Sunday, 26 February 2012

Angels and Academics

I have always said that if I was going to pursue theological studies at the graduate level, I would do it in the area of Angelology. Specifically with regards to the question "When are we assigned our Guardian Angel?"

Angelology, if the name does not speak for itself is, of course, the study of Angels. Yes I do believe in Angels. Many of the various popes in the history of the Church have encouraged us to frequently pray to our guardian angel. I pray to my guardian angel all the time. I know that my kids' guardian angels put in a lot of over time. If any of you have ever seen a precocious two year old narrowly miss smacking his face off the kitchen table as he leans just a little too far over to reach the jam, you know what I mean. There have been many amazing stories, both anecdotal and historically verified about how angels have come to our aid throughout history. The Church teaches that each one of us is assigned a guardian angel, but what I would like to examine is, at what point does our angelic guardian get assigned to us?

You see, much of what the church teaches about angels comes from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote extensively about the nature, intelligence, origin and substance of angels. While I would not presume to take on the Seraphic Father, I would argue that what he wrote regarding when we are assigned our angelic guardian was technically inaccurate.

The Church clearly teaches that ensoulment (the moment in which we are given a soul) happens at conception, which is incidentally when science clearly states that life begins. By the way, the question as to whether or not human life begins at conception is really just a philosophical debate, because anyone who has taken grade 9 science knows that as soon as an organism is fertilized it is considered a zygote, which is scientifically recognized as a stage of life for that particular organism, whether it be a plant, or an animal.

According to the Summa, a person is assigned their angel at birth, (Summa 113:5) under the assumption that while in utero they are protected by their mother's guardian angel. However we know that the conventional scientific explanation of human gestation at the time the Summa was written was erroneous and has since been scientifically proven wrong.

So, it stands to reason that:

If a guardian angel is assigned to every soul, and if ensoulment occurs at the moment of conception, then it is reasonable to presume that our guardian angel is assigned to us at the moment of our conception.

The thing I love about academics is the process by which an argument or position is reasonably proposed and defended for the sake of pursuing knowledge. However there is a danger in academia to become disconnected with any real practical application for such knowledge. So what practical application could such a question be applied too?

Well, I think that the application of this pursuit is a pastoral one. If we can reasonably assume that our guardian angels are assigned to us at conception, then we can confidently invoke the guardian angels of the unborn. Because God knows, in this day and age, they need all the help they can get.

Now, I fully admit that given my limited knowledge, I might be totally off base. If there is a theologian out there who can give some insight (fully supported of course) about our guardian angels, I would really appreciate it! In the mean time,

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, to rule and guide. Amen




  1. Makes me wish I had bought that Summa Theologica set back when I was in Toronto years ago. I would suggest our Guardian Angel is assigned to us generations before we are born and may not necessarily visit us 1st at conception but perhaps later in life even and then go backwards.
    It is a mistake I think to think of time as linear for them. My guess anyhow...

  2. Hi Matt! Hmm interesting! You are right that for angels, time is not linear, however they are temporal creatures given that they did not preexist creation, but were created. Also, theLord does say to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (Jer 1:5) , but do you think a mother or father can confidently pray to the Guardian Angel of their unborn child? Is there anyone else who has any thoughts??