Hey, Father! Can I name my guardian angel?

Can we name our guardian angels?

John in Chatham

One of the earliest prayers I learned as a child was the Guardian Angel Prayer, which I still say to begin my day:  “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule, to guide. Amen.”

But while Scripture frequently mentions angels assisting mankind, it does not specifically state that each person is guarded by a particular angel. 

Even in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, guardian angels receive just a short paragraph of explanation: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (CCC 336).

While the idea of personal guardian angels is not explicitly defined by the Church or in Scripture, there are passages in Scripture that may suggest their existence. In the Old Testament, there are numerous examples of angels of the Lord that are sent to guard and protect humanity. The Psalmist proclaims in Psalm 91, “For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” 

In the New Testament, there is even more evidence for the existence of guardian angels. In Matthew 18:10, Jesus tells His Disciples, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

The belief that angels can provide physical protection as well as spiritual protection is reflected in some blessings used by the Church, such as the blessing for travelers, which invokes the protection of guardian angels for the journey. 

In some Catholic circles, there is a debate that circulates every so often about whether one should name their guardian angel. Often some kind of prayer and reflection is done, and then it is thought that the person will be inspired with the name of their guardian angel on their hearts.

Articles abound on the internet with how-tos for naming guardian angels, as well as arguments for why it should not be done — most notably that the claim could open the door to unknowing interactions with a demon rather than an angel.  So, I discourage people from naming their guardian angels, though praying to them to invoke their protection is a pious practice.

 It’s good to ask for their intercession, and it’s good to thank God for the spiritual goods that He grants to you through them. There are three named angels in the Bible: Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. It is good to know them. You can name your pet, but your guardian angel is not your pet. I am happy not knowing my guardian angel’s name.

Father Joe Ring is pastor of Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville.