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What is an angel?

What does the word "angel" mean?

It is from the Greek, angelos, and means "messenger."

Are angels "persons"?

Yes, absolutely.

To be a person is to have an identity, a personality, intelligence, and free will. A person is the kind of being that can say "I" of itself.

Humans (and extra-terrestrials, if they exist) are the very lowest form of persons in the hierarchy of being. Animals have identity and "personality" (individual characteristic behavior), but do not have intellect and will as persons do.

Each angel is a unique person, with intelligence and free will. They are more unique, more different from one another, than we are because each angel is a species (kind of being) unto itself. Human beings all share a common human nature and are members of the same species.

The highest kind of person is found in the Three Persons of the Trinity. Although one in being (homoousios, consubstantial), the Three Persons are distinct in their personal identity. The Athanasian Creed teaches us that the Father is not the Son nor the Spirit; the Son is not the Father nor the Spirit; the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Each of the Divine Persons says "I" of Himself and "Thou" to the other two Persons of the Trinity.

Do angels have free will?

Yes. When an angel is created directly and personally by God, the angel is given the choice to serve itself or to serve God. Because angels do not live in time in the way that we do, they are capable of giving themselves completely in this single act of obedience or disobedience. They make a free, permanent, and irrevocable choice about whom they will serve.

I also speculate that angels can exercise personal freedom in the way that they serve God by loving one another and by loving us. I don't have a solid source for this belief in Scripture or Tradition. I surmise that God gave them their gifts of intelligence and free will to freely express themselves in the works that they undertake on behalf of God and God's other creatures.

Do angels love?

Yes, I think so.

In our choirs, we blend our voices and, by intention, our minds and hearts as well. I speculate that in the angelic choir, they blend their whole being. Angels are pure spirits. They have no "parts." If an angel loves, it gives itself completely to the beloved — and, just as in the Trinity, to more than one person at a "time" (angelic time is different from our time, I think). Angels cannot be divided. Their love for God is their love for each other and for God's children.

Angelic intimacy: beyond "cor ad cor loquitur."

Do angels live in time?

Not in our kind of time, which is measured by the passage of physical events.

It seems to me that there is some kind of logical, if not temporal, "before" and "after" in the angelic order: "before" the angel was created and "after" the angel was created. But there is no clock by which we can measure the "time before" or the "time after." Angels participate very closely in God's own eternity, "outside of timeness." We humans have to attribute a kind of time to angels when we try to think about them, but I'm not confident that the necessities of human language and imagination reflect the realities of angelic existence.

When were angels created?

Can an angel repent of sin and be forgiven?

Can angels move physical things?

Can angels work miracles?

Can angels appear on earth?

Do angels have wings and halos?

How do angels move from one place to another?

How do angels know?

Angels know God, themselves, each other, and the whole material universe by direct intellectual apprehension.

Human knowing begins in the senses and arrives at intellectual knowledge by abstraction.

Angels do not have a body and therefore do not gain knowledge by seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling; they know the nature of all things directly.

Angels see all other creatures in their relationship to God. The relationship between the Creator and the creature is always evident to them.

I'm fairly certain that the good angels know all things infallibly. If they employ reason, they reason from perfect premises.

There may be things that God has not revealed to the angels; what He has revealed is known by them with perfect understanding and certitude.

Do angels have feelings?


But not like ours.

Angels have no unconscious.

Angels are not broken-hearted, as we are. If they have "passions," they are pure and selfless.

Angels are moved by truth, beauty, and goodness.

Angels respond to God's actions with praise and adoration.

Angels rejoice in God and adore Him in His works.

Do all Catholics have to believe that angels exist?

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Do angels sing?

Do angels play musical instruments?

How does angelic union compare to marital union?

Let me begin by saying that I don't know for sure. Everything that follows is pure speculation. I'm no angel and I don't play one in my dreams. So far as I know, Scripture and Tradition are almost totally silent on the union of angels as compared to the union of humans in marriage.

The one passage that comes to mind is Jesus' saying that, after death, humans no longer give themselves to each other in marriage, but become "like the angels" (Mark 12:25).

So, for starters, as a first approximation, I think we can be certain that angels do not marry in the same way that humans do and therefore do not enjoy "physical" union as do a husband and wife.

This makes perfect sense from a philosophical or Thomistic standpoint. The angels are pure spirits. Each angel is its own species. They are created directly and personally by God. Two angels never unite to produce a third angel of the same species — that is impossible in principle.

Now we are about to step off the shore of certitude and go out onto very thin ice of speculation. May God have mercy on my soul if I am wrong in the guesses I now make.

It seems to me that the joy and power and glory of marital union is a foretaste of the joys of Heaven. Although neither angels nor saints "marry or are given in marriage" in Heaven, I doubt that they feel in the least bit deprived of the joy that comes from union with other persons. We have many hints of this desire in our hearts for full personal union that is different from the marital act, both in the Scriptures and in science fiction. The joy of Heaven is described as the Beatific Vision, in which we will know God fully, even as He knows us (1 Corinthians 13:12). This is not a spectator sport, where we sit in the bleachers and gaze on God from a distance. It is an entry into God — and God's entry into us — as a blazing and all-consuming fire of love. It is, if you will let me use the analogy, an act of perfect inter-personal intercourse, with no holds barred.

Marital union represents the total gift of oneself to another. Such self-giving to other selves (persons) is the nature of all love. I'm morally certain that the angels love one another and love us, too, with a love that gives them joy and delight that go far beyond that to be found in marriage. I believe that the saints in Heaven also share in this same kind of bliss when God sends them to show us His love here on earth and when we meet in Heaven.

The first time I stumbled across this idea was in Mark Twain's _Letters to the Earth_. I don't know what to make of his faith, or lack thereof. I pray for the repose of his soul. I love reading his works, even though there is a lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat. I don't consider him a reliable guide to theology, but he had an intuition that may be real, even though it needs MUCH correction:

"For there is nothing about man that is not strange to an immortal. He looks at nothing as we look at it, his sense of proportion is quite different than ours, and his sense of values is so divergent from ours, that with all our large intellectual powers it is not likely that even the most gifted among us would ever be quite able to understand it. For instance, take this sample: He has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race — and of ours — sexual intercourse!
"It is as if a lost and perishing person in a roasting desert should be told by a rescuer he might chose and have all longed for things but one, and he should elect to leave out water! ... I recall to your attention the extraordinary fact with which I began. To wit, that the human being, like the immortals, naturally places sexual intercourse far and away above all other joys — yet he has left it out of his heaven! The very thought of it excites him; opportunity sets him wild; in this state he will risk life, reputation, everything — even his queer heaven itself — to make good that opportunity and ride it to the overwhelming climax. From youth to middle age all men and all women prize copulation above all other pleasures combined, yet it is actually as I have said: It is not in their heaven; prayer takes its place."

Cf. Peter Kreeft's article, "Sex in Heaven."

Science fiction authors frequently appeal to the joy of full personal union via ESP — on Star Trek, it is the "Vulcan mind meld," I believe. There was also an R-rated scene in "Cocoon" that suggested some kind of non-physical union between an alien and a human being.

IF this way of looking at the joy of personal spiritual union is true, or some semblance of the truth, THEN, maybe, we might hazard the guess that the unitive end of marriage is, in some sense, theoretically higher than the procreative end, because love outlasts all other things in life (1 Cor 13).

What are the nine choirs of angels?

Catholic theologians in the Middle Ages found nine choirs of angels in the Scriptures.[1] No single Scripture passage lists the nine choirs. That there are nine choirs in three hierarchies or spheres, ranked as follows, is speculation, not dogma.

Choir Scripture Function
First hierarchy

"The burning ones."

Isaiah 6:1-7 Six wings. Four surround God's throne.
  • Genesis 3:24
  • Exodus 25:17-22
  • Ezekiel 10:12-14
  • Ezekiel 28:14-16
  • 2 Chronicles 3:7-14
  • 1 Kings 6:23-28
  • Revelation 4:6-8.
Four faces. Stand guard.
  • Colossians 1:16
  • Dan 7:9
Wheel-within-a-wheel. Represent justice and authority.
Second hierarchy Dominions
Virtues Ephesians 1:21 Resemble Thrones.
Powers Ephesians 1:21, 3:10, 6:12 Distribute power among humankind.
Third hierarchy Principalities Eph 3:10 Oversee groups of people,

רב־מלאך, rav-malakh

  • 1 Thes 4:16
  • Jude 1:9

"Seven who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord" (Tobit 12:15).

  • St. Michael: "Who is like God?"
  • St. Gabriel: "Strength of God"
  • St. Raphael: "God heals"
  • [St. Uriel (4 Esdras): "Light of God.]"
Angels Hebrews 1:14 Messengers, guardians.

Why are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael called "saints"?

Because all of the good angels are "holy," which is what "santcus" means in Latin.

"Saint" is an English word derived through German sankt, which, in turn comes from sanctus.

Was there really a war among the angels?

Daniel 10:13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me. [Gabriel speaking?]
Daniel 10:21 No one supports me against these except Michael, your prince.
Daniel 12:1 At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people. It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since the nation began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.
Jude 1:9 Yet the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses, did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”
Revelation 12:7-9 Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.

How do angels fight a war?

Why does God let devils exist?

Why doesn't He lock them up once and for all and keep them all away from us?

Was the serpent an angel?

Genesis 3:1 says, "Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made." Why do so many people say that this was the devil or Satan when the Scripture plainly reports that the serpent was an animal?

What does the word "Satan" mean?

What does the word "devil" mean?

Does the devil really cause people to sin?

Can the devil really take possession of people?

Does everyone have a guardian angel?

Catholic Encyclopedia, "Angels"
Throughout the Bible we find it repeatedly implied that each individual soul has its tutelary angel.
  • Thus Abraham, when sending his steward to seek a wife for Isaac, says: "He will send His angel before thee" (Genesis 24:7).
  • The words of the ninetieth Psalm which the devil quoted to our Lord (Matthew 4:6) are well known,
  • and Judith accounts for her heroic deed by saying: "As the Lord liveth, His angel hath been my keeper" (13:20).
These passages and many like them (Genesis 16:6-32; Hosea 12:4; 1 Kings 19:5; Acts 12:7; Psalm 33:8), though they will not of themselves demonstrate the doctrine that every individual has his appointed guardian angel, receive their complement in our Savior's words: "See that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in Heaven always see the face of My Father Who is in Heaven" (Matthew 18:10).
Indeed, the book of Tobias seems intended to teach this truth more than any other, and St. Jerome in his commentary on the above words of our Lord says: "The dignity of a soul is so great, that each has a guardian angel from its birth." The general doctrine that the angels are our appointed guardians is considered to be a point of faith, but that each individual member of the human race has his own individual guardian angel is not of faith (de fide); ...
The Bible represents the angels not only as our guardians, but also as actually interceding for us.
  • The angel Raphael (Tobit 12:12) says: "I offered thy prayer to the Lord."
  • Job 5:1 (Septuagint)
  • Job 33:23 (Vulgate)
  • Rev 8:4
An undue cult of angels was reprobated by St. Paul (Colossians 2:18).

Does my guardian angel have a name?

Is it OK for me to give my guardian angel an name?

Do the angels love us?

Are the angels happy?

Is it OK to pray to the angels?

Why was St. Thomas called "The Angelic Doctor"?

Did he see angels?

Did he have a special devotion to the angels?

What was his "proof" for the existence of angels?

Do the people whom we love become our angels when they die?

  • No. Angels and humans are very different kinds of being. Angels do not turn into humans nor do humans turn into angels.
  • The otherwise very excellent and moving film, It's a Wonderful Life, has contributed to this confusion, as has contemporary godless devotion to angels as spiritual guides. In the movie, it is clear that Clarence is a human being who died two hundred years before the time the story takes place. He had been a watchmaker and was married.
  • Many grieving family members console themselves with the thought that their loved one will become an angel and watch over them for the rest of their lives. It would be better to think of such souls as part of the Communion of Saints.

Have you ever seen an angel?

Not that I know of. But I see no reason in principle why I might have been visited by angels without being aware of their true nature. Angels have the power to act without revealing their glory to human eyes.

Do you pray to the angels?

Yes. So does the whole Church. In the Confiteor, we say: "Therefore, I ask Blessed Mary, Ever-Virgin, and all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord Our God."

Why do we call Our Lady the "Queen of Angels"?

What are "genies"?

"Djinn" is the singular of "spirit" in Arabic.

"Djinni" (sounds like "genie," but means "genies") is the plural.

There are only two kinds of preternatural spirits at work in the world: good angels and fallen angels.

"Preternatural" — above or beyond nature. Humans are also "spirits at work in the world," because we are embodied spirits, but the word "djinn" or "genie" is not referring to our kind of spirit but the kind that has powers greater than our own.

The Catechism doesn't mention "genies" in particular. The Arabic belief in genies resembles hundreds, if not thousands, of religions categorized as "animism." There is lots to be said about that, but the bottom line is that Judaeo-Christian monotheism repudiates the idea that inhabiting spirits are gods or goddesses and that they deserve any kind of reverence or attention.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

II. The Fall of the Angels
391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.[2] Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called "Satan" or the "devil".[3] The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: "The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing."[4]
392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.[5] This "fall" consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter's words to our first parents: "You will be like God."[6] The devil "has sinned from the beginning"; he is "a liar and the father of lies".[7]
393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels' sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death."[8]
394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls "a murderer from the beginning", who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.[9] "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."[10] In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.
395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him."[11]


  1. Wikipedia, "Christian angelic hierarchy."
  2. Cf. Gen 3:1-5; Wis 2:24.
  3. Cf Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9.
  4. Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800.
  5. Cf. 2 Pet 2:4.
  6. Gen 3:5.
  7. 1 Jn 3:8; Jn 8:44.
  8. St. John Damascene, De Fide orth. 2,4: PG 94,877.
  9. Jn 8:44; cf. Mt 4:1-11.
  10. 1 Jn 3:8.
  11. Rom 8:28.