Heaven's Angels


       St. Alphonsus Liguori is often quoted as saying that "devotion to St. Michael and the holy angels is a mark of predestination." This reason alone would be certainly sufficient to induce us not to neglect their veneration. On the contrary, we should earnestly strive to cultivate their friendship in which we shall indeed be blessed, for no earthly friends can compare with them in goodness, in power and in love.


The Nine Choirs of Angels


       The angels are divided into nine choirs and form three hierarchies, hence the "angelic world is presented to our view as a magnificent army arranged in the most admirable order." Each choir has a different office as will be shown in the following outline. 'The Nine Angelic Choirs ranking system for angels was developed by a theologian in the sixth century. Dionysius the Areopagite's system was endorsed and accepted by the Catholic Church.'1 But let us fervently beg each one to share with us the particular grace with which it is endowed.


The First Hierarchy


       The first hierarchy is composed of the Seraphim, the Cherubim and the Thrones.


The Seraphim


       The Seraphim come first. Their very name means ardor, and they are consumed with the fire of Divine Love of "which they are the created representations." This burning love keeps them ever close to God's Throne and they bear love and light to the lesser choirs of angels. They spend most of their time continually chanting "Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth" (which translates pretty much into "Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the entire earth is full of His Glory"). They are associated with healing fire. Seraphim have six wings, two cover their faces, two cover their feet, and two are for flying. O ardent Seraphim, enkindle in our hearts, by the virtue of the Divine Blood, the sacred flame of the love of God with which you are consumed.


The Cherubim


       The Cherubim are next. Their name signifies "fullness of knowledge." They are characterized by a deep insight into God's secrets and they truly possess the fullness of the divine science of heaven. They enlighten the lesser choirs of angels and are to them the Voice of Divine Wisdom. O bright Cherubim, instruct us more to appreciate the power of the Precious Blood, in the excellent science of the saints, that we may also praise and glorify God with you.


The Thrones


       The Thrones form the last choir of the first hierarchy which is closest to the Divine Majesty. Sometimes they are called the Ophanim. They are said to have been assigned the task of fulfilling the justice of God. Their power lies in humility. Although they are said to shine as brightly as the Seraphim and the Cherubim, their humility allows them to objectively pass judgments on behalf of God. They are so styled because their main characteristics are submission and peace. God rests upon the Thrones and in a certain manner conveys His Spirit by these angels, who in turn communicate it to the inferior angels and to men. We should pray to the Thrones especially for peace. O Blessed Thrones, obtain for us peace through the Divine Blood, that peace which the world cannot give, which comes from submission to God's will in our regard.


The Second Hierarchy


       The second hierarchy is composed of the Dominations, the Virtues and the Powers.


The Dominations


       The second hierarchy of angels is more specifically devoted to the management of human affairs. It opens with the Dominations, so called because, "they rule over all the angelic orders charged with the execution of the commands of the Great Monarch." They regulate the work of other angels and keep a close watch on even the most intimately small details of existence. Therefore, these bright spirits make known to us the commands of God and their main virtue is zeal for the maintenance of the King's authority. Let us remember them when seeking God's will and invoke them in our perplexities. O holy angels, pray to God for us, that we may ever be faithful to His holy will in all the circumstances of our earthly pilgrimage.


The Virtues


       To the choirs of Virtues has been confided the duty of carrying out the orders issued by the Dominations. To them is attributed strength and we should seek their aaistance in combatting the enemies of our salvation. "It is through them also," says Boudon, "that God governs the seasons, the visible heavens and the elements in general, although angels of the lower hierarchy have charge of them." They are said to keep planets and stars moving in their proper order and looking after the weather on earth. They also are said to do a bit of work with bestowing character, such as valor and truth, in the souls of mortals. Let us therefore have recourse to the Virtues in all extraordinary necessities of mind and body, as well as in times of public afflictions. O mighty intelligences, help us always, in virtue of the Divine Blood, to accomplish with perseverance whatever duty has been entrusted to us by God's will.


The Powers


       "The Powers," someone has said, "are the favorites among mortals." They are appointed in a special way to fight against the evil spirits and to defeat their wicked plans. "When we see storms gathering either in the Church or in the State, machinations to resist those who are working for the glory of God, extraordinary conspiracies to defeat some great good which is being planned for some diocese, city or country, then it is that we ought to perform frequent devotions in honor of these Powers of heaven, that they may overturn and destroy all the might and miserable plotting of hell." Sometimes referred to as the Authorities, they are said to have the task of hitting demons over the head if they attempt to take control of the world. They guard the pathways between heaven and earth and assist humans in resisting temptation. It is this class of angels that Lucifer is said to have once been, and the class from which he drew his greatest following during the fall from grace.(Boudon) O invincible Powers, in virtue of the Divine Blood, defend us against the attacks of the devil, the world and the flesh and make us victorious against that triple power.


The Third Hierarchy


       The third hierarchy is composed of the Principalities, the Archangels and the Angels.


The Principalities


       The Principalities preside over the third hierarchy. Their duties are executive in regard to the visible world of men. They also guard nations of the earth and St. Thomas says of them: "The execution of the angelic ministrations consists in announcing divine things. Now, in the execution of any action there are beginners and leaders; this - the leadership - belongs to the Principalities." We should then invoke them for the protection of our country that it may realize the designs of God upon it. Those who have to exercise any authority should honor these blessed spirits in a special way; they would receive from them graces of light and strength in the discharge of their duties. The Principalities hold the power to move the hearts and minds of humankind when deemed necessary. They tend to aim for guiding and regulating the ideas of world leaders for maximum results. Sovereign Principalities, in virtue of the Divine Blood, govern also our souls and our bodies, and assist us in the attainment of our eternal destinies.


The Archangels


       The Archangels are entrusted with more important missions to men. They are field commanders in the battle against evil and the fallen angels under Satan's command. To mankind they impart comfort, solace and inner strength through unconditional love, usually in the darkest moments. They are also given as guardians to great personages, auch as the Holy Father, Cardinals, Bishops, Rulers of States, and others who have special work to do for the glory of God upon earth. They protect the Church under the leadership of St. Michael and defend it against its enemies. Let us not forget them when praying for the triumph of the Church, that these celestial spirits may safeguard its interests and watch over the Supreme Pontiff. Noble Archangels, we beg you to aid us always, that profiting by the Divine Blood, we may ever live in faith, hope and charity, and die as true children of our Holy Mother the Church.


The Angels


       The Angels are the ordinary messangers sent to men and from their ranks our own guardian angels are usually chosen. They mirror in a very particular way the goodness of God toward us. They are ever ready to go wherever the will of God sends them, and they minister to all, just and sinner alike. They have a true sense of values and they know that to serve God in any capacity is a very great honor. Let us frquently invoke their help as they are most happy to be of service to us. Most holy Angels be ever for us the guardians of our safety and salvation, and since we were redeemed by the Divine Blood, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance.


Seven Angels Before Throne of God


       There are seven angels standing before the Throne of God. "They are believed to form a privilaged circle most close to Almighty God." Of this favored group the Archangel Raphael expressly stated to Tobias that he himself was one. "I am Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the Lord." (Tob. XII, 15.)

 

       Again in the Apocalypse we find mention of the seven angels in these words: "Grace be unto you and peace from Him that is, and that was and that is to come, and from the Seven Spirits which are before the Throne." (Apoc. 1,4.) These seven seem to be the highest Princes of the heavenly court. Although their most important occupation is the comtemplation and praise of the Divine Essence, they are also assigned to special duties, for St. Paul expressly states that they are all ministering spirits. The pious Abbe Boudon who has written so well of the angels, would have us invoke these seven Princes of Paradise that they may obtain for us the grace to avoid the seven deadly sins and that they may enrich us with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

       They are fountains of happiness to all the earth. In this happiness which all the angels enjoy in heaven and in which the seven holy sprits participate probably in a higher degree, it is said that "everything in the universe is a source of joy to the holy angels. In all they recognize the accomplishment of that which God has fore-ordained; they know, that from all, He derives honor and glory and they rejoice in seeing how He is glorified in all. This is the secret of true contentment. It is because we think of ourselves and not of God, that we are troubled and dissatisfied. If only we could take the angelic view, nothing would disturb us and we, too, should always rejoice."

 

       These seven glorious Princes also exult whenever one of the children of men joins their happy company. They welcome at the threshold of heaven every soul that enters into its eternal reward. The happiness of all derives a fresh accession from each addition to their choirs and their song of triumph rises louder before the Throne of God. Let us imitate their great-hearted charity and draw from the Sacred Heart, the chalice of the Precious Blood, that love which will make us sincerely share the joy and success of our neighbor.

 

       O bright Spirits, behold my soul, cleanse it in the streams of the Blood that has merited for us every grace, every protection, every help, for time and for eternity. By that same Divine Blood, obtain that I may treasure all its precious drops offered to me in God's graces and in the Sacraments of Holy Church.


Guardian Angel
Feast day October 2


       It is a universal Catholic belief that not merely every just man, every child of grace, but in fact every single human being here upon earth, whether Christian or non-Christian, whether in grace or in sin, actually remains during its entire life under the care of a Guardian Angel. It suffices to describe this as absolutely certain. Moreover, it is generally held each human being has its own distinct Guardian Angel not assigned to anyone else." The words of Our Lord also point to this conclusion: "See that you despise not one of these little ones," He solemnly warned His disciples, "for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father who is in heaven."

 

       The ministry of these Guardian Angels consists: 1st, in warding off dangers to body and soul; 2nd, in preventing Satan's suggesting evil thoughts, and in removing occasions of sin and helping us to overcome temptation; 3rd, in enlightening and instructing us and fostering in us holy thoughts and pious desires; 4th, in offering to God our prayers and in praying for us; 5th, in correcting us if we sin; 6th, in helping us in the agony of death, in strengthening and comforting us; 7th, in conducting our souls to heaven, or to purgatory to console us there. Thus is how our Guardian Angels watch over us, keep us, lead us. They see in their charges, souls of priceless value since they were redeemed by the Blood of God.

 

       Although they cannot penetrate the inner sanctuary of human hearts which God has reserved for Himself, they do all they can to help us. However, it is in our power by and act of our free will to expose our intimate thoughts to our angelic companion. And it is to our advantage for such confidence in his enlightened guidance is of great benefit to our soul. After God and our Blessed Mother, he is surely our best friend, and if we really love him, we will have no secrets to hide from him. "We do not sensibly perceive him. We hear no whispered warnings in our ear. Our hands cannot touch him nor our eyes look up to him. Yet invisibly he is with us. From the first moment of life he guards us and he will not have completed his task until as we trust, we shall gaze with him in glory on the Vision of God."

 

       "Yes, in him we have an unseen friend and benefactor, an intimate and never failing companion in our journey through life... How often perhaps have we almost felt his presence and his power upbearing and rescuing us from danger! How indeed shall we ever repay him for the love he has shown us!" Let us be thankful using the precious words addressed by Cardinal Newman to his own cherished Guardian Spirit:


My oldest friend, mine from the hour
When first I drew my breath;
My faithful friend, that shall be mine,
Unfailing till my death.

 

Thou hast been ever at my side;
My Maker to thy trust
Consigned my soul, what timed he framed
The infant child of dust.

 

Thou wast my sponsor at the font;
And thou, each budding year,
Didst whisper elements of truth
Into my childish ear.

 

And thou wilt linger round my bed,
When life is ebbing low;
Of doubt, impatience and of gloom,
The jealous, sleepless foe.

 

Mine when I stand before the Judge;
And mine, if spared to stay
Within the golden furnace till
My sin is burned away.

 

And mine, O Brother of my soul,
When my release shall come;
Thy gentle arms shall lift me then,
Thy wings shall waft me home.



Angel of God, My Guardian Dear,
To whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard and rule and guide. Amen.


       Why are angels called saints?


       "From ancient times when used for angels, the word "saint" was simply a translation for the Latin word "sanctus" which means "holy." All rational creatures who share God's life and nature (sanctifying grace) have been called "holy." Canonically, the word can only be used for those souls who have been "canonized" or "raised to the honors of the altar." Normally, nowadays we apply the word "saint" only to the souls of the just human beings in heaven and use other terms for angels. However, the ancient usage is still allowable and valid."2


St. Raphael the Archangel
Feast day September 29


       St. Raphael whose name signifies :Medicine of God," seems to be at the head of the angelic medical staff. His reputation as physician and as guide of travelers is due to the story in Holy Writ which relates how he brought healing to the elder Tobias, released Sara from being molested by the devil and gave to the youthful pilgrim in his charge, safety, guidance and most noble companionship. We have only to read of the services he rendered Tobias to love this bright spirit of heaven fervently.

 

       St. Raphael is the angel of peace, of health and of joy. "Joy be to thee, always," was his salutation to Tobias. He is the angel sent in God's Providence to guide and guard, to heal and save. So it is that he forever typifies the watchfulness, tenderness and helpful affection of our Guardian angels. For that reason we took on him with a particular affection.

 

       Oh, St. Raphael, Medicine of God, Angel of happy meetings, of peace and of joy, we beseech thee, cure our infirmities of soul and body in virtue of the Divine Blood, source of all healing graces.


St. Gabriel the Archangel
Feast day September 29


       The name "Gabriel" has been interpreted "Strength of God." Of the three archangels mentioned in Holy Scripture, St. Gabriel appears to be the King of heaven's chief Ambassador, fittingly endowed with dignity, graciousness, knowledge and discretion. And of all the embassies on which he was sent, the greatest was to announce the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation and the mighty work of the Redemption through the shedding of the Blood of the Incarnate Word. "He it was, who at the Annunciation first spoke those words to Mary which ceaselessly reecho round the earth: 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed are thou among women' (Luke 1, 28). And he it was who there adored with her the Word made flesh to dwell among us." He was, we may say, the first Adorer of the Precious Blood on earth, and the first to pronounce the sweet name of Jesus, Savior. He is also considered our Blessed Mother's Guardian in a very special way. We cannot honor Mary by devoutly reciting the prayer that is most pleasing to her, without at the same time honoring the glorious Archangel who was God's instrument in her exaltation. Their names are linked in heaven and on earth.

 

       Though his name is not expressly mentioned, we may well believe what tradition tells us that it was St. Gabriel who announced to the Shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem the birth of our sweet Lord, and that it was he who led the multitude of blessed spirits who sang around the crib the heavenly song: "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among men of good will." It was he also who consoled dear St. Joseph in his sorrows, and accompanied the Holy Family in their flight into Egypt. Lastly, St. Gabriel is looked upon as the angel who comforted Our Lord when He suffered His Bloody Agony in the Garden of Olives.

 

       Oh, Gabriel! Blessed messenger of our Redemption whom God selects as His minister when He would show His power, we beeseech thee, offer the homage of our gratitude to Him that thus sent thee."


St. Michael the Archangel
Feast day September 29


       "The very name of Michael urges us to honor this glorious spirit, it is a cry of enthusiasm and fidelity, fot it signifies: 'Who is like unto God?' Satan trembles at hearing this name, for it reminds him of the noble protest wherewith the bright Archangel answered the call of the rebel angels. Michael proved his strength and prowess when he fought the great battle in heaven." From that hour he has been known as "Michael, the captain of the armiesof God, first Prince of the holy city, to whom the other angels yield ready obedience. They most willingly and gratefully recognize his supremacy, for after God, they owe him their perserverance in grace and their eternal happiness. With loving submission they receive from him their various offices. They are attentive to his slightest wish, because they recognize in his commands and regulations the will of God, their sovereign Lord and King.

 

       Holy Church gives to St. Michael the highest place among the angels, for she refers to him as "Prince of the heavenly hosts." She tells of the glories of this great Archangel in several portions of her Liturgy and keeps two feasts in his honor. One of the inspiring antiphons for his festival points out: "The Archangel Michael is set over Paradise, and is honored by the citizens of heaven. He repays with blessings the honor shown him by the faithful and his prayer leads us to the kingdom of heaven." St. Michael appears chiefly as the Head of God's armies, champion of the people of God in the Old Testament, and mighty guardian of God's chosen flock under the New. "Fittingly he is represented in art as the angel warrior, the conqueror of Lucifer, setting his heel upon the head of the infernal foe, threathening him with his sword, transpiercing him with his lance, or prepared to chain him down in the nethermost abyss whence he shall nevermore issue after the last day.

 

       "The war carried on against the Woman and her Child by the Dragon and his sngels is described in the twelth chapter of the Apocalypse. By that Woman is meant in the first place the Church of God, but in a symbolic sense Mary, too, is signified who bore Christ, and whose children are all the faithful begotten by her and Christ in them. All these the Dragon would wish to destroy. In his persecution of the Church, Satan can know of neither rest nor surcease. It is carried on by him and his followers, now in one part of the world and now in another. It is constantly active round about us. It is waged with diabolic cunning and fury. Science, lietrature, art, and every human achievement are impressed into his service. All this would be inexplicable, did we not know its history and its instigator, the devil, who was a liar and a murderer from the first, Satan, the old serpent.

 

       "As a remedy against these frightful evils, we are urged to invoke the aid of that glorious Prince of heaven who rendered all glory to God by conquering Lucifer and casting him into the abyss. 'In our times,' writes Cardinal Mermillod, 'when the very foundation of society is shaken in consequence of having denied the rights of God, we must revive the veneration of St. Michael and with him raise the victorious cry: Who is like unto God'?"

 

       O holy Archangel St. Michael, may we be ever faithful to God as thou wast. Pray to Him that we, too, may love Him, our common Lord and Master; then shall we be invincible. Be our shield and armor that at all times and in all places we may always defend the honor of the Most High.


Another St. Michael Prayer


       Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who prowl throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


Mary, Queen of Angels


Sing, sing, ye Angel Bands,
All beautiful and bright;
For higher still and higher,
Through fields of starry light,
Mary, your Queen ascends,
Like the sweet moon at night.

A fairer flower than she
On earth hath never been;
And, save the Throne of God,
Your heavens have never seen
A wonder half so bright
As your ascending Queen!

And shall I loose thee then,
Loose my sweet right to thee?
Ah! no - the angel's Queen
Man's Mother still will be,
And thou upon thy throne,
Wilt keep thy love for me.

Fr. Faber


       It is the delight of these bright spirits to sing the praises of the Mother of God. Even the Seraphim have not a glory that in any way approaches hers. After her Incarnate Son, she is the splendor of the Heavenly Court, and the angels behold her in all her glory and are ravished at the sight. Is she not the Mother of their King and God? But what is it that exalts Mary above all the angels? Not merely her obedience to God, for this has always characterized them all, but rather her obedience in circumstances the most trying, amid suffering the most intense. In her compassion she approached most nearly to the Passion of her Son. None save Him ever surpassed her in suffering. She was the Queen of Martyrs. and therefore is the Queen of Angels. Thus it is that she has earned a more excellent reward than they.

 

       The pious Boudon thus comments on her title, "Queen of Angels": "The Mother of God is the general of the armies of God and the angels form the glorious troops; thus they are the soldiers of her, who alone is terrible as a whole army in battle array, and in the beginning they fought valiantly for her honor in opposition to Lucifer and the apostate angels, who would not submit themselves to her empire, God having revealed to them that she should one day be their sovereign. She is the august and triumphant Queen of Paradise; the angels are those faithful and generous subjects who honored her as we have just now said, before she was, and who glory in being subject to the laws of her kingdom. She is the Lady of the Angels and is often invoked under this title of Our Lady of the Angels; they are then, her servants, but such zealous servants that they await but the manifestation of her will to execute it, at the least sign, with a promptitude that is indescribable. She is even their friend ... and we may say, moreover, that she is in some manner their Mother and such is the opinion of many learned theologians. All these titles sufficiently show that the glory of this Queen, of this great and powerful Lady, is implied in the consideration shown to her subjects, her soldiers and her servants. The love which she bears them, treating them as her faithful friends and even as her children, calls upon us for every possible reason to love what she loves and to entertain the profoundest regard for those whom she desires to be honored. Let us then praise and bless the holy angels, because the most pure Virgin, the august Queen and Lady of the Angels, is praised and blessed by them."

 

       Sweet Lady of the Angels, dearest Mother of men, be mindful of thy children of earth, lonely "Pilgrims of the Night." Be thou with us throughout life's journey, and at eventide, be thou near with thine angels to comfort and welcome us to our heavenly Father's home. Meanwhile, may our mortal ears become more attuned to Angelic strains inviting us to rise ever higher above earthly earth, in the ways of divine love and light.


Notice: Most of information except for two small sections quoted below are excerpts from the book "Saint Michael and the Angels" published by Tan Books & Publishers, Inc from Rockford, Illinois. These excerpts have been written here with compliments and permission from Tan Books and Publishers, Inc.

 

1) http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1175379
2) http://www.dioceseoflincoln.org/purple/angels/index.htm

 

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