What’s In a (Guardian Angel) Name?

ANgelsDear Susan,

I never really understood guardian angels. To be honest, the whole angel concept is the hardest idea for me to get behind in our faith. The realm of supernatural creatures is more Buffy the Vampire Slayer than organized religion. It was no help when my son and I were studying them last year. Some of them look pretty freaky. For example, in Isaiah 6:1-8, the Seraphim are described as fiery six-winged beings, with two wings that cover their faces, another two that cover their feet, and the last two used to fly. According to the Church, there are 9 choirs of angels: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels.
From ChurchPop:

Perhaps unfairly, angels have gotten caught up in the Oprah backlash. By way of explanation, who hasn’t finished a book they loved only to realize after that it had the O Book Club sticker on it? It’s like: “Oh (no pun intended) everyone already knows about this.” Oprah is big on guardian angels. She even says she has a team (no surprise.) Watch the video link- even Reese Witherspoon has an angel team. The team must be for A-listers. I remember hearing Oprah speak about her belief that “there are angels everywhere.”  She often describes people acting as angels, which I think is a different thing. I think that when people act as angels, God is acting through them. They are not transformed into non-human beings. When I am talking about angels, I am talking about the real deal, full-on supernatural, in the sky, we can’t see them, one-and-only guardian angel. Do you know yours?

According to Catholic Online, a guardian angel is:

A heavenly spirit assigned by God to watch over each of us during our lives. The doctrine of angels is part of the Church’s tradition. The role of the guardian angel is both to guide us to good thoughts, works and words, and to preserve us from evil.

There are times when I have felt the presence of something, like an emotional support presence.  The first time I can recall was when I was about 10 and my father was having his first severe diabetic reaction in the middle of the night. No one knew what was happening and it was pretty scary. During the incident, I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder and instantly, I felt safe and calm. I was definitely not alone.

The last couple of years, I wanted to improve my relationship with my guardian angel. Before I realized it was a practice discouraged by the Church, I heard that some people named their guardian angel, so I naively started months of prayer and reflection to know my guardian angel better. The name came to me with complete certainty one morning: Fred.  Seriously? I was reminded of the line from “It’s a Wonderful Life” where George says to Clarence: “Well, you look about the kind of angel I’d get.”  What could this mean? A while later I was reading a book about Fred Rogers and I thought that maybe MY guardian angel was the supernatural angel version of Mr. Rogers!

Growing up my mom used to put me in front of Mr. Rogers when I was upset or sad about something and she said it always calmed me down. I know my three-year-old self was wiser than I am now. I peaked at three.  The feeling I had listening to Mr. Rogers was similar to the feeling of protected-ness and safety I had felt all those years ago during my dad’s reaction.  That was an idea I could get my head around with concrete understanding. Of course, the minute I thought I had gained valuable insight, I learned there was a problem with it.

The Church says NOT to name your guardian angel,  for a variety of reasons: naming implies we have authority over them, naming the angel actually opens us up to demonic suggestion, the actual name of the angel is “a mysterious and holy name.“ According to The Catholic Company: “it is not our rightful place to know more about our angels than God has revealed to us. It is for our own good…Seek the guidance of your guardian angel … but don’t try to know his mighty name!”  However, some sources see the naming issue in a more benign way:

…if you choose wisely and with much reverence, realizing what a higher creature he is and use his name with great respect that is it OK. I understand God has already named all angels so any name we give is simply a nick-name to be used in this life… . I never think of my angel is a pet or a servant, but rather as an angel who is beside me always… The fruit of my giving him a nick-name is I feel closer to him, more aware of his constant presence.

That makes sense to me. Much of the answer lies in intent and understanding. To me, it is natural for humans to seek to name something with which they have a relationship. If I am going to pray to something, we want to know and name, in the way I can name God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I was not comfortable calling my angel the spiritual equivalent of “Hey, You!” In naming my angel, I was not trying to seek control, open myself up to demonic possession, or know Fred’s actual angelic name, which I probably couldn’t pronounce anyway. It is good to know the possible dangers, though. At least it gave me an opportunity to reflect on all my guardian angel has done for me. And so, thanks, Fred, or whoever you are. I’ll be in touch soon!

What are your thoughts on guardian angels?



7 thoughts on “What’s In a (Guardian Angel) Name?

  1. Apparently, when I was very young, I used to go into my parents bedroom in the middle of the night and tell them about my Guardian Angel visiting me, Gretchen, if I remember correctly. (My bad, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to address her by name). I informed my mom one night that Gretchen wanted me to go with her. Kind of spooky when I think of it now. She asked me what I wanted to do. I told her I didn’t want to go. Hence, no more Gretchen visits after that. I pray she is still hanging around, … seriously, I know she has bailed me out more than a few times. So thanks, …. Guardian Angel!


  2. Our youngest, Morgan, was sworn since the age of 3 that Abraham Lincoln is her guardian angel. Nobody knows why. Never mind the fact that people can’t become angels. She had no idea who AL was, but she drew a picture of him and to this day (almost


  3. Our youngest, Morgan, has sworn since the age of 3 that Abraham Lincoln is her guardian angel. Nobody knows why. Never mind the fact that people can’t become angels. She had no idea, at the time, who AL was, but she drew a picture of him, and to this day (almost 15 years later), she still says that the angel she dreamt about was indeed the President himself. Go figure.


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