Necessary angels

I am persuaded that no system of government — democratic, oligarchic, aristocratic, monarchical, tyrannical, oriental despotic or worse, liberal-progressive — can deliver anything resembling justice in this world, unless it is under the direction of angels. And not just any angels, but the good ones, as opposed to the fallen angels — “all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls” — also known as demons. Alas, in our modern world, no one (excluding a very few saints) can see them, and they go unacknowledged.

This was not true of any traditional society of which I am aware, Christian or non-Christian. I stress this last point having read an awful lot of comparative religion in my time, and having lived for extended periods some considerable distance “abroad.” These foreigners may have different words for angels and demons (this is generally the case with foreign languages) but it is dead obvious they are referring to the same things, and if you read your Pentateuch with attention you will notice that angels were not only sent among the People Israel, but among all peoples.

As Baudelaire said, of an earlier iteration of this modern world: “Everyone believes in God, but nobody loves Him. No one believes in the Devil, and yet his smell is everywhere.”

Not only Saint Augustine of Hippo, but also Blessed John Henry Newman, mentioned angels as matters of fact, and in both cases I gather were in touch with them. I do not mean this in some Jungian, mythopoiec way, wherein universally good things are acknowledged, but as abstractions. I mean this in a “touch the earth,” very literal way, as live entities with names and personal characteristics, no two interchangeable; and not creations of the human imagination but, like us, of God Himself. Saint Thomas Aquinas, temporally in the middle, wrote the equivalent of a whole brilliant book on them, which I eagerly propose that we read. Turn to the first part of the Summa Theologica, questions 50 through 64. Surely every Catholic has that on his shelves.

Among modern treatises on this topic, I especially recommend Jean Danielou, SJ, Les Anges et Leur Mission, published 1953, and available in English from one little Catholic press or another since 1957 under title, The Angels and their Mission. Danielou is anyway an author worth discovering, when the younger modern Catholics have moved on from C. S. Lewis and Tolkien. I bless the day when Danielou first fell into my hands.

Angels, for instance, are capable of surprise; of joy and of sadness. From my reading, most were caught entirely by surprise when the Son of God came down from Heaven; and perhaps still more when He returned to it, in human flesh.

Our guardian angels grieve when we are bad, celebrate when we are good, and rejoice upon the salvation of a poor sinner.

But again, not all angels are themselves good. Verily: envy of the higher station given to man in God’s cosmic order was a cause of rebellion. The demons have had a score to settle — on God and, too, on us — ever since. It is important to grasp this firmly, or a great deal of the evil in this world will be incomprehensible to us, and we will go about waving our hands like idiots and shrieking, “Why, Santa, why?”

Now, to be plain, no angel has ever taken a government job. They are disqualified by their invisibility to the people who dole these jobs out. Nor, for that matter, are demons employed in government service, though we might sometimes suspect that they are. At most, the department heads hire the demonically-inhabited; because they are thus inhabited themselves.

Therefore no earthly government of angels can exist. (I include, as always, the governors and agents of all outreaching “corporations,” including the earthly component of the Church herself, now operating so much like a defunctive corporation.) But whichever is currently in power, we pray that the better sort of angels will prevail, upon the manipulators of administrative detail. And that the worst will be caught, and severely punished, for the good of their own souls. (Beat the devils out of them, as it were.) Charity demands this of us.