Reflection for the Feast of the Guardian Angels, 2 October 2019 at Evening Prayer
The Catholic Chaplaincy in Queens University Belfast
“She was my angel in Kerdiffstown during my novitiate” – my older Dominican Sisters often describe another sister with this phrase.
Usually a so-called angel was a second year novice or recently professed sister, and she was aptly named.
Her role was a little like that of a guardian angel – taking a newly entered postulant under her wings, helping her to settle, guiding and caring for the one placed in her charge.
You might wonder why this was the practice in our Congregation.
In many ways, entering the convent was – and still is – like entering a parallel universe.
Things are familiar yet somehow strange; done in a particular way and at particular times; one can sense unwritten codes of behaviour that can be difficult to decipher. Some things make little sense, yet everyone seems to understand them and to know what to do. When you are new to it all, it can be quite overwhelming … one can feel very lost very quickly.
Hence, the practice of appointing an angel to each new sister made eminent sense – helping them to find their way in this new world was both necessary and wise.
I expect most, if not all of you, can identify with how these sisters felt.
Although you haven’t become religious sisters or brothers – at least not yet – you have experienced being ‘new’ with all that that entails.
Like entering the convent, beginning university brings challenges, some welcome, some less so.
As new students, there is a period of adjusting and adapting to what is unfamiliar and of growing into a new way of being you.
Many of you are living away from home for the first time – with people who are not family, maybe even with strangers. You have more freedom but also more responsibility.
That’s exciting and a little terrifying.
Suddenly, you’re the adult whether you’re ready for it or not.
And more often than not, you cope – we all do!
Adulting is hard, but we get there. We negotiate life and we find our way.
But the path is not always straight or smooth.
Perhaps there have been times when you felt more in need of a guardian angel. Perhaps, you could do with that support now.
To recognise that we are not in control of everything and don’t need to be is helpful.
We don’t have to do it all alone.
We can rely on God and on the goodness of other people.
Today we celebrate our Guardian Angels – expressions of God’s enduring love and care for each one of us. Again and again, Scripture relates this.
In Exodus, we read: “The Lord says this: ‘I myself will send an angel before you to guard you.’”
Our guardian angels are a reminder that none of us are insignificant or unimportant or go unnoticed. In fact, for God, it’s the exact opposite – we each matter to God for who we are – God sees and loves each one of us as if we were the only one.
As we commemorate the gift of our guardian angels, I offer three suggestions:
Firstly – remember that angels like to be asked.
If you don’t already do so, why not pray to your guardian angel as an ongoing reminder of God’s love for you. Call on their help and ask their guidance and protection.
You might pray as you leave the house, when you begin your commute, before you take up a new task. Perhaps, it could form bookends for your day by making it your first and last prayer of each day.
Perhaps you are struggling right now and could do with care and support. If you are, don’t be afraid to ask.
Pray to your guardian angel and be open. Sometimes the answer to your prayer will come in a human guise. As Hebrews reminds us, there are angels all around us – we just need eyes to recognise them.
Secondly – remember that you can pray for others.
You might consider praying to other people’s guardian angels, invoking their guardian angel to be with them.
If you see someone else is having a hard time, don’t wait for them to ask. Pray for them and be an answer to their prayer.
In particular, try to do this for people you struggle with or find difficult … they are already in God’s loving care but actively praying that for them can be the beginning of change in you.
Finally – remember that others pray for you.
Here in the chaplaincy, we hold all who walk through the doors, both students and staff, continually in our prayers. Our hope is that we can be present to you and with you, assisting you in building your relationship with God and with others.
We might end by praying to our guardian angels together:
O Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here; ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Sr Eileen O’Connell OP.