Catechism on the Angels Part II

10-20-2021From the desk of Fr. VillaFr John Hardon S.J.

8. What was the grace which the angels possessed when they were created? It was sanctifying grace. It was a supernatural gift of God which gave them a share in the divine nature along with a title to inherit the Kingdom of God in the beatific vision. Associated with sanctifying grace, the angels also received the infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, together with a right to those actual graces which were necessary to preserve and increase the supernatural life.

9. Were the angels not originally created in heaven? No, the angels had to cooperate with the grace of God to reach heaven.

10. Why then does Jesus say, "I saw Satan like lightening falling from heaven"(Luke 10:18)? The word "heaven" in this context does not mean the possession of God in the Beatific Vision. Rather it means that the angels fell from sanctifying grace which gave them a title to heaven.

11. What then does it mean that some of the angels entered heaven? It means that those angels who cooperated with God's grace merited to see God face to face. It further means that all the angels were originally on probation. They were, in theological terms, in via, that is "on the way" to heaven. It finally means that those who reached heaven by using their free will to cooperate with the will of God.

12. How did some of the angels sin? The Church's tradition tells us they sinned by pride and envy. This was the primary sin of the angels. It was the sin of a spiritual being, since the angels have no bodies. The angels sinned because they refused God as their Creator. However, the angels also sinned by envy. They coveted the Divine excellence. We may also say they envied human beings who, they understood, would also reach heavenly beatitude.

13. What was the damnation of the unfaithful angels? Basically it was, and is, eternal separation from God. What our faith tells us is that the punishment of the angels is the same as that of human beings who die unrepentant of their grave sins.

14. What precisely is the mission of the good angels? Their mission is expressed by the term "sent", which is technical and includes two elements: 1. going forth from God as Sender, and 2. a new kind of presence with respect to the visible world.

15. What are the offices of the good angels? They have a variety of offices or responsibilities: with relation to God, to Jesus Christ, to one another, and to the human race:

  • with regard to God, their office is to praise, bless, adore, and respond with perfect obedience to the will of God.
  • toward Jesus Christ, their office is to serve Him, even as man, as declared by St. Paul, "let all the angels of God adore Him" (Hebrews 1:6).
  • among the angels themselves, the office of the superior is to enlighten those who are lesser.
  • the angelic office towards human beings includes both directly spiritual interests and those material needs which are related to our heavenly destiny. Moreover, the angels' guardianship is over the whole human race. Under this providence are included believers and unbelievers, including those who have not reached the use of reason and, in fact, have not yet been born.

16. In God's permissive providence, what is the activity of the fallen angels towards human beings? Temptations by the devil are only one, although the most common, form of demonic assault which is permitted by God. The three basic ways in which devils assault human beings are by temptation, obsession and magic. Each of these will be explained later on. For the present our focus is on temptations.

17. How are human beings tempted? In general, the temptations may be either probative or seductive.

18. What are probative temptations? These are temptations directed to our moral benefit. They come either from God, or the good angels or from other human beings. In ordinary language, we call these trials. Literally, however, they are temptations since the Latin verb, tentare means "to test" or "to try" or "to prove."

19. What are seductive temptations? Seductive temptations are intended to seduce or lead to moral harm, to cause us to sin. These temptations are properly speaking diabolical.

20. What is the underlying implication in all temptations? All temptations imply that a human being is put to the test, to find out something about him, either to his spiritual benefit or injury as the case may be.

21. How do theologians further distinguish temptations from the devil? They distinguish internal temptations which are not sensibly perceptible, from temptations which are sensibly perceptible, whether the perception is in our internal or external senses.

22. What are internal temptations of the evil spirit? Internal temptations by the devil take place through direct action by the evil spirit upon our sense faculties or imagination. The latter take the form of apparitions, diabolical locutions, hallucinations and the like.

23. What are sensibly perceptible demonic temptations? They are the most common way in which the devil tempts human beings. He uses our faculties of sight and sound, of taste and smell, and of bodily feeling as the channels of seduction.