geSays she talks to angels.
They call her out by her name.
Oh yeah, she talks to angels.
Says they call her out by her name.
— Black Crowes
Although I was raised as a Christian, angels didn’t play much of a role in religion as I understood it. Sure, I was familiar with the New Testament accounts of angels making proclamations: Gabriel advising the Virgin Mary that she would bear the Messiah; an unnamed angel advising Joseph, Mary’s fiance, that the child she carried had been conceived by the Holy Spirit; an angel announcing to a group of shepherds that Christ had been born… (The word “angel” comes from the Greek “angelos,” which means “messenger.”) Then there were the scary warrior angels who went about smiting people in the book of Revelations. (If you want to read a somewhat humorous account of angels in Revelations be my guest. I can’t bear to recount it here. Seriously. As a Southern Baptist teen, the Apocalypse as described in the last book of the Bible was responsible for most of my nightmares.) Outside of those biblical passages, I don’t think that angels ever crossed my mind. I certainly never considered trying to communicate with them.
I converted to Catholicism in my early twenties, but must have missed the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) class on angels. If I hadn’t, it’s likely that I would have begun my conversations with angels far sooner than I did. Although it’s not an article of faith, many Catholics believe that a guardian angel is assigned to each human at birth. One of the Church Fathers, St. Jerome, stated that the concept of guardian angels is “in the mind of the Church.”
…how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.
— St. Jerome
Fontenot, Justin (3 October 2013). “What Are Guardian Angels?”. Prayerful Anglican.
Catholics also have a number of lovely prayers directed to angels, including this one:
Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day (or night) be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Angels are certainly not exclusive to Christianity. The Jewish scriptures and the Kabbalah include references to angels, who, in addition to carrying messages, performed a number of tasks for God, including testing and smiting people. In Hinduism, minor gods whose role is to protect humans are called devas. And belief in angels is one of Islam’s six articles of faith.
As for the Baha’i:
Angels are also those holy souls who have severed attachment to the earthly world, who are free from the fetters of self and passion and who have attached their hearts to the divine realm and the merciful kingdom. They are of the kingdom, heavenly; they are of the merciful One, divine. They are the manifestations of the divine grace and the dawns of spiritual bounty.
— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 409
Angels also play a starring role in New Age spirituality, which is akin to Eclectic Spirituality in that its practitioners tend to draw upon religious and spiritual practices and ideas and combine them into a belief system that is relevant and deeply personal. Age-old concepts that are common to non-Christian religions, such as reincarnation and ritual magic are common among some New Age practitioners, most of whom would probably never use that label to describe themselves. Because they “pick and choose” what they want to believe rather than “buying into” a mainstream religion hook, line and sinker, New Agers are often criticized for taking their beliefs out of context.
According to New Age theology (as it were), angels communicate with those who seek them and are ready and willing to come to the aid of humans who request their help. Because we humans have free will, they never impose themselves on us; we must ask.
The Pew Research Center surveyed men and women in 63 countries about their belief in heaven, hell and angels. Their finding on the latter was that:
When it comes to belief in angels, men and women are about equally likely to profess belief in these celestial beings in 48 of 63 countries surveyed (76%). In 14 countries, women believe in angels to a greater degree than men do. Only in Pakistan do men believe in angels more than women. Across all 63 countries, a greater share of women than men believe in angels by an average gap of 3 percentage points.
— The Pew Research Center, March 22, 2016, “The Gender Gap in Religion around the World”
In my next post, I will discuss authors such as Doreen Virtue, “the angel whisperer” Kyle Gray and angel intuitives, who claim to communicate with the angels to heal their clients.
In the interim, please share your comments. Do you believe in angels?