Fr. Scott Haynes
Don Bosco's Practical Guidance on Guardian Angels
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
Don Bosco was completing a manuscript promoting devotion to guardian angels at the end of 1844. He had begun working on it earlier. He was extremely appreciative to God for the privilege of having a guardian angel. We heard him recite this phrase countless times:
"To His Angels he has given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Upon their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." (Ps. 90, 11-12)
Consequently, he had a profound respect and devotion for his guardian angel. He celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels on October 2nd each year with great joy. Don Bosco insisted that his guardian angel was always by his side. Several times a day, he would greet him with the Angel of God prayer. Throughout his existence, he placed a great deal of faith in his protection. He placed himself and his sons in the care of their guardian angels. Indeed, his guardian deity assisted him in establishing and directing all of his enterprises.
One day, Don Bosco related to the lads how St. Joan of the Cross had seen her guardian angel since childhood. It was her guardian angel who led her into consecrated life. After several years in religious life, she proved to be a brilliant leader once elected the nuns' superior, guiding it through every challenging circumstance. Whenever a violation of the rule occurred, her guardian angel would propose methods for correcting her subjects.
When Don Bosco told the young men this story, they pondered if he did not enjoy too the privileged guidance of his guardian angel. Throughout his priestly ministry, Don Bosco's insights revealed the most incomprehensible wisdom. One considers his remarkable dreams and multitude of miracles that influenced the spiritual guidance he gave. Surely, Don Bosco was deeply aided by his guardian angel.
By God's grace, Don Bosco was able to inculcate in his spiritual sons a deep reverence and affection for their guardian angels. He frequently chanted a hymn he had composed in honor of guardian angels, which the boys enthusiastically sang.
"Be ever more convinced that your guardian angel is really present and that he is ever at your side. Saint Frances of Rome always saw her angel standing before her; his arms clasped on his breast, his eyes uplifted to heaven; but at her slightest failing, he would cover his face as if in shame and, at times, turn his back to her."
To inculcate faith in guardian angels, Don Bosco frequently recounted the story of Tobias and the Archangel Raphael, the miracle of the three young men who survived the flames of the furnace in Babylon, and numerous other stories abundant in Holy Scripture and ecclesiastical history.
In his sermons, he never wearied of talking about his heavenly companion. "Be good," he would say.
"This will make your guardian angel happy. When physical or spiritual sorrows and misfortunes afflict you, turn to your guardian angel with strong trust, and he will help you. How many people in mortal sin were saved from death by their angels so they might have a chance for confession? Woe to those who give scandal! The guardian angels of innocent victims will cry out for vengeance to God."
In private conversations, Don Bosco gave generous counsel to everyone, notably his penitents, based on their needs!
"Remember that you have an angel as a companion, guardian and friend. If you wish to please Jesus and Mary, obey your guardian angel’s inspirations. When tempted, invoke your angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Take courage and pray because your guardian angel also will pray for you, and your prayers will be answered. Ignore the devil, and do not be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at your guardian angel’s sight. Ask your angel to console and assist you in your last moments."
In later years, numerous boys shared with Father Rua, Don Bosco's associate, how they had received extraordinary graces and evaded peril as a result of Don Bosco's instillation of devotion. For example, Don Bosco suggested specific days on which his spiritual children could venerate their guardian angels in particular. In both speech and writing, he communicated the following instructions:
Tuesdays are set aside by the Church as a particular day to remember the guardian angels. If you desire to emulate Saint Aloysius, who adored his guardian angel, I recommend that you observe these days with special mortification in his honor. You may give up something you enjoy, pray with your arms crossed, or venerate the crucifix. Archangel Raphael advised Tobias to give alms, so if you can, do the same.
Your birthday symbolizes the moment when your Guardian Angel assumed responsibility for you. Therefore, on this day, renew the vows you made in his presence at your baptism, namely that you will adore Jesus Christ, imitate Him, and obey His Holy Law. Make a particularly fervent Communion or pray a bit more than usual on this day to sanctify it. Perform some other deed of devotion as a token of your appreciation for the love he has shown you by becoming your guardian angel.
On the first day of each month, you would do well to reflect on the Four Last Things by pondering the reason God created you. Examine the condition of your conscience after the example of so many devout individuals who are also concerned with saving their spirits. You should consider what would occur if you were to pass away at this moment, and then you should go to Confession and Communion. Do good while there is still time.
Don Bosco received counsel throughout his entire existence. Even in his early years as an orator, he was able to use this potent method to convert boys who were formerly street urchins to a life of virtue. They obediently obeyed his advice regarding the guardian angles.
One day, a remarkable event validated their father's instructions. On a particular Sunday, the boys convened in the sacristy of St. Francis of Assisi Church. Don Bosco presented each lad with a holy image bearing a prayer to the Guardian Angel. He then admonished them to pray to their Guardian Angel. If you find yourself in grave bodily or spiritual danger, I assure you that he will come to your assistance and protect you.
A few days later, a journeyman bricklayer was constructing a new structure. As he walked back and forth on the scaffold, a support shattered. The timber planks on which he and two others were standing gave way beneath their weight. Upon hearing the first ominous splintering of wood, he realized he was trapped. The scaffolding collapsed, and the three boys fell from the fourth story to the street below as a deluge of planks, bricks, and stones fell from the sky.
A fall from such a height would result in certain fatality. While falling, however, this good lad recalled Don Bosco's words and loudly invoked his Guardian Angel.
"O my good Angel, help me!"