The case for the existence of angels is very strong, if not airtight. The Bible assures not only that they are real, but they are involved in human affairs. The fact that relatively few people have seen them is not enough to refute their existence. Some saints have been blessed with both seeing their guardian angels and conversing with them.
A distinguished British gentleman by the name of Cecil Humphrey Smith was seriously injured in an automobile accident. A friend of his, finding him in such bad condition, hurried off to a Post Office to send a telegram to Padre Pio urging his prayers for Cecil. When he presented the telegram at the desk, the clerk gave him a telegram from Padre Pio assuring his prayers. Several months later, after Cecil had recovered, he and his friend journeyed to San Giovanni Rotondo and thanked the now-canonized friar for his prayers. But, being curious, asked him how he could know immediately about the accident and dispatch just as quickly as a telegram. In his own humoristic way, Padre Pio said, “Do you think the Angels go as slow as planes?” God had given Padre Pio the light to witness the accident and sent his Guardian Angel to assure his prayers and protection.
At the Annunciation, Mary did not seem at all surprised when conversing with an angel, the Archangel Gabriel. What surprised her was the extraordinary invitation the Angel delivered. Saints do not question the reality of angels. They are at home with them.
Michael O’Brien, a Christian artist and successful novelist, was having difficulty portraying “The Assumption of Mary into Heaven”. He was barren of ideas and thought of omitting it from his depictions of the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. At this hour of frustration, he happened to read a passage from the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas in which he stated that God can send an angel to assist people in completing a work that glorifies God. Inspired by this passage, O’Brien prayed to his ministering angel and then everything fell into place. “What was to have been my most difficult painting,” he wrote, “was the easiest one I ever painted in my life”.
In her long drive from New Orleans to Houston, Margaret Lathrop would pass through areas where there was no radio reception. Therefore, she decided to use tapes. When she played Handel’s Messiah, a host of beautiful angels appeared. At home, the same recording would summon angels to appear so vivid and lifelike, that she could draw them. She was invited to display them on camera for EWTN, but the lighting was not suitable and Margaret’s extraordinary sketches could not be shown. Nonetheless, she showed them to this writer who found them to be androgynous and exceptionally beautiful.
Our instincts tell us that angels exist. Reference to angels have become part of speech (Be an angel and do this for me), great works of art (Dante’s Divine Comedy, Milton’s Paradise Lost), innumerable paintings (Raphael, Michelangelo, Murillo), movie titles (Angels in the Outfield), in popular songs (How Do You Speak to an Angel?), and in the names of baseball teams (the Los Angeles Angeles).
Christmas Carols are replete with references to angels. Shakespeare has Horatio bid farewell to Hamlet by saying, “Good night sweet prince: and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”. Many a parent has said good night to their young one by singing, “Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night. Guardian angels God will send thee, all through the night”. The Bible contains innumerable references to angels. People have adopted “angel” as their first name. Angels have an important and honored place in Hebrew, Christian, and Muslim teaching.
If angels do not exist, they certainly ought to exist. St. Thomas Aquinas declares that “the universe would be incomplete without them”. Etienne Gilson remarks that the general plan of creation would display a manifest gap if there were no angels”. America’s second president John Adams, stated that “Nature” has “established a chain of being and a universal order in the universe, descending from angels to microscopic animalcules . . .” Angels fill a creative void. It seems to contradict common sense that in God’s order of creation, He made nothing between Himself and man, whereas He created millions of species between man and the one-celled amoeba.
Mozart, given his prodigious talent, would not have limited his creative energies to charming minutes while shunning operas, symphonies, and concertos. Einstein would not have been content sticking to arithmetic, nor Galileo turning his telescope no further away than toward his next-door neighbor’s house.
Clarence Odbody, played convincingly by Henry Travers in the 1946 movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is a guardian angel sent to save George Bailey. His role was easily accepted by audiences. There are times when any one of us could use some spiritual help from beyond.
We need not dwell on the fallen angels. John Milton has Lucifer proclaim that it is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven. But he is still in Hell, and utterly deprived of where he should be. Let us be content with saying a few words about those who bring important messages to the world and those who function as guardian angels. Satan fell by the force of gravity, but the good angels, as G K. Chesterton quipped, can fly because “they take themselves lightly”.