Dear Father John, I know of a few people who recommend that we name our guardian angels. Is that something that is good to do? How do we go about doing this? Is there some particular prayer involved? And, if we don¹t give them the right name, is there a danger of invoking evil spirits instead? Thanks Father John.
Devotion to our guardian angels is a good thing. It encourages us to be prayerful and to have a faith-filled view of the events of every day. It also can foster healthy docility to God’s will and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. But it is not our job to give names to our guardian angels.
Angels are pure spirits – this means that each angel is a person, a spiritual person. The only people we can give names to are people that we have authority over – parents name their children, because their children have been entrusted to them by God; parents have a real authority over their children. God changed the names of some of his chosen leaders in the Bible, like Abraham and Isaac, because he has authority over all of us and can change the direction of our lives. Jesus also gave Peter a new name, following that pattern.
But the angels are, to put it bluntly, superior beings. As pure spirits, their nature is superior to our human nature – which is material and spiritual. And their office of being our guardians is given to them by God, not by us. They obey God, not us. So we don’t have authority over them, and it is not up to us to name them. They are not, say, like pets. (For more on this, you may want to read Taylor Marshall’s post, here: http://taylormarshall.com/2011/06/you-are-not-allowed-to-name-your.html.)
In fact, the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy actually discourages the practice of naming our guardian angels, in #217:
The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture.
I think I understand why some people feel a need to give their guardian angel a name – they want to be able to relate to their guardian angel more directly. They want a more inter-personal relationship with their guardian angel. That, I think, can be a healthy desire. But our guardian angels already have names, so it’s really not our job to give them names. If they want to reveal their names to us, fine. But otherwise, we should simply accept them and be grateful for their protection.
I hope this helps. God bless you! Fr. John
Art: Guardian angel, Domenichino, 1615, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.