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September 23, 2013

Our relationship with angels is one of the clearest signs of the mentality with which we live. At one time, everyone saw the world as shot through with mystery. The line between the material and the spiritual was porous and few questioned that God, the saints and angels frequently affected our lives and our world.

Now, we inhabit a society which philosopher Charles Taylor has labelled one of disenchantment. It is a pared-down world in which angels and saints make charming hood ornaments, but are not taken seriously by any practical person. God himself is seen as restricted in his activities - one might worship him as the Lord of creation, but please don't bring him to work on Monday. We have serious things to do!

However, if one believes this one-dimensional world of practicality is too constricted, it is to angels and saints that one will turn. As rational a person as St. Thomas Aquinas said angels hold a mysterious power over the material world.

Angels, Aquinas wrote, light up our sense images and strengthen our intelligence, enabling us to see and understand more clearly. That is, not only are they messengers and guardians, but they can affect the imagination and the understanding. Your angel can make you more, not less, rational and insightful.

St. Ignatius of Loyola said good angels bring peace to a person's soul, while bad angels bring worry and upset. Our perceptions can be either clarified or distorted depending on which angels we befriend. Associating with good angels can make one more virtuous; hanging out with bad ones leads to moral disarray.

Ignore the angels at your peril; they will not ignore you - both good and bad angels pour out their attention on us. Fortunately, according to St. John Bosco, "Our guardian angel's desire to help us is much greater than our desire to be helped by him."

Alas, for the scientific mind, this is all rubbish. Angels cannot be seen, weighed or measured; therefore, they do not exist. But said Hamlet to Horatio: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The test of where we stand on this matter lies not in what we say, but in what we do: How often do we turn to an angel? God's holy men and women invoke their angels several times a day for they know their own weakness. They know also that asking one's angel to discuss a vexing problem with another person's angel can lead to a happy solution.

Life is full of fortuitous coincidences in which unexpected solutions to our problems mysteriously emerge. Coincidences? Or, angels at work?

If we believe in a God who cares about his people, we will pray, not only to him, but to his angels and saints. The border between the material and the spiritual is porous.