October 30, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Sunny 21°C


By Lucy Brignall
Published: 2014-10-30

Why not a guardian angel?

t some point in our lives we've all probably wished for a guardian angel. Maybe we've even felt a presence. For those who have, Pope Francis has some good news. "The doctrine of Angels," he said during a Vatican Mass, "is not fantasist." For the pope, the Catholic Church tradition holds that we all have an angel "who protects us and helps us to understand things."

Would it be too flippant to greet this news with, "Well, thank God for that!"


But the existence of angels isn't just a papal affirmation. All faiths and cultures suggest some form of angelic presence on earth. Since the beginning of consciousness, humans have made allusions to a supportive force, a holy protector, or an otherworldly helping hand. Islam says two helping hands, or scribes, called Kiraman Katibin, walk beside each living person, with guardian angels standing in front and behind.

Scout out angelic acts and sightings online and you can soon find yourself plunged into folklore. For that matter, you can also learn how to contact your guardian angel (Wikihow lays it out in 10 easy steps, with pictures).

I'm not Catholic, but I did spend some time in Catholic schools. And while my very Protestant parents loudly and routinely denounced the Catholic concepts, something rubbed off on me. I liked the idea of having an angel.

For a while I wanted to become a nun (which I admit had more to do with seeing "The Sound of Music" than religious devotion). But I eventually chose pragmatism ahead of religion. Ironically, it's that very pragmatism that convinces me there's a case for everyone having an angel. And I don't mean a winged-messenger-from-God (played by Morgan Freeman) or a saving flash-of-lightning. I'm talking about something inside you that urges you to cross over to the sunny side of the street. It might be similar to Freud's idea of a superego, but minus a German accent.

I accept that all this may all be nothing more than wishful thinking on my part. Still, the positive can be imagined in all sorts of forms. Consider artists who say God (or by something larger than themselves) guided their hands, or writers who talk about a muse. Haven't we all had a "eureka" moment, a glimpse of clarity in the midst of an emotional quagmire, an instant of pure happiness seemingly come out of nowhere? Haven't we also been privy to an act of kindness that transformed a day, or even had something happen that seemed like the odd miracle? Once, on the brink of a cliff, an unnamable force made me take a step backwards. It was dark. Another step and I would have been over the edge. I've felt blessed ever since. If we choose to give it a name, what's wrong with guardian angel?

Nothing. The pope is right. And you don't need Wikihow.

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