Radio Show

What Are Guardian Angels?

A radio listener calls into the Busted Halo Show looking for answers after being stumped by her non-Catholic friends at a recent bible study group: “In today’s Bible study, they were asking why Catholics believe that guardian angels are assigned to you. I had my catechism, my Bible–there are four of us that went to Catholic school, and we couldn’t find where it specifically says that guardian angels are assigned to us. [We found] references to angels, but not guardian angels… We were all baffled. The [non-Catholic] Christians were all saying, ‘No, that’s not possible.’ [In our group, we have] a born-again, a Jehovah’s Witness, and a Jew, and they say, ‘No, guardian angels are not assigned to you. They’re just angels, but there are no guardian angels. That’s a Catholic thing.’”

Father Dave responds to the caller with a question of his own: “What if it was a Catholic thing? Is that bad?” He explains by saying: “There are a lot of things that are unique to the Catholic Church. Your friends could say that Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist–that’s a Catholic thing. They could say [that] a pope [is] a Catholic thing. So before we begin talking about references or footnotes about where guardian angels are, what’s wrong with us having theologies that they don’t share?”

The caller replies, “There’s nothing wrong with it–it’s just that they’re saying it’s something we invented. There are four Catholics in my [Bible study]… and we’re all saying it’s not a Catholic thing, it’s a biblical thing… Because that’s what I learned my whole life growing up, that we have guardian angels!” Distressed by this thought, the caller ultimately asks, “Are they right and I’m wrong?”

Father Dave explains, “It’s not about them being right and you being wrong. But what you just said is ‘it’s a Biblical thing.’ I hope I’m not the first to tell you that not everything we believe in the Catholic Church can be found in the Bible… Are you okay with that?” The caller heartily affirms that she is: “I’m okay with the fact that perhaps it’s just Catholics that believe in guardian angels. It’s not going to change anything for me.”

Relieved to hear it, Father Dave answers the caller’s guardian angel question: “So, you will not find that concept very specifically in scripture at all. However, I will [direct you to a passage] that will at least be a source of conversation for you and your friends.” Father Dave recommends that caller looks at Acts [of the Apostles] chapter 12. “This is when Peter is rescued from prison, and they actually say… ‘It must be his angel.’ We see in that story Peter being rescued from prison that he was [saved] by an angel–a particular angel–and [the group that receives Peter] replied ‘It must be his angel.’ So we have seen–and again this is part of sacred tradition–in things like art and music, Peter’s angel is the most commonly depicted guardian angel… Is there somewhere in some papal encyclical or the Bible somewhere that says [each individual person] has a guardian angel? No, but right there in the scriptures, we would certainly use [Acts 12:15] as a touchstone for the theology that was developed more fully in the fifth century about how angels work and the fact that they are connected to us.”