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What Do Catholics Believe About Angels?

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear about the existence of angels. “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition. St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.'” With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word”. As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.” –CCC 328-330

Fr. Hugh joins Cy Kellett to discuss the reality of angels.


Cy Kellett:
Hello and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I’m Cy Kellet your host. And for this Easter Monday, we talk about some folks who were present for the events of Easter Sunday but maybe don’t always get all the attention that they, deserve the angels. And here to talk to us about the angels, Fr. Hugh Barbour. Hi father.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Hello there. Happy Easter.

Cy Kellett:
Happy Easter.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Happy Easter Monday, which in Italy they call Easter Monday, Lunedì dell’Angelo, the Monday of the angel.

Cy Kellett:
That is our topic for this time. It does seem angels accompany the conception, birth and death and resurrection of the Lord. Am I remembering my gospels correct?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yes. They accompany all aspects of his life and before his life, since he is the king of the angels, even before his incarnation. And coming into the world, it says, let all the angels of God worship him because he is the first of the sons of God, that he’s the one who’s son of God by nature and therefore equal to the father and God himself. Whereas in the old testament, the term son of God is used also to refer to angels.

A son of God means an angel often in the old testament. And so even before the incarnation, our Lord was identified in the old testament with the angels of whom he being the highest spirits, the uncreated divine spirit, made them in his image before he made us. You call them folks at the beginning of this show and that’s just very loose terminology, but I like it.

Cy Kellett:
Well.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
We’re going to talk about some folks.

Cy Kellett:
I feel like they maybe depersonalized a bit sometimes in our thinking.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yeah. And that is so mistaken because of course, when something can’t be apprehended or felt by our senses, can’t be seen, can’t be heard, can’t be felt, can’t be smelled, then of course, when nothing is there to our imagination and we’re talking about them as persons, yes. Sometimes it can seem kind of vague or in need of further coloring in as it were. But in point of fact, the angels are by nature at least super personal, super individual, super different, one from the other there.

There’s more variety in the angelic world than there is in the human world. And that’s because of the nature of spiritual beings. They have everything they have so intensely and so perfectly that on the level of nature alone not to talk about the life of grace and a conformity to Christ and our union with the blessed Trinity. But on the level of nature alone, they are just totally amazingly beyond us in their variety and in their characteristics. And we can’t even imagine what all that is.

Cy Kellett:
That’s the thing is it’s hard to… I mean, we have these little Baroque angels and we got all these various ways of dealing with them, but we really can’t. It’s very hard. Well, you want a mental picture I guess, and you can’t get a mental picture of them.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, you would get a mental picture in the sense of something that might appeal to your mind’s understanding. And it would be something like this, that each angel is completely and utterly one of a kind, not just an individual. Like every human being’s an individual, but every human being is not one of a kind, that is, we all share the same kind. We’re all human beings. And so we don’t differ in our human nature, but we differ in our personalities as individual human beings.

But the angels not only differ as individuals, but each angel is a different kind of being. A different, you might say, species. And so Michael is a different kind of being from Gabriel and Gabriel from Raphael, and your guardian angel from every other guardian angel. That is, there’s something in them that we don’t know, there’s something in their nature which makes them an utterly different kind of spiritual being than every other spiritual being so that we say each angel is a species of its own kind. That’s just amazing, is that, think of the variety.

Saint Thomas says that God wants the universe to be as perfect as possible and so the higher the natures that he creates, the greater variety and number of them there are. And so that’s why he says the number of the angels is incomparably great because their perfections are incomparably great. That is, we are just at the tail end of creation where the highest of the visible creation, and of course in this very mysterious way, we are led to be above all the angels through our conformity to Christ who took our human nature while remaining God himself.

And that’s why when we say our lady, for example, is higher than the cherubim, more glorious and the seraphim, that those are very powerful affirmations because we would be more than flabbergasted to understand the nature, variety and number of angelic beings. They’re just all over the place. And so Jesus made them. And so as a human being, his life was entirely accompanied by them.

Cy Kellett:
And so who are these angels that are at the tomb?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well these angels, of course, we don’t know. The word angel itself is just from a Greek word that means someone who’s been sent to announce something. And so the angels in the new testament show that very perfectly because the angel Gabriel is sent to for the annunciation to announce the incarnation and the virtual conception and birth of the savior to his blessed mother chosen to be the mother of God. So that’s one great mystery of faith that he sent to announce. And that’s why he’s called an angelos because an angelos is someone who’s sent on a mission to announce something, and then a messenger in other words.

And then of course at the resurrection, those angels are there seated on either end of the tomb and they are there to witness to and to announce to those coming up that Christ is not in the tomb anymore, but rather has gone, that he has been risen and goes before you. And so they announce this very good news, this evangelion, this good news, angelion, the word for gospel evangelion good news. It has the same root word as angel in it. All right? The good news.

So they are the angels that had the great privilege among all the billions of angels there must be to be the ones who announced the resurrection of the son of God who is the king of angels. So their Easter was an exceedingly joyful one for them because they witnessed their creator and Lord triumph over the devil on the cross and then they witnessed and were the public witnesses to the apostles and to the women of his glorious resurrection.

And we see this again Ascension Sunday or Ascension Thursday 40 days from Easter, and in some places celebrated on the Sunday following, when our Lord is ascended into heaven in the company of the angels as well. And the angels again announced his ascension into heaven to the apostles looking up from below. Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking? This Jesus whom you see us sending will return again. And so they announced the next big, big event in history of salvation and that’ll be his second coming.

Cy Kellett:
And that they’ll be there as well at that time.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
They’ll be there for various reasons. There’ll be there to participate in the resurrection. Saint Thomas says that the material aspect of the resurrection that is remains of our bodies, and so angels can have a penetrating knowledge of physical creation that they gathered together what he calls the ashes. That is the remains of human beings as the foundation for their glorious resurrection when their souls are reunited with their bodies. All it takes is one little bit of DNA from your body and the whole thing can be reconstructed by a miracle, a divine power. And so the angels are there with their knowledge of creation, acting as instruments of God’s power, even in the work of the resurrection. So they’re all over the place.

Cy Kellett:
Well, again, I’m having trouble with my mental pictures and how a pure spirit can affect physical reality. I don’t…

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well.

Cy Kellett:
I’ll just have… Go ahead.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
No, go ahead.

Cy Kellett:
I was going to say, do I have to just take that on faith or is there some way I can understand that?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, you can understand it in this sense that your own spiritual soul is capable of existing apart from the body, that’s what we call bodily death when soul and body are separated.

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
And that spiritual soul that you have that could exist after the manner of an angel that is without a body, although we’re not supposed to, it’s not good for us. It’s good for angels, it’s not good for us.

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
But it can and it will exist apart from the body if you die. That is, if you come to the end of your life before Christ comes again, then all the time, your purely spiritual soul is giving life to and moving your purely physical material body.

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
So we have a very up close and personal experience of this that so much that is natural to us, that our intellect forms of judgment and it goes and our will makes a command and our emotions kick in and we get on the treadmill and make ourselves do something by sheer will.

Cy Kellett:
Not me.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
By spiritual force of the will which is spiritual power.

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
So we have that already built in our human nature, a spiritual reality, moving bodily realities.

Cy Kellett:
So all these angels, they weren’t always in heaven, right? But they are in heaven now.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, they were created in the highest portion of creation. And then of course, they were created in grace the way we were and they were tested and some of them fell and of course lost their places. And the rest are given the vision of God and their salvation, which is the same as ours, to see God face to face. And some of them are so high that they don’t have any office to perform regarding material things or other creative things. They simply exist totally and completely for the worship and the glory of God.

Those are like the seraphim, the cherubim, the thrones. They immediately surround the divine being and they draw their knowledge and their charity directly from God, they’re the closest to God by nature. Now of course, Christ and our lady have jumped ahead in the line as it were in their human nature, our Lord’s human nature, our lady with her human nature because of the dignity of the degree of grace that they possess which goes way beyond anything any angel has. And so our Lord and our lady are the king and queen of the angels, even the very highest.

But those angels don’t function here below and neither do many other of the orders of angels. But the ones closest to us deal with human society, human concerns, the governance of the material universe itself. And then all the way down to the governance and guidance of individuals, the so called guardian angels, which we all have.

Cy Kellett:
The implication I’m getting here is that the highest angels are not completely concerned with us. And you can hear the offense in my voice because that goes completely against my innate narcissism, that there are creatures that God made that are so high they don’t even concern themselves with human affairs at all.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, they don’t concern themselves in the sense that they have no office in our regard. They exist solely for the glorification of God. But they can intercede for us and they can have knowledge of things that pertain to us, but they don’t have a job, you might say, that the concerns us. They’re like, you might say, people think, of course your Carmelites or contemplatives. They do a lot for the world, but not by working, having offices directly in it, but rather through the prayer and praise of God and worship and contemplation.

Cy Kellett:
Would these mighty, noble angels be in the hierarchy of angels, even higher than Saint Michael?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well that’s an interesting question. Because that’s an old theological question that has come up numerous times in the study of the angels. And that is that if Michael appears on the earth and has a role on the earth as he obviously does well, then he can’t be the highest angel. But there’s an answer to that. And it’s a very simple theological answer. That is the names that we give the angels are just approximate. They’re what are called analogies. That is, you can imagine each angel is a different kind and isn’t a material kind and so the names we use are just approximations or just placeholders for that actual individual spirit.

And Michael could very well be the very highest of all the angels, the highest seraph there is. But then in a descending order of the illuminations and the insights into God’s plans and his inner life in nature and his power and his designs regarding human beings, what flows out of Michael goes down through the three hierarchies of angels and through all the nine orders of angels and is expressed here with the help of angels who we call Michael because they’re under his, you might say, direction or are directly related to his knowledge or his love, most of all his love.

And so that’s because the angels work very much in order and like a very well-run army that’s based entirely on perfect beatific knowledge and perfect love getting more and more blazingly, intensely hot, the higher they go, but also generously bestowing on high down to the very lowest orders all of the good that they possess. So this is a hierarchy that’s not exclusive, it’s rather diffusive. That the higher orders exist also to glorify God, but therefore to assist his creation in accordance with their particular nature. But they’re not personally running around.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
The highest angel is not personally running around the earth, that has to do with the lower orders, but they’re all united. So there may be many, many, many, many Michaels. Now that might sound like a heresy, but it’s not because what it means is just that there are many angels who are in a direct line with Saint Michael for the defense of the church and for the overthrowing of the devil on the various levels of material creation, human society and individual human beings.

Cy Kellett:
I mean, you could relate it to like Caesar defeated the Gauls in a way. Well, Caesar himself personally can’t defeat the Gauls. I mean, I’m sure. So this is just an analogy, but a poor analogy, but all the legions under Cesar in a certain sense are Caesar.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Right, exactly. And he’s the prince of the heavenly host, close to being the military term the military ranks of the angels that defend God’s people from the evil one.

Cy Kellett:
You said that they govern the things of this world, I think. And does that mean that, let’s say God didn’t assign the task or let’s say just for a hypothetical, all the angels are withdrawn from this world.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
It would be impossible. It would just completely come apart.

Cy Kellett:
Explain that to me. The atoms and molecules themselves wouldn’t function without angels?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Right. Because you can call all of this pre-scientific, but it’s not because whenever you see the more perfect and more universal, the order of something in the creation is, the more clear is the presence of an intelligence which guides that order. And in traditional theology, which accepts the existence of God who directly creates and governs everything, he’s the immediate cause of everything. He also chooses to govern the universe, to guide it, to perfect it through creatures he has made and in particular through the angels.

And so God governs universe through them and gives the different angels the knowledge necessary to perform certain tasks. And so when there are universal norms of nature that are discovered in science, you can be sure that there’s an angelic intelligence or intelligences who are in charge of maintaining that order so that it goes well. In the ancient cosmology, that would be the angels that move the planets, but we might think it nowadays more on a very infinitesimal microscopic order of modern mathematical physics where they’re looking for a theory of everything.

Well, if they come up with it, that’ll be the job for the highest angel that has to do with the governing of the material universe under the even higher angels, the ones that are directly related to the worship and glory of God, but they’re always present and always active. If you think about it, look at the swallows that come up around our abbey, they come always around March 19th on Saint Joseph’s Day, we’re right near San Juan Capistrano where the swallows are just all over the place.

They show up, they go thousands of miles to the South and they come up again and they return to the same place and even the same nests. And how do they do that if there’s not an intelligence governing them? Their material brain is so formed that it can take the impressions that are necessary to direct them. But we would say we believe that there’s an angelic custodian you might say, of that kind of being, in addition to all the other tasks you might have to perform. Their caretakers there, in the early church, they call them shepherds. They were treated like they’re the good shepherds of the human race and of creation.

Cy Kellett:
So if you think of the world, we think of it as mechanistic, we tend to think in mechanistic terms. It’s governed by laws, but there have to be people who, I don’t know…

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Beings.

Cy Kellett:
Beings through whom those laws are actually made manifest.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Right and maintained. Because it’s not just a machine, it requires a continual, intelligent direction. That’s the great drama of creation that just is being guided by intelligences on every side. And of course also threatened by the fallen intelligence is the demons who still can use their natural knowledge to wreak a lot of havoc. That’s why in the current environment now with the plague that we have, people should consider when they say, “Why does God allow this?” Well, part of the picture is that some of these things certainly God is permitting these things for some good reason. There’s no doubt about that. But the malice of the devil can bring about a whole lot of physical evils and does.

Cy Kellett:
True, right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Because they have that knowledge. And so the immediate cause of some disease or disaster, like a tsunami or something could be the malice of a demon, which God is going to use for some good purpose, but they still have the power to play around with those parts of creation that they know something about. And that’s not hard to believe because human beings, even when they’re bad, they still have all their natural powers. They can still slug you, they can still hurt you.

Cy Kellett:
They’re more likely to if they’re bad.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Right, right. But the point is that becoming evil doesn’t immediately deprive you of the power that you have that’s yours by nature. And the same goes with the demons. So instead of blaming God directly, saying God causes plague or it’s his fault. You could say, “Well, he’s dealing with also the angels who rejected him and he hasn’t taken from them their natural knowledge.” In fact, he really can’t if he’s their creator. He doesn’t uncreate the things he’s made. And therefore for a certain time until Christ completely perfects all creation at the end, they have the ability to wreak some havoc.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
And that’s what we see the instigation of the devil and so many of these natural disasters. And they are natural, but angels are natural too. An earthquake is a natural event, so is the malice of fallen angels. So is the assistance of an angel to protect us from an accident or to inspire the mind of a scientist to notice what is necessary to find a cure or vaccine. Angels intervene in all those things without canceling out our nature, but by nudging it in the right direction or protecting it from the wrong direction or with the demons tempting us in the wrong direction.

Cy Kellett:
A great deal of our knowledge about angels, so we have the God’s revelation in scripture and tradition. But even those who live outside of that revelation or draw their insights from outside that revelation know about angels. Angels are pretty commonly known by human beings.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yes, of course. And this is one of the caveats. One of the little warnings that we have in our own Christian understanding is that it did not please God to reveal in detail the personalities, identities, and functions of the angels or of the demons for that matter who are thought just bad angels that’s all. Consequently he did that so that we would focus our attention on the great mystery of faith, which is that God himself took our human nature to save us the incarnation, our Lord’s life, and preaching his death and resurrection and heavenly glory, his church and his coming again. All of those things, that’s the content of our face, what we find in the creed.

And there’s much more to be known and that’ll be our delight in heaven to see and to know all these blessing spirits that we heard about but did not know up close and personally, but we will in the life to come. But in pagan religions so often the natural human fascination with the whole angelic aspect of things leads to a lot of a lot of interest in this question because it’s natural for us to seek happiness and the things that are closer to us and then God’s creation closer to us than God are angels or spirits that might govern crops or weather or things like that. Bless it-

Cy Kellett:
And so we start to try to interact with them instead of trying to interact with the creator of both of us.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Right. And so sometimes what happens is they interact with a fallen angel who has the knowledge to provide benefits and behave like a good spirit and help his devotees. Some of the fallen angels are just simply vain and they like being worshiped. And so they do favors human beings and so they end up being worshiped by them even though they’re not the true God. And that’s a reality that is the pagan beliefs that exist, they’re not always just fiction. Sometimes they are worship of real beings, but they’re not the Supreme God, they’re actually a fallen spirit.

And then they’re persons who practice those false religions with a completely innocent heart and intend to worship the true God even though they’ve been misled about his identity or behavior. So when we say that they might be worshiping demons, we’re not saying that they’re like Satanists or evil people. We’re just saying, they’re like people we know that are being taken advantage of by someone who has knowledge and power but is not really all that good, if you get my drift.

Cy Kellett:
Right. I do.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
There’re lots of people like that in the world.

Cy Kellett:
It seems like the angels are not doing the things they used to do though because in the gospel there’s the man who’s been paralyzed for decades who can’t get himself into the pool when the angel moves each day. But every time that the angel moves, one person does get healed. And this is in the gospel.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Right, right.

Cy Kellett:
I’m not talking about something that’s in a story book. This is the gospel. So there’s an angel that stayed or maybe visited each day this pool and healed one person.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Where the water’s removed.

Cy Kellett:
When the water’s removed. So why did the angel do that then and they don’t do that now? Why is there nowhere I can go where an angel does that?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, I mean there are shrines where people experience physical cures. I mean, what about lords? They have so many that they can’t even examine them all and they pick the ones that are the toughest cases in order to give them a formal recognition as credible miracles. But every single blessed or saint that’s beatified or canonized in the Catholic church has to be beatified or canonized after the recognition of what is judged to be a humanly inexplicable, miraculous cure or some other event. And there are a lot of those and they’re going on day by day. Now, I can’t point to anything where every single day this happens. And that’s such a fantastic story that certain modern scripture scholars have removed it from the gospel text.

Cy Kellett:
That’s not a good move.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
No, it’s not very nice. It’s not very nice. I hope the angels are kind to them when they need their help.

Cy Kellett:
But there’s also the author of the texts to be considered as well.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yes, God himself, but they claimed that that was an addition to a manuscript that was not in the original. You know they do it, this kind of thing.

Cy Kellett:
I see.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
So they find like fun parts that are very, very beautiful and moving and they decide to take them out. That’s life.

Cy Kellett:
Right. Well, so did Jesus have a guardian angel?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yes. Well, I mean, he had very many angels that ministered to him. Remember he says very clearly that he could have legions of angels at a moment’s notice.

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
He tells the devil that when he’s being tempted. But the finality would be different in the sense that our guardian angel is principally there to guide us on the way to salvation. All right. To protect us on the way to eternal salvation.

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
And so our Lord, of course, his salvation, he possesses it by his first human act, which was in his mother’s womb, he immediately merited for us eternal life and so on. So he didn’t need an angel to protect him from falls into sin. But we see how close he is to us and that he did need an angel. For example, God sent an angel to console him in the agony in the garden, to assist him in the midst of sufferings, which was so horribly dire that even the son of God made man needed the assistance of an angel, that’s a very great mystery.

The angel who he created will consult him, but consult him with what? With knowledge that he got from God, that is from Christ as Christ is the source of everything the angels have. Everything about the angels revolves around Christ. And that’s the great beauty of the incarnation is that they find their purpose for existing. And the great mystery of the incarnation by which they were thunderstruck because it was already so magnificent, the blessed Trinity and everything else.

But then to have that mystery as their fulfillment, the service of the incarnate son of God, and of his blessed mother, that was just too good to be true. But there they are at his service continually. But he certainly enjoyed the constant presence of angels who were personally deputed for his service as is the case with our lady and the case with each one of us. And each of us from our birth has a guardian angel. According to Saint Thomas when you’re in your mother’s womb, you come under her angel and when you’re born, the day of your birth is when you get a guardian angel. So that’s a good reason for celebrating a birthday. People should congratulate their guardian angel and thank their guardian angel on their birthday because that’s the day that he was sent to you, right?

Cy Kellett:
And you mentioned Thomas, he’s called the angelic doctor. Why does he know so much about angels?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, he’s called angelic doctor because of the loftiness and the insight and the precision and the perfect order of his thought, but also because of his famously great and protected chastity where the angels actually assisted him for many falls against chastity. And of course, therefore his intellect was not muddied or complicated by that particular passion, which it often does. When you look at the world today, most of the errors in theology and in morality and in people’s practical judgment can be traced back to lust. I mean, there’s no doubt about it.

Cy Kellett:
Really interesting, right?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Ruining society, no fault divorce, abortion, contraception, unnatural marriage, all these things that under undermine the whole notion of what constitutes a human right. And therefore the whole of society goes back to this disturbing aspect of our nature, which is that we can go astray very badly through the vice of lust. And so the angels assist very mightily in maintaining us in our chastity. And they did so in St. Thomas’ case in a very deliberate way where he was protected from a temptation and the angels guarded him as the story goes with the sanctuary to protect his chastity from any falls, which is a fairly rare thing.

Unfortunately for us so fallen creatures, there are very few people who get through life without some problem in that department. So we need to be asking our angels for help and continued to repenting so that we don’t fall into the foolishness from which they’re trying to protect us.

Cy Kellett:
Sometimes when you try to think of the world from an angel’s perspective, and of course you can’t really do that, but it seems like we humans might be very gross or seem kind of gross. We’re really monkeys in a way. I mean, we’re…

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, that’s the way the demons like to look at us.

Cy Kellett:
Okay, tell me about that.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
But because the demons of course envy and despise us because we’re lower than they are in nature and yet we stand a good chance of being higher than they are in the kingdom of heaven occupying the places that they lost in the fall. And so they like to emphasize that disgusting aspect of our nature. Not because it matters to them, but because they like to discourage us.

Cy Kellett:
I see.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Because they want to deflect us from our goal. So say someone falls a lot in their impurity and nowadays it’s a problem. People are at home, they’ve got nothing to do so they start watching stuff on the internet and whatnot. They don’t have things to distract them and then they feel really, really bad about themselves. The demons loved that because they want us to be discouraged and give up on our spiritual life, but they don’t really care what we do with our bodies. Our Lord cares about that. And our guardian angel cares about that, but not the demons. They just want us to give up. But the angels view us, not as monkeys but they view us through the insight that they have from the savior. They view us through the knowledge and the thoughts of his sacred heart, of his blessed mother.

Cy Kellett:
So they see…

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
They’re not disgusted at all, no.

Cy Kellett:
No.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Now they sometimes have to punish us by not helping us in a certain way or allowing certain evils to happen in our life so that we can learn a lesson that is they’re not just protecting us from evils. As I say, sometimes the angels might cause accidents. They don’t just protect us from them, sometimes they cause them. And that’s a fact because they’re made in God’s image and likeness also and they govern us under his rule.

Cy Kellett:
Sometimes we might need a SWAT to get back on the right path.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Absolutely.

Cy Kellett:
And our people sometimes [crosstalk 00:33:51].

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
If we have time, I can tell you a story about when my guardian angels punished me.

Cy Kellett:
Please do.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, and this really happened but you have to pray for me and not judge me too harshly when I give you the whole story. So I was traveling with my father and I was already a priest and my father was an Episcopal priest by the way. But anyway, we were traveling together and we went to Greece and we went to Mount Athos to the great monastic republic there. We visit all sorts of beautiful places. And in Thessaloniki we were in the hotel there, we were staying in the Northern part of Greece.

And I have my mascot where I celebrate mass every day on vacation. So I’d still have a mascot where I can celebrate mass just in the hotel room. So that all set up and I celebrated holy mass. And then I finished and I put everything away and dad was raring to go out and see some things and whatnot. And he started to tease me in a way only he could that always annoyed me as a kid. And you know how we revert to being like a kid with our parents. And so I said something to him that was extremely disrespectful and the words I used were not very nice, let’s put it that way, right?

And there I was in a clerical collar and I just celebrated mass. And it dawned on me, it hit me like really quickly, he looked at me with this sort of saddened expression and then I felt kind of terrible, but the thought came to me and it’d never come to me before in my life. I’d never had this thought before and it came like lightning. I won’t say I heard the words, but I might as well have heard them because the words were, “Your angel is going to punish you for this.” And I thought, “Well, if my angel’s going to punish me, there’s no way to escape.”

Cy Kellett:
You are enough of a theologian to know that.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
I knew that, no way to escape. And so I was meditating on this as we’re going along, we were walking to visit this one church that is now below street level because it’s so ancient but it has an icon of our lady, which was one of the ones by tradition was painted by Saint Luke. So we’re going to go in there. And so we’re walking, it’s a perfectly clear day, absolutely clear day, no clouds, no rain, nothing. Nothing was wet, nothing at all. And we’re walking on this plaza-like area before we get to the steps of the church. And we had to go down the steps to get in the church because of course it was now below street level.

So we’re walking along and I’m simply walking perfectly fine next to my dad. And all of a sudden I am thrown with just violent force, violent force to the ground. I mean, just like a big thug had come and just whacked me down. And I was just lying there thinking I must’ve broken my shoulder. And dad said, “What happened?” And I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “Well, it looked like somebody just pushed you over with all their might.” And I said, “Yeah, it did.”

And I was thinking of the fact that I had this thought that my angel said, “I’m going to punish you for this.” Your angel will punish you, is actually what came to me after this. And so I got up and I was holding it with my left arm and I was holding my arm and then the shoulder would just hurt horribly. And so we’re going into the church and we’re looking around and whatnot. And then I wanted to continue the tour although it was really painful, but I just wanted to make sure we saw everything that we could see with dad. And so we went to lunch. You’re never in so much pain that you can’t eat lunch. Although I used-

Cy Kellett:
Never have been yet.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
I used my right hand for everything. And then we’ve got back to the hotel, dad always liked to take a nap after a morning of seeing things and having lunch. So he went down for his nap as he used to say, using the language we use for children, but he said, “I’m going down for my nap.” And so he went down for his nap. So without telling him, I had gotten information from the hotel desk and also left a message there for him if he should be looking for me. This is before all the cell phones and everything and got a taxi to the nearest hospital to have an X-ray done. I was in so much pain and I thought for sure something’s been broken, for sure because I could not move practically on that side.

And so I got there to the emergency room just in Greece and they’d take me in a very nice physician, saw I was a priest and whatnot, and they X-rayed me and then I waited and then the doctor came out and said, “There is no injury at all. It’s very strange because you were already beginning to form…” It looked like on the surface that already I’d been beaten up pretty badly. And yet there was no indication of… He said, not even any trauma, no stress, nothing, nothing, just a regular X-ray. And I said, “Well, that’s not what it feels like.”

And I said, “And I’m going to have a big bruise and everything.” He says, “Yes, I think maybe you will.” And he had an Orthodox baptismal cross around his neck and it was the Orthodox where these little crosses are given when they’re baptized and they wear them their whole life very often, Greeks and Russians and so on. And so I said, “Well, let me tell you something.” I said, “I was very rude to my father and I think that my guardian angel knocked me over.” And he smiled. He’s a Greek Orthodox doctor. He said, “It can be. For sure it can be. That is the diagnosis.”

Cy Kellett:
So you have a medical diagnosis of having being knocked over by your guardian angel.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yes, by my guardian angel. And so when I went to check out, I tried to pay and he said, “No, no. You’re in the EU, in the European union.” And I said, “No, I’m not. I’m an American. I’m not in the EU. I don’t get free medical care here in Greece.” He says, “It doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. It’s free. It’s okay.” That’s how you know why the whole thing’s falling apart, is that they wouldn’t take anything for the service.

But anyway, I got back, he didn’t know anything about it and never did actually except that I did have the bruise and he never associated with that event, but I sure did. But I think that’s really what happened. So sometimes they teach us a lesson to be kind, and angels are very hierarchical and they really don’t like it when we disrespect those who love us and care for us. And then we should honor, I mean, after all, it’s the first commandment on the second tablet and the angels really do not like hostility and disrespect towards our elders.

Cy Kellett:
Well, let me just leave you with this question then. And thank you for that wonderful story.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
[inaudible 00:40:52].

Cy Kellett:
It changes your perspective on your angel as somebody who works for you. The angel doesn’t work for you, the angel works for the Lord to make sure you get home.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yeah, but they give you insights. It’s good to ask them to understand something better or get a little more light on something.

Cy Kellett:
Right. Now, let me ask you this. Well, that’s what Socrates felt. He felt he had an angel that corrected him when he was wrong about things.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yeah, he really did. And it seems as though he really did because as the angel, only his spirit in Greece called daemon, but it doesn’t mean demon, it just means a guardian spirit, would stop him from doing something that he shouldn’t do, but never told him what to do. It was very limited, but he did have-

Cy Kellett:
It sounds very angelic.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Yes, it does.

Cy Kellett:
Let me ask you this. So if my angel succeeds, and by the grace of God, I make it home to heaven.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, the angels always succeed. Okay? So if you didn’t succeed and make it to heaven-

Cy Kellett:
You put me in my place. But what I want to know is , we’re all in heaven, will the angels bother to talk with us.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Of course.

Cy Kellett:
So it’s not like, you go over there to the people area, go to that area.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Well, no, I mean that angel had the care of you as an office from all eternity and knows you with an intimacy that is greater than your own, let’s just say. I mean, they can’t exactly read our minds the way God knows everything in our mind. But the angels have very intimate knowledge of us. They’re not clouded by passion or self deception.

Cy Kellett:
And they’ll still want to hang out with us.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Absolutely. Of course, they will.

Cy Kellett:
That’s good to know. That’s good to know. Makes you feel like-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
They love us.

Cy Kellett:
They’re family. I guess that’s the [crosstalk 00:42:42].

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Their love is extremely intense. Very intense. All right.

Cy Kellett:
We should return it then. We should have a feast for them. We should have a feast for holy angels.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
There is a feast, October 2nd.

Cy Kellett:
When is that?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
October 2nd for the guardian angels, December 29th for Saint Michael and in the traditional calendar October 24th for Raphael and March 24th for Gabriel. But in the new calendar, the 29th of September is for all three, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. So you got that.

Cy Kellett:
And if you would like to know everything there is to know about angels, then persevering the faith and you can ask them yourself when you get there.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
And read what’s in the catechism too. The Catholic church has a very nice a section on the angels and shows especially their connection to Christ, which is very important.

Cy Kellett:
Well, Fr. Hugh Barbour, happy Easter to you. Thank you so much.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Happy Easter to you, happy Monday of the angel.

Cy Kellett:
Say it again in Italian.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Lunedì dell’Angelo.

Cy Kellett:
That’s what I was going to say. Thanks for everybody who listens here to Catholic Answers Focus. We are always happy that you come. And share with other people, maybe wherever you get your podcasts give us the five stars and maybe a comment to encourage other people to join us here on Catholic Answers Focus. And we’ll see you next time, God willing right here.

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