What is Devotion to the Angels
and Why is it so Important?
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Our closing conference is a double question: What is devotion to the angels
and why is it so important? A simple preliminary answer is, devotion to the
holy angels is veneration of the angels; it is especially important today because
the unholy angels are so active in the modern world.
At the dawn of angelic history, the first world war was fought between those
angelic spirits who were ready to submit to the will of God and those who refused
to obey their Creator. Hell came into existence the moment the disobedient
angels rebelled. Most important for our purpose is to remember that the evil
spirits were driven out of paradise by St. Michael, the leader of the angelic
hosts who were willing to obey God.
You might say the heart of our
devotion to the angels is locked up in this simple truth of our faith. We need
the good angels to assist us in our daily combat with the powers of darkness
that have been deceiving and seducing human beings since the fall of our first
What is Devotion to the Angels?
Our English word devotion is ambiguous. It has almost as many meanings as
there are people who use the term. In Catholic theology, however, devotion
is an expression of love which can manifest itself in different ways. We show
our devotion to the angels by our prayer, our imitation, and our angelic
Notice that devotion is founded on genuine love which expresses
itself in a variety of ways. Our love of the angels is based on our faith which
believes that God created two levels of intelligent beings. There are pure
spirits who are intelligent persons with a free will but have no material body.
There are human beings who are like the angels because they can think and choose,
but, unlike the angels, have size and weight and are extended in space.
Praying to the Angels
We begin by describing prayer
as conversation with the invisible world of God, the angels and the saints.
Praying to the angels, therefore is engaging them in conversation. What do
we do when we are in conversation with the angels? We do several things.
We begin to converse with somebody when we become aware of that person. Awareness,
then, is the basic condition for conversation. Suppose I am just talking out
loud to myself, without realizing that I am being heard. Is that conversation?
Of course not. True conversation is always a colloquy. It is not only awareness,
but awareness of someone elses presence besides my own. Real conversation
begins when I become aware of another, with stress on the other, and not only
on myself. We start praying to the angels when we become aware of their presence.
Besides being aware of someone, conversation means that I wish to share with
that other person something of what I have. I wish to give of myself, of what
is inside of me, or a part of me to that other person. There are thoughts on
my mind that I want that other person to have also. There are sentiments in
my heart, desires in my will, and feelings in my soul, that I do no wish to
possess alone. So I enter into conversation. Praying to an angel means that
I want to share with him what I have deep down inside of me.
When I begin to converse, I turn towards the one with whom I wish to speak.
The movement of my body facing that person is only the external symbol of what
I should be doing inside of me. I am turning my spirit towards the one with
whom I wish to talk. Conversation with an angel presupposes turning myself
toward the angel with whom I am speaking.
What is my purpose when I hold a conversation? It is to communicate. My intention
is to bridge the gap that separates me from another person to unite myself with
him. All of this is involved in praying to the angels.
Every conversation in some way implies a response from the one to whom I am
speaking. Conversation is always talking with someone. Our angel is always
speaking to us. When we pray to the angel, we are responding to what he is
saying to us.
The single most Catholic feature of praying to the angels is invoking their
help. Our faith tells us that the angels are powerful intercessors with God.
We in invoke them, and they intercede for us. They constantly see the face
of God. They have access to His wisdom and power. Through them we can obtain
so many things we need, provided we ask them to plead for us before the throne
Imitating the Angels
For some people it must seem strange to speak of imitating the angels. To
imitate means to follow another persons example, to model ones own life on
the character of someone we admire.
The most fundamental imitation of the angels that we are to practice is their
humble submission to the divine will. After all this is the basic difference
between heaven and hell. The angels and saints are in heaven because during
their time of probation they were obedient to the will of God. The demons and
others in hell are there because they refused to submit to His divine majesty.
However, there is one feature of angelic life that we are especially to imitate.
They combine the prayerful contemplation of the Holy Trinity with the untiring
service of human beings. They are always beholding the face of God and unceasingly
meeting our many needs.
Our task in life, therefore, is
to imitate the angels by living in the divine presence while constantly serving
the needs of others.
Let us be sure we know what we are saying. The angels are at once enraptured
with the beauty of God, and captivated with the service of man. They are the
perfect models of contemplation in action.
These two facets of the spiritual life are related as condition and consequence.
Like the angels, we shall be as generous in the practice of charity towards
others as we are united with God in constant prayer. Our union with Him is
the precondition for our channeling of His grace to the people we serve. After
all, that is what the apostolate is all about. It is being a conduit of Gods
wisdom and love to everyone whose life we touch. But this is conditioned on
our own solidarity with the Lord. The closer we are to Him through prayer,
the more effectively He will use us, as He uses the angels, to communicate divine
blessings to others.
The Angelic Apostolate
The apostolate, we have said, means being a channel of grace to other people.
There are two basic graces that human beings need to reach their eternal destiny:
they must know the truth with their minds, and choose what is truly good with
If there was ever a time in human history when devotion to the angels was needed
it is today. We are calling this the angelic apostolate. What do we mean?
We mean sharing with others what our faith teaches us about the angelic world
that surrounds us like the air we breathe.
All that we have said during these conferences can be summed up in one imperative:
Understand the Catholic Churchs teaching on angels and demons; live out this
teaching in your own life, and share your faith convictions and practice with
This is easier said than done. One reason is so much confusion about who the
angels are and what is their role in our lives. Another reason, as we have
seen, is the flood of angelic writing that is literally drowning the literature
of our day.
One recommendation I strongly make: obtain a copy of the Catechism on the
Angels compiled by the Opus Sanctorum Angelorum. It contains the
six talks given by Pope John Paul II on the angels, and is indispensable as
a basic manual for the angelic apostolate.
Why Devotion to the Angels is so Important Today
At the opening of our conference
we said that devotion to the angels is imperative in our day because the evil
spirit is extraordinary active in the modern world.
His activity centers on his fundamental characteristic. He is not only a liar
but the father of liars. The truth is simply not in him. Or more accurately,
the genius of Satan is to deceive the human mind in order to seduce the human
Satan knows that all the evil in the world begins with error. In other words,
all sin in the human heart begins as untruth in the human mind. The secret
of avoiding sin is to avoid error. There is no other way to do it. The devil
knows this. That is why he is such a zealous propagandist of falsehood.
Take some of the popular myths of our day: that obedience to authority means
losing ones personal liberty; that modern science proves Christian morality
out of date; that we all have a right to enjoy our bodies as we please; that
a stable marriage in family life belong to a formal, unenlightened age; that
a womans place is not in the home and that children are a burden and a liability;
that the priesthood is not for time and eternity, and its main function is social
or political, certainly not to offer mass or minister to the spiritual needs
of the faithful; that religious life is not a witness to sanctity, but an opportunity
for involvement in society and the means for maximum self-fulfillment; that
the Pope is not the vicar of Christ, speaking in His name, but at most, the
chief counselor in Christendom, whose advice is welcome when sought but it has
no right to make laws or mind the consciences of Christians.
So the litany of error goes on as it has been going on since the dawn of human
history. Only now it has means of communication that stagger the imagination
and terrify the believer for the influence it is exerting on hundreds of millions
The devil would not be as intelligent as we know he is, if he did not attempt
to hide his diabolical designs. He knows that our minds were made for the truth
and that error as error is foreign to the human spirit even as poison is foreign
to the human body. The only food for the human mind is truth. Everything else
is venom. The devil knows this, so he tries to deceive us by concealing what
is false with a varnish or a sweet coating of some truth.
Here we could begin another set
of conferences on how important is devotion to the good angels to protect us
from the deceit of the fallen spirits.
But one thing we had better understand. In Gods providence, Lucifer is allowed
to mislead so many leaders in order to arouse our zeal to join the Archangel
Michael in protecting our contemporaries from the Luciferian conspiracy against
the truth in the modern world.
Mary, Queen of Angels, obtain
from your divine Son the light we need to recognize the power of Satan as prince
of this world.
Ask Jesus, the Divine Exorcist,
to deliver so many people from the father of lies.
Above all, dear Mother, intercede for us to become devotees of the holy angels
in our combat with the forces of demonic evil in our day. Amen.
Copyright © 1996 Inter Mirifica