliberate and intentional decision to do only that which is good, evil would be at a distinct disadvantage.
Think about it - if every single man or woman who finds themselves sexually attracted to a child under the age of 18 was to suddenly look at themselves in the mirror and say, "The fact that I am attracted to a child does not give me the right to exploit that child sexually. I am going to exert my willpower and start intentionally and deliberately deciding to do only that which shows the utmost respect for human beings" we would never have to worry about our kids going for a bike ride to the park in broad daylight again.
Of course, this is an incredibly oversimplification of a lot of issues. I am ignoring mental health problems, substance abuse problems and cultural beliefs with a rather cavalier sweep of my hand; however, my point is this: evil is often a choice made by human beings because of our own selfish desires.
God allows evil because He respects the free will of His Creatures - You and Me.
Angels have been charged with serving mankind and God. To serve both, they must be willing to allow us to make those decisions. They can whisper to us what we ought to do, they can show us through signs and coincidences the right paths to take, they can pray for us and with us but ultimately it is our own will that determines whether we will choose evil or good.
I also hold to St Augustine's teaching: from all evil can come great good.
We know this because from the greatest evil ever perpetrated on the earth - diecide - the gates of heaven were opened for us, and salvation was made possible.
I am grateful to my Guardian Angel, but I also know that my underlying desire to want to be loved by God is what kept me open to the protection my Angel offered me. It kept me alive during the rape, during the abortions, during the substance abuse, in spite of my alcoholism, during the pain of losing my husband. It kept me alive during the loneliness and the rejection of former loved ones. It keeps me alive today when the slings and arrows of every day life sometimes just feel way too much for me to handle and I have been given one more opportunity to chuck it all and move to Denver - or worse.
I will never understand when children are hurt by adults or other children. I will never understand when people are tortured for loving and believing in Jesus Christ and His Church. I will never understand when the most vulnerable among us - either human or animal - are abused by those charged with their care. I will always be one of those people who weeps when I read about another baby found dead in a dumpster, another dog mauled and hurt by someone who was just plain bored or another man beheaded because he stood for Truth.
What I know today is I do not weep alone - my Guardian Angel weeps with me and stands with me, no matter what.
And for that, I am extremely grateful.
Happy Feast of the Holy Angels, everybody!