5 Fascinating Things to Know About Angels

St. Aloysius Gonzaga offers several “must-knows” about angels. Here are five.

Theodoor Boeyermans, “The Vows of St. Aloysius Gonzaga,” 1671
Theodoor Boeyermans, “The Vows of St. Aloysius Gonzaga,” 1671 (photo: Public Domain)

The feasts of the Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael the Archangels on Sept. 29 and the Guardian Angels on Oct. 2 reminds us to honor the angels daily and also get more acquainted with them.

To help us, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died from a plague at just 23 years old, wrote Meditations on the Holy Angels to share insights about our heavenly helpers and to prompt others to come to some of the same knowledge and devotion he had toward them.

This saint gives several “must-knows” about angels. Here are five.

1. The number of the angels forming the Heavenly Host far exceeds the total number of all human beings, “not only the human beings who are now alive but all who have ever lived and all who will ever live, from the beginning of the world until the Day of Judgment. The multitude of these blessed Spirits is comparable to the number of grains of sand in the sea, or the number of stars in the firmament, which the wisdom of scripture tells us can never be counted.” (Daniel 7:10 reflects the same.)

2. There are nine choirs of angels. Knowing their ranks gives us a peek into heaven’s glory. The nine choirs are divided into three principal hierarchies, which are, in turn, divided into three.

The first and most exalted hierarchy comprises the seraphim, cherubim and thrones. In a nutshell, seraphim serve “as a confidential court” to the King. Cherubim communicate their abundance of knowledge, wisdom and intelligence abundantly to the lower ranks. Thrones “are like familiar friends and helpers of God.”

The middle hierarchy of angels are the dominations, virtues and powers. “Each of these ranks are assigned to the governance of the ranks which are lower than themselves.”

Dominations “exercise their power like regional governors or ambassadors of the Supreme Prince, working according to the mysteries of the Divine will.” Virtues “share in something of the infinite virtue and strength of their Lord to perform difficult and arduous tasks on behalf of God within the realm he created, producing miraculous effects for the glory of their King.” Powers work diligently to eliminate obstacles and impediments that might stop souls from salvation.

The third hierarchy is composed of the principalities, archangels and angels. Each principality is assigned to oversee a specific region or province on Earth. (In the angel’s first appearance to the children at Fatima, he identified himself as the “Angel of Peace.” In his second appearance, he said, “I am its angel guardian, the Angel of Portugal.) Then archangels and angels “are the ones who deal with human beings and the created world, acting as emissaries of the King of Heaven.”

3. There are only three archangels named in the Bible, beginning with St. Michael. We should already know part of his role from reciting the Prayer to St. Michael that many churches are restoring at the end of Mass. But there is more to know. In the Old Covenant, St. Michael was appointed protector and guardian of the synagogue. In the New Law, he is defender and guide for the Church. He is the awesome “captain whom the entire army of the heavens follows faithfully and loyally.”

St. Michael fought for God’s people in Egypt when they were “liberated from the yoke of Pharaoh’s oppression by means of signs and wonders.” Michael struck down the firstborn of Egypt on the first Passover. St. Michael’s power submerged Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea.

It is St. Michael who guides the souls of the faithful after death on their journey, warding off the evil spirits and bringing the souls safely to the court of Christ. When the end of the world approaches, St. Michael will protect the Church against the Antichrist and the horde of enemies assaulting it.

St. Gabriel was the “special mediator between the most-high God and the humble Virgin of Nazareth, between the Eternal Word and our human nature.” But do we also think of him as [JP3] “the faithful and trusted friend of the spouse, to whom was revealed the awesome wonder of the Divine Incarnation and the coming made flesh”? Or realize “how highly Gabriel is esteemed by God, since he chose to entrust to him his most dear and precious treasure — namely, his beloved spouse and mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary?”

4. There is a close connection between St. Raphael and our own angels. In the Book of Tobit, he becomes for Tobit and his son, Tobias, and for all of us, “a model of the benefits which our own guardian angels confer upon each one of us. In his actions, he typifies and illustrates the role assigned to each particular guardian angel.”

When Tobias was to go on a long journey, Raphael “arrived to be the companion and guardian to the young Tobias and promised to act as his guide for the whole of his journey.”

Our guardian angel takes each of us into “his special protection and patronage,” too.

Raphael wisely counsels the young Tobias, “instructing him concerning each of his significant actions.” He advised him to enter into marriage with Sarah and gave him instructions on how to conquer the demon who was afflicting her by means of self-restraint and prayer.

“In the same manner your own guardian angel provides you with good advice and directs your actions wisely in all things” and also “motivates and encourages you to perform good works.”

Raphael interceded and offered prayers to God for Tobit and Tobias. He told them, “When you and Sarah prayed, it was I who brought and read the record of your prayer before the glory of the Lord, and likewise whenever you [Tobit] would bury the dead” (Tobit 12:12).

Our personal guardian angel also offers prayers on our behalf to God, acts as our advocate in heaven, and also “apprises God” of whatever we “do in the form of good works or acts of piety.”

Our guardian angel will even be with us in purgatory, to “provide much-needed consolation and fortitude and inform the Departed soul of all the prayers which are said for its attainment of Eternal Rest by those who remain on Earth. Most importantly, it shall remind the soul … it is absolutely certain to reach heaven in due course.”

Like Raphael leading Tobias back to his homeland with Sarah, our guardian angels will lead us to our “heavenly Homeland after the long and perilous pilgrimage of this life is complete,” “to the celestial Paradise of eternal rest, which is your soul’s true native land.”

5. Psalm 91:11-12 tells us of God’s wondrous gift of guardian angels. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

Finally, as St. Aloysius would do, remember and in some way honor the angels, our heavenly companions, every day.