After Jesus ascended into heaven, the early church in Rome wrote many pages about His teachings on angels and selected September 29 as a day to honor Michael the Archangel (Later, the honor was given to all the Archangels.). The feast proved to be very popular, and in 813, in one of the church’s first official meetings, the feast was expanded to all countries in the Roman Empire. This process was somewhat unusual because feast days were usually started locally, and then as time passed (and perhaps some miracles occurred), a petition for sainthood would be presented to the hierarchy. In this case, the hierarchy had already recognized the archangels as a vital part of Christian belief.
By the fifth century, devotion to all angels was widespread, and by the 12th century, mainly because of St. Bernard and his love for angels, the belief that each human being has his own guardian angel had become a tradition. (The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it. Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief.) With so much interest in them, it seemed obvious that guardian angels should have their own feast day so in the 16th century, after some confusion in choosing an official date, Pope Clement X selected October 2 as the Feast of the Guardian Angels, a kind of supplement to the September 29th date, which they kept.
What is the purpose of these two feast days? Like Christmas or Easter, the days should remind us
–To thank God that He has given each one of us a guardian angel to guide us to good thoughts, works and words, and to preserve us from evil.
–To inspire us with gratitude to the protector archangels like Michael, who do us such great good, and to incite us to efforts to render ourselves worthy of their guardianship.
–To be with us at the moment of our deaths and to guide us to God. The quote below is part of the funeral liturgy:
“May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the Holy City, the new and eternal Jerusalem.” (Rite for Christian burial)
Interestingly, the entire month of October, among other honorees, is devoted to angels. Make it a point to talk to your angel any day this month. Ask that you get to know him better. You’ll never have a finer friend.
About Joan Wester Anderson
Author and lecturer Joan Wester Anderson was born in Evanston, Illinois. She began her writing career in 1973 with a series of family humor articles for local newspapers and Catholic publications, and was a monthly columnist for two national magazines during the 1980s. She has published more than one thousand articles and short stories in a variety of publications, including Woman’s Day, Modern Bride, Virtue, Reader’s Digest and the New York Times Syndicate.
Her 15 books include “Where Angels Walk, True Stories of Heavenly Visitors,” which was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year, has sold almost two million copies and been translated into 14 languages. Published in fall 1994 were the sequel to “Angels,” titled “Where Miracles Happen,” and for children, “An Angel to Watch Over Me.” Both books were written in response to suggestions from readers and were followed in rapid succession by three more in this series. “Forever Young” (Thomas More Publishers), the life story of actress Loretta Young, was published in November 2000. The actress had read the angel series and requested Anderson as her biographer. The two became close friends. Anderson’s book, “In the Arms of Angels” (Loyola Press) covers angelic activity primarily during the past decade, including stories of hope from the 9/11 and Columbine School tragedies. Her most recent books, “Guardian Angels” (Loyola Press), and “Angels and Wonders” (Loyola Press), focus on amazing and tender stories of God’s answers to prayers.
Anderson has appeared on national television programs including “Good Morning America,” “Oprah,” “20/20,” “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw” and “Mother Angelica Live,” and was featured in such documentaries as “Angels–Beyond the Light” (NBC), “Angel Stories” and “Stories of Miracles” (The Learning Channel), and many videos. She was a story consultant for the television series, “It’s A Miracle,” lectures in cities across the country and has been interviewed on hundreds of radio talk shows.
Anderson, who is Catholic, is a member of St. Edna’s Parish in Arlington Heights Ill., a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and a former adjunct professor at Harper Community College in Palatine, Ill. She and her husband live in suburban Chicago, and have five grown children and four grandchildren.