3 Ways Guardian Angels are Examples for Priests

Guardian angels are pleasant, present and prayerful — essential elements for every priest.

Bernardo Strozzi, “The Release of Saint Peter,” c. 1635
Bernardo Strozzi, “The Release of Saint Peter,” c. 1635 (photo: Public Domain)

A few months back, I read a wonderful Register article by Jimmy Akin entitled, “8 Things to Know and Share about the Guardian Angels.” As usual, he did a terrific job summarizing and clearly explaining the theology of guardian angels from the fonts of Divine Revelation, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Recently, I turned to this article in an attempt to assist with some online catechesis about the guardian angels. I have a special love for the guardian angels because on the feast of the guardian angels (Oct. 2, 1997), I entered into Holy Orders. My ordination to diaconate took place at the Altar of the Chair at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the late Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, CICM, was the ordaining prelate.

In the midst of this global pandemic, many priests, myself included, find our priestly ministries very changed. I salute my brother priests who are working hard to livestream their Masses, exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, catechesis and many other parochial services. As a professor of theology, I am teaching my two seminars for the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in which we are reading and discussing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s classical text, Introduction to Christianity (1968) via Zoom. And as a seminary formator at the Pontifical North American College, I am keeping up with the seminarians for whom I am responsible via WhatsApp, FaceTime and telephone, as the majority of our seminarians are currently back in the United States.

This is not what we thought our priestly ministries would be like but, thanks be to God and modern technology, we are doing our best to still minister to the People of God to whom we have been assigned. For many of us, our ministries, even as diocesan priests, have become quieter, more contemplative. And this is precisely what got me thinking about priests praying to their guardian angels even more and using the guardian angels for inspiration. The guardian angels remind us, ultimately, of God’s presence and love for us as individuals. It is the Lord who is guiding the faithful in the way of peace by the ministry of his holy angels. They are not physically seen, but they are present, powerfully so. And so should we priests be, even in this time of a more hidden ministry.

In a special way, we who are called to serve the Church as his priests should look to the presence and example of the guardian angels as a model for our own ministry. Here are three reasons:

First, just like the priest, the angels live and work in a hierarchy, all in the service of Christ. Just as there are different hierarchies of angels (seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and guardian angels), all of whom cooperate with each other for the glory of God, so too should the hierarchy of clerics (bishop, priest, deacon) all cooperate with each other for the glory of God and to help the Lord Jesus in the upbuilding of the Church.

Second, each day, our angels, in the presence of Christ in his beatific vision, live permanently the experience of which we are given a foretaste of when we pray the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, praising God eternally as the Te Deum reminds us. At his diaconal ordination, the cleric promises to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, Night Prayer) in its entirety every day. He prays the Office not only for the sanctification of his own day, but also for the sanctification of the entire world. Like a guardian angel, he acts as an intercessor for his people and, uniting this prayer with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he watches over in prayer all of God’s people.

Third and finally, the guardian angels know that their pastoral care that they offer is not about them. It’s all about God. It’s not about their face; it’s all about pointing to the Father. And this might be a valuable lesson for us all each day in our priestly life. With all their power, all that they know, with all that they’ve seen, the angels remain humble.

Pleasant, present and prayerful — essential elements for every single priest. All these are lessons we priests can learn from our guardian angels.