Question: Is it true a guardian angel is assigned to every person? If this is so, do our prayers go right to God or through our guardian angel?
— Bob Penders, Burlington, Vt.
Answer: It is taught by the Church that each believer has a guardian angel. The Catechism says: “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life” (No. 336). And this fact also flows from what Jesus says: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Mt 18:10).
Regarding the second part of your question, it reasonably and rightly can be argued that angels do serve as intermediaries in our communication with God. The word “angel” means “messenger,” and it is clear that God often mediated his message to us through angels.
Regarding our prayers going to God, it is not unreasonable to presume that angels serve in some way to mediate these messages. However, it does not follow that God does not know or hear us if we don’t tell our guardian angel something, or that the only way a message can reach God is through his angels. God is omniscient, knowing all things in himself.
Further, while Jesus does not forbid us to pray to our angels, when he teaches us to pray, he tells us to pray to our Father. Hence, though angels may help to serve as intermediaries for these prayers, we ought to have our attention on God. Consider, for example, that if we spoke to someone through a translator, we would not tell the translator to say something to the other person. Instead, we speak directly to the other person and simply allow the translator to do his or her work.
Hence, exactly how the angels serve as intermediaries in our prayers to God is somewhat speculative, but the point is to focus on God and pray to him a natural way. To whatever manner and degree God has our angels serve as intermediaries is really not important for us to know. What is important is that God hears us, that he knows our needs, and what we say, and that he loves us.
Belief in reincarnation?
Question: A fellow Catholic maintains that at some time in the past the Catholic Church believed in reincarnation. Is this true?
— Maria-Luisa Berry, via email
Answer: In regards to the matter of so-called reincarnation, the view is clearly excluded in Scripture and by Christian anthropology. Scripture says, “It is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). “Once” is pretty clear, there are no previous deaths or lives, nor shall we face death again. “Once” cannot mean many. Further, Christian anthropology, rooted in the Scriptures, excludes the notion of reincarnation. This is not the place to set forth a full anthropology, but it is here sufficient to state that the soul is the form of the body, and it does not pertain to the same soul to “form” different bodies. I am my body, it is not a mere appendage or container that can be shed or exchanged.
Finally, whenever someone claims the Catholic Church once taught something, a good follow-up request is: “show it to me in writing.” For many make unsubstantiated claims and the pressure should not be on you to demonstrate clearly the truth of their charge.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.