What Do Angels Do All Day?

Posted January 16, 2014

For some, the Bible’s definition of angels seems to be consoling, but for others, almost threatening. The citation I refer to is Hebrews 1:14: Angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.” By this definition, angels are designed to serve all humans who have not rejected God irrevocably as the be-all and end-all of their very existence.

A corollary of this dictum might be a surprising conclusion: Our guardian angels must be extremely concerned about our physical welfare—our safety, health or healing (Ps.34:7; 35:5 etc.), but they are far more concerned about their constitutive assignment—helping us to “inherit our salvation.”

Why would our guardian angels be more concerned about our salvation and spiritual welfare than our material welfare? Because, as Jesus reminds us (Matt. 18:10), our angels are always experiencing the fullness of that salvation—heaven itself—even as they go about their earthy work of protecting, guiding and inspiring us moment by moment during our earthly life. And regrettably, it is a rare human who is consistently aware of this prayerful, loving, zealous, supportive angelic companionship.

Concern for anyone’s spiritual welfare or destiny is called zeal, and zeal is the highest form of charity or love, says St. Alphonsus. This burning zeal for us humans on the part of our guardian angels is a love whose intensity cannot be conceived by any human mind this side of heaven itself.

Some theologians and exegetes, commenting on Hebrews 1:14, postulate that if guardian angels, or any angels, almost by definition, are spirits sent to minister to “all who are to inherit salvation,” then persons living habitually in the terrible state of mortal sin with no intention of repenting, would not have the privilege of the companionship, protection and guidance of a guardian angel. A person living habitually in the terrible state of mortal sin, is spiritually dead (1 John 5:16-17); “mortal” comes from “mors,” the Latin word for death.

That’s why guardian angels pray so fervently for their charges to become free of sin (justified) and then to grow in virtue (sanctified). The more they are sanctified, the richer is their heavenly reward of happiness; it is this prospect of “inherited salvation” which their guardian angels already experience and still eagerly look forward to sharing with their human protégés—eternally.

by Fr. John H. Hampsch, cmf