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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Power of Christ Compels You

We've been discussing short problem solving prayers all week and I have to admit I'm a little bent out of shape over the Guardian Angel prayer.

"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."

I have always loved the Guardian Angel prayer. It's a beautiful simple prayer, easy for a child to remember. Moreover, it helps a child remember that he has a Guardian Angel always watching over him. We like this.

Every single person has a guardian angel watching over them 24/7. It's the guardian angel's job to keep you out of trouble and keep you from harm.

We're not sure how this works, what with free will and all. Your guardian angel must keep you safe from all harm that is not God's will. If the bus is coming and God wants you to get hit by the bus, your angel will have to watch to watch helplessly from the curb.

Otherwise the angel (who is not a he or she!) is on the case.

One of readers has expressed that her children say this as a bedtime prayer and mentioned that the children pray to their guardian angels. I reminded her that we never pray to anyone but God. Or Jesus. Jesus is God, so no problem either way. The idea that the children were not supposed to pray to their guardian angels, when this is clearly what they are doing, perplexed her.

It is perplexing.

Here's how it works:

The Ground Rules:

1. We never pray to anyone but God.

2. When we "pray to" Mary and the saints we aren't really praying to them, we are asking them to intercede for us. It is exactly the same as asking me to pray for you, or you to pray for me. Period.

My I take a moment to express how my teeth start to grind and my hair hurts when I'm told by some separated brethren, nose pointed upward, that they only pray to God and that we are wrong to pray for the intercession of anyone. I will never believe that these people don't go around asking other people to pray for them, silly things. They will ask for MY intercession, but to ask for Jesus' mom's intercession is silly? Okay, that makes sense, poor crazy thing.

Back to the problem at hand. It may seem like we're praying to St. Anthony when we ask him to find the keys but we know we're asking him to ask God to help us. The saints are helpless, really.

So that's really the deal with the Guardian Angel prayer, too.

But...not really...

"Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide...." That's confusing.

We must understand that when we say 'ever this day be at my side' we have to have somewhere in our consciousness that what we really mean is 'on God's behalf' or 'as is God's will'.

"to light and guard to rule and guide"...according to God's will, with the power of God.

It's a real hair splitter.

But we're Catholic. We love nothing more than to split hairs. We can do it standing on our heads.

Perhaps it's a good idea for the children to get used to that at a very early age.


Andy Looney said...

Many years ago (more than that actually) my Grandmother asked me to say the Guardian Angel prayer, and when I got to "to whom God's love commits me here" she said "Don't say commits...it's a bad word...say entrusts."

cattiekit said...

That *must* have been a long time ago. Nobody gets committed any more.

That's why we have people who make their livings smearing your windshield up with a rag and mumbling to themselves while you're sweating it out at a stop light.

Left to the devices of those *committed* to corporal acts of mercy. :>)

But...back to the topic....

I guess it's just *wrong* then to call on St. Anthony, saying:

"Holy Tony, come on down,
Something's lost and must be found."

Kinda makes it sound like you're on that show "Let's Make A Deal" or something?


seeking_something said...

You can "talk" or "converse" with angels and Saints. I understand that all good comes from God, all power is what He allows. Petitions must ascend to God and we understand that; we can still have conversations.

elena maria vidal said...

Oh, we say the Guardian angel prayer several times a day at our house....

Anonymous said...

I used to think of angels as some sort of namby pamby flufffy angels UNTIL I saw a statue of St. Michael in a Roman soldier's uniform with a blazing sword and stern face and thought, "Nobody's going to mess with this guy!". It's no wonder that St. Michael, who is in the 3rd choir, managed to boot out Lucifier, who was closest to God (obviously with God's help, since there are nine choirs!)
BTW, does anyone have a name for their Guardian Angel? I'm sure mine is going to hit me over the head with a four by two when I die for being so familiar! :)

Heather said...

I had to explain that whole intercession/prayers to saints thing just Friday night!
When one is a member of the Body of Christ, one stays a member even after death. So what's the difference in asking for St. Monica's prayers versus a neighbor's?
Then we had a brief moment of "Why DO we ask for the prayers of friends, anyway?"

Anonymous said...

cattiekit, that's because you're saying it wrong...

Something's lost....

See? No "Price is Right" stigma attached.

(Save the Liturgy, save the world...)

Anonymous said...

Although I grew up saying the prayer, taught it to my children and still say it daily, I have never understood what, "to whom God's love commits me here means." If it said because of God's love you are committed to me (in rhymn of course) I could understand it. I'm not ignorant, I majored in English literature in college, but I still don't get it. Can you help me? I'm not trying to be irreverent or funny, I really just don't get it, but say it out of trust or something.

Anonymous said...

McFranz, if by some chance you see this, I struggled with that line too, but I eventually determined that "to whom His/God's love commits me here" means that God's love has entrusted you/me (the person saying the prayer) to your guardian angel (the "whom" in "to whom" is the angel, I'm pretty sure). I figured that out by breaking down the phrase, but it wasn't easy!

Sr. Mary Martha, I have just found your blog and am reading the archives. I LOVE it!