A simple childhood prayer taught me how to reconcile faith in angels with living in a less-than-angelic world.
In my childhood room, a picture of an angel hugging a small child hung above my bed. Pastel colors, flawless faces—an illustration straight out of a children’s book. I remember praying together with my family, “Angel of God, my guardian dear…” I liked this prayer the most out of our repertoire, maybe because I liked the beautiful picture which we knelt in front of each morning and evening.
I’ve been praying alone for a long time now, and the pretty angelic picture has been replaced by one of Our Lady of Medjugorje. The Guardian Angel was lost somewhere in the years gone by, and the moves from home to home. But sometimes I feel as though he’s just melted into the crowd around me. When I really think about it, I think he has appeared to me as regular people, those who helped me out, gave me strength, or simply infected me with their optimism. Though I no longer say that prayer often, I have long believed that my Guardian Angel comes to me in the form of good, everyday people.
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But I still think the prayer to the Guardian Angel is good for little kids to learn, because very gradually as I grew up, it gave me the foundation I needed to have faith in the goodness of the world.
At first, though, I’ll admit: it was just the opposite. As a young teen, it caused me to question why a world full of guardian angels could be so difficult and sometimes downright unfair. The image of an ideal, warm angel seemed at odds with the real world I knew. Where was my Guardian Angel when I stumbled? Where was he when everything was falling apart? Where was he during illnesses, accidents, and disasters? I felt naive, and tried to accept the fact that my angel couldn’t protect me from, well … life.
Pastel Guardian Angel
So my Guardian Angel could not protect me from the harshness of the real world or any evil that lies in wait … or, at least, certainly not by himself. But something Pope Francis said helped me reconcile the pretty pastel versions of Guardian Angels that appeared in my children’s bible to the real scriptures, and the world I live in. He stressed that the angels are not something made up, but they are, in fact, a reality. “See I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23.20.) The children’s stories are missing one detail. The continuation of that promise, in which the Lord says that we should listen to our Guardian Angel, not reject him, but remember that he is always there and is guiding us to eternal happiness. Even if the road is not always angelic.
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The Guardian Angel’s role is not to dismiss all our difficulties or cover us with a bulletproof sheath to protect us from “all evil.” He is there to watch over us, only that. And we should trust and follow him when we feel him. Because our Angel is always with God, and therefore can act as an intermediary or — as Pope Francis says — “an ambassador, who is with us in His name and supports us with his help.”
In the children’s room, along with the Guardian Angel, we often leave our trust. Our trust of the things we once so easily accepted, because we had nothing to challenge our faith, our make it harder. And perhaps that is the problem. Because to hear the voice of an invisible friend, especially when life is difficult, you have to believe and trust, that the angel is with us, and with him Jesus, who knows and watches. It’s inevitable that we will struggle to see our invisible friend sometimes, but because of a childhood prayer, I will continue to look for him, continue to try to feel his presence when the world feels dark, or less angelic than I’d like it to be.
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And so, today, once more, I prayed:
Angel of God, from the pastel painting, come and help me trust your angelic presence again. Don’t let me doubt that you are always with me, teach me to listen like a child to your voice. And when I forget again that You are there and I stop listening, nudge me and call me to order. Be with me, be in the hearts of people I meet, tell me what is good and lead me to the Lord. Amen
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