The Guardians of Childhood


Referring now to the time when first its Angel Guardian is appointed for a human being, we often hear it said that his ministry begins with the birth of the child. But this need not be taken too literally. We may say with the very best of authority and for excellent reasons, that it really begins with the very first moment of human life itself. In the words of St. Ambrose: "Every soul at the moment it is infused into the body, is entrusted into the keeping of an Angel."

The Angels are indeed ours "from conception to glory," and it has been truly said that maternal love is the nearest approach to Angel love. As these blessed spirits are so closely united to us, devotion to them ought to be part of every Christian household. Parents should cultivate it in themselves and in their children. Family joys would be sweeter if shared with these gracious Angels, and in their turn they would repay the affection shown them with untold spiritual and even temporal benefits. What mother has not noticed the narrow escape of one or the other of her children from an imminent danger, probably without thinking that it may have been through the intervention of its faithful Guardian. And when trials and crosses come, as they do in everyone's life; when God sees fit to take to Himself one of the little ones, the Angels will be there to pour the balm of consolation upon all, and to comfort the sorrowing mother.

In a poem entitled "Comforted," Emma A. Lente describes in her exquisite way the experience of a child-soul as it is taken up by its Angel Guardian and led, amazed through the streets of the Heavenly Jerusalem, until it sweetly rests in Mary's arms. Imaginative as the verses are, they describe the mother-love of Mary for a pure child soul:

"The Angel took the little child,
And bore him past the shining ranks
Of singers and of harpers, past
The golden streets and lilied banks,
Unto a quiet restful place,
Where Mary sat, with wistful eyes
And tender smile and outstretched hands,
To welcome him to Paradise!

"He was so small and mother-lost.
So dazzled, and so half-afraid,
He could not bear the bliss of Heaven,
Or view the hosts in white arrayed,
Until the clasping, loving arms,
And gentle voice dispelled his fears,
And dimmed the memory of pain,
And dried the last faint trace of tears.
"He nestled close against the heart,
The mother-heart where Christ once lay,
And felt the blessedness of peace
Balm all his hurts and griefs away;
And Mary sang until he smiled,
And rocked him till, with life elate,
He faced the wonders and the joys
And splendors of his high estate!

What joy for the Christian mother who has given up her child to God, to know that at Mary's heart it is only waiting to be restored to her, in a happiness a millionfold more keen than all the sorrows of the parting here! That, also, is one of the comforting thoughts which the Angel Guardian speaks to the bereaved mother, till in the light of faith, the rainbow of new hope plays, glorious through her tears.

Children bear a close resemblance to Angels on account of their innocence. But we need not envy them too much, since the Precious Blood is ever at our disposal to restore to us our original purity, should it be tarnished by failings or even by sin. In the holy Sacrament of Penance, Jesus Christ has prepared for us a laver of His Own Blood, to which we have free access to cleanse our soul from every defilement . . . and to which the Church invites us in these words taken from her Divine Office:

Henceforth, whoso in that dear Blood
Washeth, shall lose his every stain,
And in immortal roseate beauty robed,
An Angel's likeness gain.

"How comes it," writes a pious author, "that the Angels are so little known and loved? Simply because many whose duty it is to teach this most important doctrine are gravely negligent in fulfilling their obligation. "

First of all Christian mothers should instill deeply into the minds of their children a clear, vivid and abiding sense of the presence of their dear Angels. It is not sufficient to give them vague, hazy, insufficient notions of these Blessed Spirits, nor is it enough to teach them to say a short prayer at morning and at night to their Angel Guardians. They should devote much time and much attention to this all important subject. Children must be taught constantly from their tenderest years to have a real love and friendship for their Angels, to have boundless confidence in them. They must be accustomed to feel and realize the personal presence of their Angels, to call on them in all their fears and troubles. How much better this would be than that the children should have their heads filled with foolish fears of ghosts and goblins as so frequently happens.

Mothers who impress on their children this great lesson confer on them inestimable blessings during all the long years of their lives. On the other hand, if they neglect this duty or make light of it, they do a great wrong to their dear ones for they deprive them of the best and most powerful friends.

Finally, the office of Angel-guardian has in some way also been conferred upon Christian parents, and the heavenly Guardians ought to find in them their most powerful and faithful allies. May they imitate the fidelity of the Angels in fulfilling the holy task of rearing their children for whose immortal souls they will one day have to render an account. Untold graces will be their reward, as the remembrance of their heavenly companion will also incite the children to greater love and respect for their parents. "Never let us imagine," says Father Husslein, S.J., "we can outgrow in stature or in years, our need for the daily and more frequent recital of that perfect little prayer to the Guardian Angel which we learned at our mother's knee:

"Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide."

And this other sweet supplication at the close of day:

"Good-night, my Guardian Angel The day has sped away;
Well spent or ill, its story
Is written down for aye.
And now, of God's kind Providence
Thou image pure and bright,
Watch o'er me while I'm sleeping,
My Angel dear, good night!"