“In his wisdom,” St. Augustine tells us, “God prefers to draw good from evil rather than to prevent all evil.”
In Exodus we read, “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him … My angel goes in front of you” (Ex 23:20-23). Thus, the primary mission of our guardian angel is to lead us to safe haven, to an encounter with the living God. “He is the minister of divine solicitude for each and every one,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI, both spiritually and materially.
So how to reconcile this understanding of the role of the guardian angel with the troubles, and even the tragedies, of life? For example, we find an angel freeing the Apostles from their prison (Acts 5:19); the same for Peter (Acts 12:7-11). And yet, in God’s good time these angels did not prevent their martyrdom.
The guardian angel doesn’t spare us trials that help us grow spiritually
Above all, the angel sees and seeks our finality, our ultimate vocation, holiness. It’s in this sense that our guardian angels actively participate in the spiritual combat “against the rulers … of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
St. Padre Pio was, however, abandoned by his guardian angel at the time of a terrible battle against evil. “I scolded him severely for having kept me waiting so long when I was ceaselessly calling on him for help. To punish him, I didn’t wish to look him in the face anymore, I wished to flee him… But he came to me almost in tears. He grabbed hold of me until I raised my eyes, looked him in the face, and saw him very angry.” And the angel explained to Padre Pio that he had received instructions from the Lord to act thus, all while reassuring him, “I am always close to you, my dear little one, always surrounding you with affection.”
It is in the light of this finality — eternal life — that we must view the disconcerting adversities and crucifying trials of existence. To this end, our angel’s actions can sometimes be “muscular.” St. Françoise Romaine’s angel supposedly once gave her a sharp slap when, at a society dinner, she slandered someone! Everyone heard the slap and saw the red mark on Françoise’s cheek! So our angel is not going to spare us certain tests of spiritual growth. But he will pray for us and be there with us in the heart of the battle.
Consider St. Ignatius of Loyola, who had his leg shattered at the siege of Pamplona, or St. John of the Cross, thrown into a dungeon by his Carmelite brothers. One might be outraged that their angels did not prevent these sufferings. And yet, it was through these events that the lives of both men were turned around. “In his wisdom,” St. Augustine tells us, “God prefers to draw good from evil rather than to prevent all evil.”
Father Nicolas Buttet
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