Happy feast of the Guardian Angels!
I’ve read so many lovely things online today about them, like If Jiminy Cricket Had a Halo at the Dominicana Journal and Pope Francis: Respect and listen to your guardian angel on Vatican Radio. Reading about St. Pio and his guardian angel has always fascinated me (“Send me your guardian angel”: Padre Pio, by his assistant Fr. Alessio Parente, is my favorite) — I love telling my boys how St. Pio’s guardian angel was his childhood playmate! (Their eyes get huge!) My boys also received Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s Angels for Kids last Christmas, and Fr. Pascale Parente’s The Angels in Catholic Teaching and Tradition is on my wish list.
Of course, I’m also interested in their names, so I found it somewhat striking that St. Pio (at least in the book I mention above) never referred to his angel by name. He’d call him things like, “My little friend,” but never a name. I came across a while ago something that may explain why:
“217 Popular devotion to the Holy Angels, which is legitimate and good, can, however, also give rise to possible deviations … The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture.” — Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines, 2001.
I’m familiar with the idea of asking God, in prayer, to let you know your angel’s name, as mentioned in the post Everything you ever wanted to know about your guardian angel,
(“The following question and answer study of the guardian angels is based on the Summa Theologica I, qq.50-64 (angels in themselves) and qq. 106-114 (angels in relation to creatures). STI, q.113, is particularly enlightening, since it is a question devoted wholly to the guardianship of angels over human beings …
Does my angel have a name? Most certainly, God has named all his angels – or perhaps the higher angels have named the lower ones.
How do I find out my guardian angel’s name? You could try asking. But it is also possible that it will not be revealed to you immediately. I should think that in heaven, we would all know guardian angels’ names.”
But I’d never heard of the practice of assigning a name to one’s angel. It must be widespread enough that the Vatican needed to address it though — are you familiar with this?
Taylor Marshall says,
“We cannot name our Guardian Angel because naming another implies authority over the other. I name my children and I name my pets. I have authority over them.
However, my Guardian Angel is OVER me in authority:
Angel of God my Guardian Dear
to whom God’s love commits me here
Ever this day be at my side
To light, to guard, to *RULE,* to guide.
Therefore, I do not have the authority to name my angel. My angel is not my dog, he’s my instructor.
When God gives a new name to someone (Abraham, Israel, Peter), he is signifying His authority over him as that person acts as His vicegerent in His name. Notably, God revealed the names of Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist to their parents before they were born to show His special authority in human redemption.”
He doesn’t give a source for this idea, though, so I’m not sure if it’s simply what he thinks, or if he got it from somewhere. Mark Shea offers,
“[When the idea of naming one’s angel came up in conversation] Fr. Pacwa instantly had on the tip of his tongue the teaching of some mediaeval pope who had condemned the practice. I’m not clear on the reasoning, but the basic idea seems to be that angels are not our chums, but super-powerful spirit beings who should be treated with respect and not back-slapping bonhomie. Or so I gather.”
“There’s a deeper concern in naming, or trying to discover the name of, our guardian angels. The difficulty lies in discerning which spirits are responding to your seeking. Be assured that evil spirits are as interested in getting close to you as your guardian angel. They will find and use any way possible to derail your efforts to grow closer to God.
You won’t immediately be dragged down with the devil by naming your Guarding Angel, but you will be opening yourself to suggestions that may eventually lead you away from salvation.”
This last point doesn’t have any source offered either, and I admit I’m conflicted on it … on the one hand, how scary, if it’s true! On the other, if it was a real risk, wouldn’t that have been pointed out in the Vatican document I cite above? Also, if one prays to God to know the name of one’s guardian angel, why should one be afraid that an evil spirit might answer? It seems to me that line of thinking would lead one to question all answers to prayer, and perhaps even to think that one’s private conversations with God aren’t protected by Him. I can’t imagine any of that is right.
What have you all heard about all this? Do you know of any other Church sources regarding it?