I know a devout woman from Ireland. Thousands of people think she’s a mystic. I just know her as a friend. A friend who sees angels. And not just sees them, she talks to them, too. Well, it might be more appropriate to say that they talk to her.
One day, my friend, let’s call her L, and I were sitting in a coffee shop on the corner of 55th and Broadway in New York City. She was drinking chamomile tea. Me? Coffee, black, strong, no sugar.
“So, L,” I said. “Are the angels with us now?”
“Oh, they are always with us,” she said in her delightfully elfish Irish accent.
“It must be cool to see angels,” I said.
“Oh, it’s glorious.”
“What do they look like?”
“Do you know who Fabio is?” she asks.
“You mean that buff guy who used to be on the cover of romance novels?”
I paused. My left eyebrow started to twitch. She smiled.
“Well,” she laughed, “they don’t look like him.”
“Whew. That’s a relief.”
“They look like, well, light. Luminous.”
I took a sip of coffee.
“So, is it true that everyone has a guardian angel?”
“Oh, it’s true.”
“Is my guardian angel with me now?”
“Your guardian angel is always with you,” she said.
“Does my guardian angel have a name?”
“He does.” L smiles and looks down into her cup and then takes a sip.
“Well, come on L, tell me what it is! Don’t leave me hanging.”
L almost spits out her tea. She laughs louder than I’ve ever heard her laugh. Normally, she’s quite shy.
“Do you really want to know?”
“Of course,” I said.
She laughed again.
“Come on, what is it?
“His name is…”
“Dumplings? Wait. Are you serious? Dumplings?”
L let out another big laugh.
“Dumplings!” she said. “He’s a little chubby.”
“So, like a cherub?”
“Oh no,” she said. “He’s not a cherub. He’s just a little…” L moves out her hands in front of her stomach to form a semi-circle and finishes her sentence with “big.”
“So my guardian angel is not named Rambo or Michael the Avenger or Conan the Barbarian. My guardian angel is named after Chinese raviolis”
“Dumplings,” she laughed back.
“Figures,” I said.
While I’m still a bit skeptical about the name of my guardian angel and whether or not he needs to lay off the carbs, L is right. We each have a guardian angel who is with us from the beginning of our lives to the end. They watch over us, care for us, and intercede on our behalf.
“Angel” comes from the Greek word “angelos,” which itself was derived from the Hebrew word “malakh,” which means “messenger.” So our guardian angel’s primary job is to send us something like spiritual text messages that lead us body and soul to God. They’re like mountain guides trained to help us navigate successful treks through our lives.
Most of us wouldn’t attempt to climb Mount Everest without tapping into the resources offered by trained guides, right? Well, day-to-day life can be just as rocky sometimes, so why not call on our invisible guides to help show us the way?
Tradition teaches us that along with God in his many forms, there is a unique race of beings born of the Divine at the moment of creation, and this race of beings is part of all that is seen and unseen. In addition to delivering messages, they also instruct and comfort us in times of need.
This can sometimes be hard to believe in our modern, fast-paced world because many of us might not feel the presence of the angels in our lives. They are, after all, pure spirit. Yet most of us are not conscious of the air we breathe that gives us life every day.
That doesn’t mean that air doesn’t exist. It just means we’re usually not paying attention to the realities that surround us in everything we do.
And L was right about another thing. Angels are all around us — behind us, in front of us, above, and below. You have your guardian angel and the person next to you has hers and the person to next her has his.
And in addition to the guardian angels, there are other beings in heaven and earth who make up the angelic hierarchy: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities and archangels. All of these angels have unique attributes and jobs in the universe.
If we could see the way the angels see, we would notice that our world is a very, very crowded place indeed.
Angels can also be our prayer partners. How do we engage our angelic protectors in this way? One devotion, which has great power but which many people see as almost too childlike to be taken seriously, is the traditional prayer to our guardian angel.
Since talking to L, who is a big fan of this prayer (“It’s lovely and simple,” she says.), I try to recite these words every day, for a few reasons. One, to acknowledge “Dumplings,” who is always by my side. Two, to bless the day. And three, to grow in a deeper relationship with my spiritual body and soul guard.
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,
Rule and guide.
Moreover, we can ask our guardian angels to pray with us. I know for myself that I often forget how comforting it is to pray with another person. I feel most comfortable praying by myself. But what can I say, I’m a bit of a loner and like L, I’m a little shy, too. Yet, we never have to be shy around our guardian angel.
Always looking for practical ways to develop our spirituality in the craziness of ordinary life, here is a short exercise you can do to engage your angel during your prayer time.
1. Find a quiet place (but if you’re good at tuning out noise you can do this anywhere).
2. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, ask Jesus to bless your prayer, and then imagine your guardian angel by your side. You’re going to have to use your imagination to do this, but in time you’ll begin to feel more at peace. I always take that as a sign that my buddy Dumplings is nearby.
3. When you’re ready, quietly say: “Guardian angel, pray with me. Lead me closer to God. Protect me and give me direction throughout the day.”
4. Then talk to your angel about your day — your worries, your dreams, your hopes. Ask for guidance. Ask for support. Ask for assistance in making a decision. And then recite the Lord’s Prayer with your angel. Really imagine that your angel is praying those words with you. Close with an Amen.
One final note: Remember these words of Jesus: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). It’s a simple equation: You plus your angel equals Jesus’ presence. Christ, hence, is always with you because your angel is always with you, too.
Me, Dumplings, and Jesus. I like that.
L would like that too.
Gary Jansen is a noted spiritual writer, director of Image Books, and an executive editor at Penguin Random House. Among his many books are “The 15-Minute Prayer Solution,” “The Infernos of Dante and Dan Brown: A Visitor’s Guide to Hell,” and “Station to Station.” As a lecturer, he has been featured on NPR, CNN, Huffington Post, and elsewhere.
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