It is the teaching of the Church, and in accordance with what we read in the Old and New Testaments, that the angels, who are divine messengers, exercise a particular care and protection over individuals on earth, and help them in attaining salvation. In Exodus (20:20), the Lord God told Moses, “I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared,” and after the angel had liberated St. Peter from prison, the latter remarked, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel to rescue me from Herod’s clutches” (Acts 12:11). The common teaching of theologians is that every human being, not merely the baptized, has a special guardian angel from birth, and this they derive from Christ’s words: “Do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father, who is in Heaven” (Matt. 18:10.) Referring to the same text, St. Basil (see January 2) writes: “Every one of the faithful has an angel standing at his side as educator, and guide, directing his life” (Against Eunomius III, 1). Devotion to the angels began with St. Benedict (see July 11) and then steadily increased from the time of St. Gregory the Great (see September 3) to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (see August 20), who was perhaps the most eloquent exponent of devotion to the Guardian Angels. The final prayer in today’s Mass speaks of the angels keeping us free from danger in this life and bringing us to the joy of eternal life. A feast in honor of the Guardian Angels was celebrated in Valencia, Spain, as early as 1411; it then spread through Spain and into France. Pope Paul V introduced it into the Roman Calendar in 1608, and Pope Clement X later (1670) set its celebration for October 2.
For some 300 years now, the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels has been celebrated in the Catholic Church on October 2. Few things, however, have become as alien to the contemporary Christian as the concept of guardian angels. The Old Testament says of the angel that guards the people of Israel: “Heed him and hearken to his voice”—that means that I should become open to this image of a God who is everywhere around me and that I should not stubbornly oppose to him my own fleeting wishes and whims. It is based on the fact that we ourselves have become manipulatable and believe in no other design for our life than that which we have made for ourselves. In consequence, we end by becoming the movable scenery of a technical world that we try to maneuver this way and that. We no longer speak, then, of guardian angels, except perhaps in a few idiomatic expressions that even we ourselves do not take too literally. Granted, we speak all the more frequently about security and about how we can protect ourselves against the negative aspects of modern life. The flight of humanity from humanity as from its own work is on the increase, and we come to recognize the inadequacy of our protective devices—however sophisticated they may be—only when new refinements reveal that they have already been superseded. It would, of course, be foolish and unrealistic on our part to place our trust in guardian angels rather than in technology; the divine protection is not so easily commandeered and is not intended to be thrown into bold relief. Speaking of angels means being convinced that the world is everywhere filled with the divine presence of God and that his presence is bestowed on each and every one of us as a power that summons and protects us.
Ratzinger, J. (1992).