The work of angels

Question: As a lifelong Catholic, I have always believed in angels. But what exactly is the role of the angels, and what is their ministry in the Church? 

—M.M., Salt Lake City, Utah

Answer: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (which I draw upon here) sets out in six very expressive paragraphs the ministry and work of the angels (see Nos. 331-336). The angels, we read, have been present and active in creation and in salvation history from the beginning. They closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the Law; and assisted the prophets. The angel Gabriel announced the birth of John the Baptist and that of Jesus himself.

From the Incarnation through the Ascension, the life of the Word of God was surrounded by the angels. When God brought his firstborn into the world, he said, “Let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb 1:6). The song of the angels at Jesus’ birth has not ceased resounding in the praise of the Church: “Glory to God in the highest!” (Lk 2:14). The angels protected Jesus in his childhood; served him in the desert; strengthened him in the Garden of Gethsemane. They “evangelized” by proclaiming the good news of the Resurrection; they will be present at Christ’s second coming.

In the meantime, the entire life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of the angels. In the liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God, especially in the “Holy, Holy.” The Church invokes the assistance of the angels in the funeral liturgy (“May the angels lead you into paradise…”). During the liturgical year, the Church celebrates the angels and archangels (Sts. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael), as well as the guardian angels.

From its beginning until its end, human life is surrounded by the watchful care of the angels and, while they do not save us from all life’s dangers, they accompany us to the throne of God. Already here on earth the Christian life shares in the blessed company of angels and humankind united in God. 

The angels signify to us the glory of creation beyond all our imagining. Is the universe inhabited by creatures other than the human beings? If we can deduce anything from the existence of angels, it most likely is. The existence of the angels declares to us that the cosmos is infinitely more splendid and diverse than we can ever imagine. The marvelous cosmos will be revealed to us at the end of time, when, in the language of the great Fathers of the Church, human beings and angels will dance the eternal, round dance of the Holy Trinity, when all will be nothing but praise and glory. 

Cost of liturgies 

Question: I am planning my funeral and was told by another parishioner that the parish charges a fee for the funeral. Why should there be a charge for a Church ceremony? 

— Name and address withheld

Answer: No fees are pro-perly charged by parishes for any of its ceremonies. Parishes often have a fee for the musicians who lead the music at a funeral but there is no fee for the rites themselves. 

The one ceremony that often involves fees — though not for the rite itself — is marriage. Included here are fees for musicians, a wedding coordinator or the rental of a parish hall for a reception. 

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.