Interview With Angelologist Father M. Stanzione
ROME, JUNE 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).-
There is a lack of education about angels, especially among young Christians, and other groups take advantage of this vacuum, warns an expert on angelology.
Father Marcello Stanzione, a priest at the Abbey of Santa Maria La Nova in Campagna, Italy, and author of numerous essays and books on angelology, spoke with ZENIT about the modern perception of angels.
In 2002, Father Stanzione refounded the Catholic association Militia of St. Michael the Archangel, which organizes an annual theological-pastoral meeting on angels. The second annual meeting was held June 1-2 with the theme "The Return of the Angels Today, Between Devotion and Mystification."
Q: What do angels represent for the Catholic faith and why are they the object of more attention by other groups and religious movements than by Christians?
Father Stanzione: Sadly, the catechesis on evangelization has been somewhat lacking on this point of the world's knowledge of angels. Others have taken advantage of the vacuum that has been created.
What is central in theology is the doctrine on God, the Holy Trinity, and Jesus Christ. But the angels are not useless or superfluous realities, because they are part of God's revelation.
Angels are creatures as we are, with an ontological difference. We are born and die; angels do not die and have been given to us by God to keep us company. The angels are an important complement in the creation of the body; they are human beings' best friends.
A theologian has written that the angels are servants of God, and they make themselves servants of those who make themselves God's servants.
Some maintain that Jesus Christ, being the only mediator, does not need angels. In fact, in the Acts of the Apostles, the history of the early Church makes evident the fundamental role of the angels. We can say that Jesus Christ is the only mediator and the angels collaborate in Jesus Christ's mediation.
The decline in attention and veneration of the angels in the last 50 years is due to a kind of secularization, influenced by a Protestant deviation, which criticizes veneration of the Virgin, saints and angels. There has been no clear evangelization on the nature and role of angels and there is some confusion even among Catholics.
I have written and published several texts of Christian prayers to angels to avoid catechists also believing and using ambiguous texts circulating in bookstores.
Several of these ambiguous texts are reviewed by Catholic magazines without making any critical observation. They are essays that are based on astrology, on the 365 degrees of the zodiac, and they hold that there is a protector angel every five degrees, so that those born in those five degrees have that protector angel.
It is a kind of white magic. I have met several Church people who confused Catholic devotion with these rites. However, it would be enough to enter a bookstore to find in the esoteric section some 30-40 titles on the angels. This indicates the great confusion that exists. There are few Catholic authors who write orthodox texts on the angels.
Q: Has the intercession of angels before the Lord been forgotten by Catholics?
Father Stanzione: The problem exists. For some people it is comfortable to use the angels to falsify the relationship with Jesus Christ and with ecclesiastical institutions.
In this way, the discourse of the Ten Commandments and of morality is also falsified. It is a religion a la carte, with angels who serve to help one find a fiancé or parking place.
In sum, a trivial, magic use is made of them. Instead, angels have great dignity; even the simplest angel is much more intelligent and powerful than a human being.
Evident is the lack of education of the new generations in devotion and relationship with the angels. I have been concerned with this question for 15 years, and in this endeavor of education I am appreciated and supported by my bishop.
Q: Were angels created before man? What happened with Lucifer?
Father Stanzione: There is an ongoing debate on the birth of the angels, in the sense that some hold that the angels were created before men, and others that they were created contemporaneously with men.
In regard to Lucifer, it is proof that God does not impose faith and does not want to be loved by force but allows freedom of choice.
It must be specified that there is no dualism, in the sense that Lucifer is not God's antagonist. Lucifer is the Archangel Michael's antagonist because God does not lower himself to combat Lucifer, but sends Michael.
Q: What is the purpose of the congress you organize annually?
Father Stanzione: Every year, at the beginning of June, we hold a meeting on the angels. Last year we reflected on the figure of St. Michael. This year we are discussing the angels today, between devotion and mystification. Next year we will reflect on the relationship between the angels and saints.
In this way we want to fill a gap and overcome the prejudice that a discussion about angels is not worthy of theological debate. We give our congresses a theological and above all a pastoral focus.
Q: Is it plausible and Christian to think that each one of us has a guardian angel?
Father Stanzione: Whoever does not believe in the existence of the guardian angel is outside the doctrine of the faith. Each person has an angel as a good pastor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also says it.
One cannot say that one believes in God, in the Holy Spirit, in the Virgin, without believing in the angels.
We do not see angels except in the history of the Bible and the history of the Church. Many saints had frequent contacts with angels; they experienced a relationship. Different mystics speak about the relationship with angels.
I think the time is ripe for the creation of courses on angelology and demonology in theological faculties.