Category: Catholic Articles

What Do Angels Look Like? 

What Do Angels Look Like? 

Various depictions of angels highlight different attributes of these heavenly helpers.

Angels are not easy to depict in art as they are purely spiritual creatures. They do not posses a physical body, though at times they take on the appearance of a human.

In the Bible angels are usually described with a visible body, but that is only a facade, a mask they put on so that we can see them with our eyes. Otherwise they are naturally invisible creatures to our human eyes.

Consequently artists can depict angels in various ways, and often choose an appearance that will highlight a spiritual attribute angels possess. For example, in the fourth century, angels were painted or sculpted with wings, focusing on their missionary character.

During the Renaissance, artists started painting angels as children with wings. These are called putti in Italian and are a remnant of classical art, a feature of ancient Greek and Roman mythology. They were closely associated with the god Eros (Cupid), but took on a new meaning with Christianity.

Artists decided to use these putti to represent angelic creatures, typically in the background of paintings and sculptures. The spiritual significance of their babyish features was to highlight the innocence of angels. Angels were created by God with an intellect superior to human intelligence, and free will. Those that chose to stay in the courts of heaven did so definitively and remain pure in all things. This purity was translated into art through the use of beautiful chubby children.

Angels have also been depicted as fierce warriors with swords and shields, ready to do battle. This was especially true for St. Michael the Archangel, who is usually represented as a warrior dealing a death blow to Satan.

Warrior angels are very common in Scripture. Joshua meets such an angel while encamped outside Jericho.

While Joshua was near Jericho, he raised his eyes and saw one who stood facing him, drawn sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you one of us or one of our enemies?” He replied, “Neither. I am the commander of the army of the Lord: now I have come.” (Joshua 5:13-14)

This visual representation highlights the reality that angels have the power to defeat spiritual enemies such as demons. Angels are powerful spiritual warriors and while their battles are largely invisible, the effects of their protection can often be felt.

However an angel is depicted, the artist is focusing on a particular aspect of their nature. While cute little babies may appear to be the opposite of fierce warriors, both representations reflect a truth about angels.

13 Things You Should Never Say To Your Priests

13 Things You Should Never Say To Your Priests

1. “So…did women not find you attractive or something?”
How is a priest supposed to reply to this? It’s not like they were forced to be a priest because they couldn’t get married or were undesirable.

2. “I had the craziest dream during your homily.”
LOL. Even if it’s true, keep it to yourself!

3. “You wouldn’t happen to know if the girl in the confessional before me is single?”
Doesn’t it go without saying that when you’re in the line for confession, you are there for confession and nothing else? Come on men!

4. “You know, for a priest, you’re not that bad looking.”
Why would you say that!?

5. “Must be nice to only have to work Sundays.”
Hopefully, most of us know that priests work some of the longest and most pain-filled days of anyone in the world. Imagine serving people only when there is a crisis or a moment of great joy – both of those tax an incredible amount of energy and stress!

6. “How much of that collection basket do you take home with you?”
“Enough.” Most priests live well below the poverty income level. My priest used to tell me when he’d come over for dinner, “It’s nice to have something other than beans for a change.”

7. “Did you realize you forgot _____ in the Mass?”
They might be reading from a Missal, but they aren’t perfect. Maybe give them a break?

8. “What do you do with all that free time you have?”
“Pray for people like you!”

8. “What do you do with all that free time you have?”
“Pray for people like you!”

9. “You’re a prime example that God works through broken instruments.”
“Yeah? What’s your excuse?”

10. “Why don’t you return my emails?”
Seriously? Perhaps your priests don’t have the time to check emails. Perhaps they’re busy being priests.

11. “Father _____ did things differently.”
Sometimes it’s best not to reply.

12. “Can you be sure to say _____ in your homily, I have (family, friends) coming with me.”
Just let the priest say his homily. There are several hundreds of other people who bring friends and family to Mass. A better solution would be to pray that whatever is.

13. “When do you think you’ll retire?”
First, by “retire,” let’s make sure we all know that priests never stop being priests, and even when they do retire from parish duties, they usually continue to support their diocese in baptisms, weddings, etc. Second, this “retirement” is typically the last thing a priest ever wants.

Sharing Your Ash Wednesday Pictures On Social Media Wright or Wrong?

Sharing Your Ash Wednesday Pictures On Social Media Wright or Wrong?

Each year a viral trend resurfaces on Ash Wednesday. Catholics post pictures of themselves with ashes on their foreheads after Mass. Should Catholics be tweeting their ashes?

Every Ash Wednesday, those of us on social media wake up to pictures of our friends who attended early Mass to receive their ashes. Some zoom in on their forehead, some smile and pose with their friends. A few comment on how neat or messy, light or dark their ashes are. A few keep them all day, others go home and wash them off.

For years, Catholics have debated these practices. What’s the protocol for the ashes once Mass has ended? Must you wear them all day? Should you? Should you go about in public, or shut yourself in at home?

The answer to these questions isn’t officially established by the Church. There is no official guide to Ash Wednesday etiquette. There are many private opinions.

The Bible is the first source for advice on the matter. In the Book of Joel, we are told “rend not your garments.” And in the Gospels we are warned against trumpeting our piety in public.

But then, there’s the New Evangelization where we are told to share our faith with others and to invite our neighbors back into the fold. One way to accomplish this is via social media. Social media allows us to show solidarity with fellow Christians and it also shows non-Christians that our faith brings us joy and plays a major role in our lives.

Is there a middle ground?

The answer is yes. The ashes are a sign of mortality as well as a symbol of our repentance. It’s not about pride or showing off. If people post jokes or smiling pictures of their ashes, they could be pushing the boundaries of what would be appropriate if the Church did issue guidelines on the matter. The ashes are not about getting likes and shares.

On the other hand, posting a picture of your ashes is not a sin either, particularly when done in the spirit of the New Evangelization. There is nothing wrong with showing solidarity with other Catholics or using the occasion to educate others about Ash Wednesday.

Ultimately, it comes down to intent. The ashes are not a fashion statement. If a person is sharing their ashes to gain social acceptance in the forms of “likes” then the display is arguably inappropriate. However, if the intent is to share the importance of your faith and to invite others to participate, then the practice is praiseworthy.

Of course, none of us have business judging what others choose to do. So there is no license here to argue with people over their selfies. Instead, we should all examine our conscience and our choices privately, and if we feel our actions are inconsistent with our faith we should make changes. After all, that is a big part of what Lent is about.

Spiritual Warfare – How Angels Battle Demons 

Spiritual Warfare – How Angels Battle Demons 

Do they have swords or special angel-sabers?

In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes:

“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Here, St. Paul’s plainly tells us that, there is a spiritual battle all around us that we cannot see. This reality is hard to fathom, but it is confirmed throughout the Bible, even in Jesus’ life when he went off to the desert to battle against the devil. Sometimes we may wonder what this “spiritual battle” really looks like. Is it full of swords, shields and armor, or do they have special “angel-sabers”.

How exactly do angels battle demons?

First of all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains their nature.

St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit,’ from what they do, ‘angel.’”

The Baltimore Catechism succinctly states the same belief, with a little clarification.

What are angels? Angels are created spirits, without bodies, having understanding and free will.

Just as God is by nature a pure spirit, the angels are pure spirits without a body. In this way they image God in a way that we humans do not. We often depict angels with “wings,” not because they possess wings, but because it represents their speed and symbolizes their role as messengers.

While they do not possess bodies like we do, they are able to battle other spiritual creatures. The most famous example is in the book of Revelation, where Michael the Archangel casts Satan out of heaven.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:9)

This passage doesn’t give us any clues, besides the fact that demons can be “thrown down.” Since they are pure spirits, this was not a physical act, but a spiritual one.

Philosopher Peter Kreeft provides one possible explanation in his book Angels and Demons, describing how angels communicate with each other.

Angels communicate immediately, mind to mind, without any medium like air or ears or even words–direct mental telepathy.

One way to think of it is a battle of intellects rather than a battle of swords. There is nothing material about their fight, which is hard to imagine from our point of view. This is why artists have always depicted angels and demons in a physical way with shields, swords and armor. It is much easier for our mind to grasp a physical fight than an immaterial one.

It is not very exciting to paint a battle between two creatures that more closely resemble electrons than humans.

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