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by Paul Turner

Angels, we have heard on high, sing sweetly o'er the plain. Our voices blend with theirs in an unending hymn of praise at every Mass. They've made it big in recent years on Broadway, major league baseball, the best-seller list, and the top 40. Few doubt their influence.

Angels have secured a place in popular spirituality. The faithful who try to make sense out of good fortune or coincidence frequently attribute the incidents to the presence and activity of angels. For many, they resemble benign spiritual hackers who break into the data of our lives and rearrange the bits according to their own plan.

However, in Scripture and in liturgy, they play a far less mischievous role.

Angels, properly speaking, are messengers. In the Old Testament they appear nearly as manifestations of God. When you ask someone to deliver a message for you, you expect their words to be received as your own, their presence to represent your own. That's what angels did in the Bible. The Book of Tobit tells of the angel Raphael who heals on behalf of God. Michael appears as the protector against evil in Daniel 10:21, Jude 9, and Revelation 12:7. And Gabriel brings the good news of salvation to Zechariah (Luke 1:11) and to Mary (Luke 1:26-27). However, Paul warned the Colossians against the worship of angels (Col 2:18).

At Mass, angels turn their attention toward God. They appear in every preface, before we sing the Holy, holy. The first eucharistic prayer asks that God's angel take the sacrifice to heaven. During the Creed we acclaim the God who has created not only things seen, but also unseen--like angels. And in the fall each year the archangels get their own feast (September 29) and the guardian angels follow (October 2). Prior to 1965, we used to end every Mass with a prayer to St. Michael.

Thus, angels have secured a place in the Scripture and liturgy of our church. For us, they have performed as messengers of God's word. For God, they worship with all creation. Messengers and worshippers, they model the responsibilites we share in the church to spread the good news and praise God.

For additional bulletin insert resources, try Index of Bulletin Inserts

(This bulletin insert originally appeared in MODERN LITURGY, copyright (c) 1996, Resource Publications, Inc. It may not be reproduced without permission. Send permission requests to

(Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, MO, holds a doctorate in sacramental theology from Sant' Anselmo University.

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