|The power of angels and saints|
|Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor|
|Friday, 01 June 2012 09:58|
"Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the plains," opens a popular Christian hymn.
In the Bible, angels are spirit beings, often used by God as messengers to deliver news to, or otherwise serve humanity.
Many children learn at an early age of a "guardian angel" who personally watches over them.
In the last days of my mother's life, she was given a small angel which, when her stomach was pressed, said, "I'm your guardian angel. I'm your special friend."
As her health failed, my mother's repeated playing of that angelic voice was a strong comfort to her. She cherished the physical angel and took comfort in the thought of being connected to an angel close to God.
After a time, hearing that repetitive recording was not as well received by the family. It is, however understandable how human nature draws us close to an intermediary with God's power, especially in times of crisis.
The concept of guardian angels is prevalent throughout recorded history, and people like the idea that God has chosen an angel to watch specifically over them, all the while offering prayers to God on that person's behalf.
Obviously, we have the power to offer our own prayers directly, yet, it is also nice to know one of the legion of angels may be interceding on our behalf.
People of faith ask for prayers regularly from friends and families. And through increasing use of social media and various prayer chains, prayers are often offered by total strangers. Conceivably better to also have angels praying for our needs.
Some people believe angels can embody former souls who now have received their wings and the role of angel in God's kingdom. Most mainstream religions do not ascribe to that theory and there is no biblical documentation for such a belief.
Such ideas are fine fodder for television shows and movies, and not based in theology.
Angels are invisible, powerful servants of God who reside in the spirit realm.
And we all know from the classic movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," whenever a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. Does anyone fully understand what that means?
As with so many things in our faith life, most faithful people do not fully understand the power God gives to the angels.
Contrast God's legion of angels with the saints.
Members of the Roman Catholic faith tradition are often criticized for "worshipping" Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as other saints.
Though some people may idolize these mortals, the church does not teach the elevation of the saints to the same level as the divine.
Language changes over the years and for many years, the term "worship" had more of a meaning of showing respect or honor to someone.
Thus, Catholics sometimes say, "We adore God but we honor his saints."
Many use the lives of the saints as role models for being better Christians and ask the saints for prayers, much as someone would ask a friend to pray for them. Official church teaching does not instruct people to pray "to" the saints.
Based on their lives, most saints are given the title of patron saint of this or that. A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven for a specific thing or cause.
Again referencing my late mother, she always had a favorite prayer when asking for the help of St. Anthony of Padua, a patron saint of things lost or stolen.
When something was misplaced, Mom would say, "Tony, Tony, look around, something's lost and can't be found."
It was a light-hearted way of asking God's help through one of the saints for a minor matter. She explained she didn't want to burden God with such a trivial concern.
More often than not, the item was found in short order and she would send a prayer of thanks to God.
We earthlings may never fully understand the role of angels and saints while we are alive, yet, as we sing in the American gospel hymn, "Oh Lord, I want to be there in that number, when the saints go marching in."
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