I promised last September that I would post answers to questions I received from a high school student about the angels. It’s been over four months now since I have done that. My apologies to anyone who was waiting for the next entry.
Does every human being have a guardian angel?
Yes, every human being, whoever was, is, or will be, has a guardian angel. The existence of angels is a dogma of Faith, and the existence of guardian angels is clear from holy scripture and tradition; but whether or not every human being is given a guardian angel is a question that lies in the realm of opinion. Almost all the saints and doctors affirmed it, but a few of the early fathers believed that only the baptized are given a guardian angel. Saint Thomas affirmed that every man receives a guardian angel in his Summa Theologica (First Part, Question 113) and he provides irrefutable arguments why this must be so. It was the common teaching in his time and no doctor every questioned it since the thirteenth century. Therefore, if we look to the ordinary teaching of the Church, it would be rash and certainly offensive to pious ears to deny it.
Why is every man given a guardian angel?
Because God wills the salvation of all men. And all men need and receive sufficient grace to be saved. The guardian angel cannot force his trust to cooperate with grace, otherwise the will would not be free, but he acts as a channel of actual grace, working with God’s providential designs, to bring the person he is guarding in contact with outside occasions of grace: good Catholics, religious and lay, good books, a good teacher, good words and examples. The more a man cooperates with grace the more graces he will receive.
Guardian angels also have the power to help our imagination in meditation. Since the imagination is one of our inner senses the angel can actually place holy images in the mind, especially if we ask their assistance. If demons can place impure images in someone’s imagination, in their attempts to lure one into willful consent, then good angels can place holy images in the mind to move one to acts of love and virtue. Likewise, good angels can prevent demons from assaulting our imagination by guarding our minds. “Ever this night (and day) be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide.”
The conversion of a sinner gives great joy to their guardian angel, indeed to all the angels. Remember Our Lord’s parable about the woman who lost one of her ten coins, and how she swept her house in order to find it. When she found it, how great was her joy! Our Lord then gives the meaning of the parable, equating the lost coin to a sinner, whose “finding” is a conversion, and the joy of the woman is that of the angels: “There shall be more joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance” (Luke 15:10).
What does the guardian angel do after his charge has died?
After death the guardian angel’s work of guarding is over. However, they do still have intercessory “work” to do if their charge is in purgatory. They carry the prayers of the suffering souls to heaven and continue to act as an advocate. They give comfort and solace to the souls in purgatory. Remember, too, that their work as advocate is most intense at the hour of death. The guardian angels of those who die in grace work to procure a peaceful death and ward off the demons from any final assault. Or, if God permits a final temptation, to increase the merit of the just, the guardian angels assist in the battle. Of those who face the last hour in sin, the guardian angels work by infusing holy images or providing a last occasion of grace by the exhortations of a good friend, or relative, nurse, or chaplain. It is only after the soul that was entrusted to them is in eternal beatitude that the “work” of the angel guardian is over. After this, the guardian angel rests for all eternity in the joy of the Lord. And they also have a special accidental joy if the soul they guarded is in heaven with them. If we are saved, our guardian angels will always thank God for our salvation.
The guardian angel never loses the beatific vision of God even while on their earthly assignment. They are always “in heaven” as far as the state of eternal bliss, even when they are not in the “place” of heaven. Don’t forget that heaven is also a place, the physical beauty of which is beyond our imagination.
What about the guardian angels of the damned?
These angels do not lose any of the joy they have in beatitude. Too, remember that they are spirits, and they have no sense emotion. Even if their trust is lost they rejoice in the justice of God. They feel no sorrow and certainly no shame for the final fall of their charge. No guardian angel “fails”; they all do a good job.
Can a guardian angel be assigned to be another human’s guardian?
They could be; but they are not. Your guardian angel is yours alone. There are plenty of guardian angels for the employ of each and every man. Some saints held that every angel of this lowest of the nine choirs will receive a trust to guard. When the last guardian angel is sent by God, that will be to protect the last man created by God. If I can borrow a Father Feeney pun (that is not de fide; that’s de Fini); that’s not de fide; it’s de BK.