Q. I was having a friendly debate over whether or not the unbaptized have a guardian angel. Is there a teaching on this?
— N.W., Chicago, Illinois
A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. Charles Pope:
The traditional (but not unanimous) teaching from many Church Fathers (e.g., Clement, Tertullian, Eusebius, Origen) and also St. Thomas Aquinas is that every human person has a guardian angel assigned at birth. However, after baptism, the angel plays a new and richer role. Prior to baptism, and for all non-Christians, though an angel is assigned, they have little power over them other than to protect from the most savage attacks of demons, and to provide some influence. But at baptism, the angel is now able to tap into the power and grace of Jesus Christ. Origen adds, “If I belong to the Church, no matter how small I may be, my angel is free to look upon the face of the Father. If I am outside the Church, he does not dare” (Homily on Luke, No. 35). So baptism unlocks the greater powers of the angel to help. One can also see that a human person rescued from original sin and increasingly healed from its effects by grace is someone with whom a guardian angel can work more richly.