Who are the angels and how should we talk to our children about them?
It’s an important subject for Catholics to consider. After all, the existence of angels is an absolute doctrine of our Faith. The Islamic religion believes in angels too, and so does Judaism. Even many of today’s pagan new-agers espouse a belief in angels—though not, of course, in the same way as orthodox Catholics.
What Does The Catholic Church Teach About Angels?
In order to help our kids understand the truth about these mysterious creatures, it’s first necessary to understand what the truth is, ourselves. The Church teaches that angels (from the Greek word meaning, “messengers”) are pure spiritual beings of great power who have an intellect and free will. The Bible seems to indicate that there are zillions of them, using words like “legions,” “armies,” and “multitudes,” to describe them.
Angels were created by God to help Him carry out His will. They do this by influencing and guiding our thoughts, inspiring us with creative ideas and inspirations, and even, sometimes, saving us from physical danger. Like human beings, angels underwent a period of testing by God. Some stayed loyal to Him—like the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael—and some rebelled under the leadership of that most infamous of demons—Satan.
According to Catholic teaching, every single angel is a unique and “personal” creature. Like us, they have their own names. At various times in history angels have appeared in physical form, but in their essence, they are pure spirits.
To be a pure spirit is something we find hard to understand. It means that angels don’t have physical bodies, which in turn means they don’t eat, drink, run, walk, or die. It does not mean, however, that angels can’t see, hear, know things or “be” in different places. God simply allows them to perform these functions without the aid of bodily senses. In fact, angels are able to know what’s going on a lot more efficiently than human beings because they don’t have bodies to slow them down. They don’t have to filter everything through optic nerves, neurotransmitters, spinal cords and brain cells.
The Bible is filled with stories about angels: an angel was responsible for closing up the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were banished; an angel stopped Abraham from slaying his son, Isaac; an angel announced the conception of John the Baptist, and then the conception and birth of Our Lord; an angel told Joseph to take the Holy Family and flee from Herod into Egypt; an angel served Jesus after He was tempted in the desert; an angel also consoled Him during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the Book of Revelation, we read that angels will one day be charged with destroying the world.
These are the “basics” of angelology. And in many ways, it’s easy to communicate them to children. After all, the story of angels is very entertaining! It’s got everything—drama, heroism, rebellion, and the of battle of good vs. evil. It’s so much compelling than any of the cartoons that kids watch on TV or the video games they play on their tablets. And it’s got the added benefit, of course, of being a true story. Angels are real. They’re not make-believe, they’re not fiction, they’re not fairy tales.
But how, you might ask, do we help children believe in something they can’t see?
I think the best way is to give them examples of other things in life that are invisible but real. For example, there is the breath that comes out of their mouths, the wind they feel on breezy days, the smell that comes from the kitchen when dinner is on the stove, the germs that sometimes get them sick, the gravity that forces them down to the ground whenever they jump in the air, the thoughts that are going through their mind, the emotions they’re feeling in their hearts, the love they have for their family and friends.
Children won’t have a problem accepting the existence of angels once they understand that some of the most important things in life can’t be seen with the eye.
Another reason children will readily believe in angels is because they want to. Think about it. Children are afraid of so many things. It’s only natural because they’re very small and the world is so very big. Many children are afraid of the dark, or afraid of going in the water, or afraid of bugs, or afraid of heights, or afraid being alone. Not only that, but children are often confused about how to act in different situations. They haven’t yet figured out so many things that adults take for granted. In these confusing and scary situations, children are sure to be thrilled to learn that angels are standing by, ready to inspire them with courage and guide them to the right path.
- Children constantly have to choose between right or wrong, between sharing and being selfish, between obeying their parents and throwing temper tantrums. St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of battling evil, can help them.
- Children are always getting sick, and are often afraid of going to the doctor or the dentist. St. Raphael the Archangel, the patron saint of healing and the medical profession, can help them.
- Children are frequently shy and afraid to speak up in school and even interact socially with their peers. St. Gabriel the Archangel, the patron saint of communications, can help them.
- Children sometimes experience loneliness and even feelings of abandonment. Their guardian angels—who will be at their side till the day they die—can help them. In fact, the very idea that God has given each child his or her own special angel to help guard and guide them throughout life, is extremely consoling to children.
2 Problems Children Might Have Learning About Angels
Believe me, there’s no need to worry about kids being interested in this subject. They will be. To my mind, there are only two potential problems when it comes to children learning about angels.
The first is that we must be careful not to mislead children about the power of angels. Angels do indeed have incredible power— but they don’t have the power to override free will. When God made human beings, He did not create a race of computers or robots. All of us have the ability to commit sins and even perpetrate great evils. When we do that, other people usually suffer. Look at all the terrible tragedies in life. Look at the pandemics and military invasions and school shootings and acts of terrorism and violent crimes like murder and rape and child abuse. Angels don’t always prevent these horrors. Yes, they sometimes rescue us from physical harm— but not all the time.
Angels are here primarily to assist us to get through the suffering we experience in life and make it safely to Heaven after we die. They’re powerful helpers. That’s the point we need to drive home to kids. If we simply say that angels are here to protect us, then children are naturally going to ask why their guardian angel didn’t prevent them from getting their knees bruised! Kids aren’t blind and they’re not stupid. We don’t want them to stop believing in angels because they have a false idea of what angels do. We want to tell them the truth.
A second potential problem for children (and adults) is that they might get too fixated on angels. They might forget that no matter how great the angels are, they’re still creatures like us. The difficulty lies in fact that angels are such wondrous creatures that it’s easy for us to be overly awed by them. Without even realizing it, we can sometimes slip into an idolatrous frame of mind. And yet, to even think of worshiping the angels is diametrically opposed to everything God has in mind for us.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that we must strive to give children the proper perspective. God must always be the focus and center of any catechesis on the angels. Moreover, children should be taught that the Bible and the Church are the only authentic guides we have to learning about the angels. It’s a perilously short step from having a spiritually beneficial relationship with the angels, to being superstitious, idol-worshipping pagans.
Do you know the most compelling reason for treating angels more like fellow-creatures than God-like, superior beings? It’s that in Heaven right now, tens of millions of them are worshiping Our Lord, Jesus Christ. And the incredible thing is that Our Lord, Jesus Christ is not an angel. He is not pure spirit. Christ—who as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is God, Himself—wears the form of a man.
The dignity that we possess as human beings can never be attained by the angels. As I said in my first book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, when God the Son emptied Himself and became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ, He forever altered the dynamics of the relationship between angels and men. Angels may indeed be our more powerful and more glorious “older brothers” now, but we are the heirs to the kingly throne.
Learn More In How the Angels Got Their Wings
How the Angels Got Their Wings is a winsome introduction to the story of the angels — pure spiritual beings of extraordinary power made by God to assist Him in carrying out His will. Beginning with the creation of the angels and the “war in Heaven” between the good angels and the bad, this book introduces children to the famous archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael — as well as to Satan, the ringleader of the fallen angels, who chose to rebel against God.
This book also acquaints children with those special angels who are here with us right now, helping to protect and guide us — our guardian angels. It shows children how angels can assist them with all the problems they encounter in life, from communicating with others to choosing between right and wrong, and can protect them from physical harm.
How the Angels Got Their Wings is a beautifully illustrated, highly entertaining, biblically correct, and theologically orthodox introduction to angels. Once children read it, they will be forever comforted in knowing that God’s love for them is so strong that He gave them not only His Son, but the angels above so they will never, ever be alone in life.
About Our Guest Author: Anthony DeStefano is the bestselling author of over twenty-five Christian books for adults and children. His books have been published in eighteen different countries and twelve different languages and have been endorsed by The National Day of Prayer committee as well as many prominent religious leaders and mainstream celebrities. He has appeared on the 700 Club, Fox and Friends, CNN, Huckabee, and hundreds of other national and local media shows. He has also been the host of two television series on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), as well as a frequent guest on that network. A Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Anthony is an avid pilot and lives in New Jersey with his wife, Jordan.