December 06, 2007

Guardian Angels beat the heck out of Daemons!

It seems the big news of the day in the Catholic portions of the Blogosphere is Pullman's His Dark Materials series and the new movies based on it. Most of them agree that something ought to be done to fight it; even though the badguys don't really work like us, they have our name/appearance for all practical purposes (I'd never even heard the term Magisterium until I got a *really, really good Catholicism teacher*) and their "faker god" has our God's name, and that pretty much means any dissimilarity to us is even worse, not better. The trouble most have is, should we yell for boycotts and give it free publicity, and if not what can we do? Well, I'm going to discuss some thoughts I have on the matter briefly and then go into a full-blown hysterical chatter about somethin' awesome and vaguely related to one point in the whole thing.

First of all, I apologize that I can't remember who made these suggestions. The suggestions I've seen that are best are as follows. First of all, take the money you'd spend on the movie and put it towards something constructive: a good family dinner, and any leftover money to the poor. This is not only taking a potential negative and giving a positive instead, but also a teaching moment for your family. As to what to do in terms of getting other people to not check the junk out? Easy: spoil the crappy ending!

Now for my cool stuff.

In all the this-and-that over Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, one interesting thing I've noticed is that the daemons seem to have a certain appeal even to some who know they're nonsense. For those who don't know, the daemon is supposedly a manifestation of one's soul, or something like that, in animal form. Nonsense from a theological standpoint, of course, but apparently some people have commented on how neat it would be if we all had our own animal companion.

Frankly, while I do think that could be cool, I think 1) the daemons of HDM as far as I've heard about them are really not, and 2) we've got something that in comparison totally rocks anything Pullman could come up with.

Okay, so let's start with the first part. The trouble I have with Pullman's daemon thing is that it's supposedly part of or a manifestation of one's soul. Frankly, my soul is better than that. Animals are cool, but let's face it, they have their limitations. I believe the human spirit is far beyond anything any animal but man could ever dream of. This isn't even getting into the fact that one's daemon is supposed to be of the opposite sex, which is also nutty to me as a Christian. (What I think of the sexes is a topic for another post.) It just isn't, well, isn't so great, however cool it might seem at first glance.

Now what is it we have that really shows the daemon thing up for the junk it is? Guardian Angels. Think about it. First of all, for those who think it'd be cool to have a unique companion, the Theologians have explained that every Angel is its own unique species. I kid you not. It stems quite simply from the fact that they don't have anything physical to be different in, so they have to be different in their very spiritual nature – as different as, say, you and some irrational animal are. (Beyond that they are still divided into classes, but still, they're awesomely unique.) Now keep thinking about them; it gets even better.

Here's another good place to start: they are, indeed, persons. Not a part-of-you person or an imaginary friend. Persons more real, in a sense, than you are. More real because, being pure spirit, they cannot be bodily destroyed or even changed: their reality is quite fixed. We have immortal souls as they do, of course, but they are far beyond our combination of spiritual and bodily life. That their natures are so fixed, though, hardly means there is anything lacking in variety in them. After all, I just said they are each unique and more different than you and I are from each other.

The Guardian Angel is something like a body-guard personally assigned to you by God. Only your Angel is a soul-guard as well. If you let him (or her? I've only the slightest of clues whether there is sex [meaning the division/properties, not the reproductive aspect that is clearly not existent in pure spirits] in the nature of Angels...), if you ask him whenever you need him, he can be a great aid to you in avoiding and fighting temptation from all quarters. That's a pretty big deal.

Now think of this: he outranks you more or less the way a Lieutenant outranks a disobedient militiaman. Yet he is assigned to guard you not as one guards a prisoner, but as one guards a General. He is more real than you, as I explained (or tried to explain at least), and is a far more powerful and unique person. Yet it is you who are given his protection. Is that amazing or what? Truly our God is a God of wonders.

I've heard stories from people I trust and believe of children saved from physical harm by an unseen force that clearly was either God Himself at work or the Guardian Angel. Evil still gets us quite often, of course, for reasons that have to be asked about when it comes to there being an All-Good, All-Powerful God in the first place anyway. Still, when we need and, for whatever reason beyond us, are given aid beyond our ken, many a time it is through the work of God' servants, the Angels. Furthermore, if a Guardian Angel may save the life of a boy about to run out into the street (one of the many tales I've heard; and indeed, I've heard it told that I once had one of those incidents happen, though I personally don't remember what happened to me back when I was four or five), how much more might he do to save your soul if you ask him for help? You have to be relying on God ultimately, of course; there's no sense in asking God's Angels for help when you intend to ignore God Himself; but to go back to the personal companion view of things, there's no reason we can't ask them for help just as we can ask our friends for help.

This is entirely different from the occult, which tries to gain power from spirits in... unholy ways. The difference lies precisely in that you are simply and honestly asking good Angels to help you in your struggle to come to God. There's quite a contrast there: a contrast that in itself should make clear that if the one is evil, the other so opposite it ought to be good.

I've also heard, for more just plain cool stuff about Guardian Angels, that one of the rewards of a certain devotion involving the first Fridays or first Saturdays, I forget which, would be to be given another Guardian Angel. One not enough for you? Well, I'll get back to you on the details as soon as I can find out what I've forgotten about whichever devotion it is. (Anyone who happens to know, feel free to chime in!)

Going back to the companion thing; what about talking to one's Guardian Angel? I would place a caution on imagining him such that your "guardian angel" in your mind becomes mainly an imaginary friend. The caution I place, though, is this: there is nothing wrong in filling in what we know to be true with our imaginations since we cannot see it, but we must first determine what is true without the imagination's input. With that said, I do believe that speaking to one's Guardian Angel can be a good means of keeping him more in mind. Keeping him more in mind, in turn, allows one to remember to turn to him in struggle and, perhaps, may even in itself prevent one from doing anything nasty the way having someone around to see it tends to give pressure against doing anything nasty. Nasty here meaning, of course, spiritually nasty. I also think I've heard of some Saint saying something to the effect of all this, though I entirely forget which. At any rate, do make a habit of realizing that your spiritual companion is always with you.

Do I practice this myself? Being forgetful, I tend not to. Do I think it's absolutely a good idea and is it high on my list of habits to develop? Absolutely yes and yes. Care to work on it so that we can give each other encouragement? That'd be just great!

More info on Guardian Angels, in particular more details and sources, and stuff on Angels in general, can be found at New Advent. (Although to be honest with you, I tend to just remember this stuff off the top of my head from... wherever I learned it all, with my own reasoning to help me remember some things based on their deduction from others.) If you're Aquinas-minded, you can look up the Summa there as well.

By the way, if anyone knows specifically what any of the Saints or Theologians said on Guardian Angels, please do drop by the combox!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

St. Francis de Sales had a great devotion to the angels, specifically the guardian angel. Icons of him often show his angel behind him. He often advised to invoke your guardian angel before and after prayer. He would also silently prayer to the guardian angel of his Protestant opponents for aid in exorcising the demon possessing them.

Our angel also stops us from doing stupid things, like Balaam's angel in Genesis.

December 06, 2007 4:29 PM  

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