Last week, we celebrated two wonderful feast days in our Catholic tradition that honor the gift of angels in our midst—the Feast of the Archangels (Sept. 29) and the Feast of the Guardian Angels (Oct. 2). This time of year always makes me pause and contemplate the very presence of angels in my life.
As a little girl, I learned The Guardian Angel Prayer and recited it every night before I went to sleep. Now that I am a mom, I have taught that prayer to my own six children, and we pray it, along with the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, every day on our way to school.
On the Feast of the Archangels, I snuggled up with my three-year-old son and read the latest release in the God Gave Us series by Lisa Tawn Bergren, God Gave Us Angels. Beautifully illustrated by Laura J. Bryant, the book begins with Little Cub "lookin' for angels," because "the bunnies said they're all around us."
Papa Bear engages his young cub's numerous questions about angels with simple and clear answers that Bergren forms into a wonderful, natural conversation about the existence of angels. Little Cub's questions are questions many children (and adults) have, such as "Will we get to be angels when we die?" And Papa Bear's answers are ones parents can utilize to help them teach their own children about the reality of angels in our midst.
For example, one of the questions Little Cub asks is, "What do angels do all day, Papa?" And Papa Bear answers, "Angels live to serve God. Whatever he wants them to do, they do. And he loves us. So sometimes they bring messages from him to us. Other times they guard us or even fight for us. And they're always worshiping God."
This passage alone prompted my own conversation with my son about the reality of angels, how they serve God by guarding and protecting us. This also called to mind the conversations I have had with my older children about angels being present, and worshipping God, specifically at Mass. Often, I encourage them to think about something they could personally offer to God during the offertory, which is the part of Mass when the bread and wine are presented to God before they are consecrated. And then we ask our guardian angels to present our own little offerings to God on our behalf.
God Gave Us Angels not only is a wonderful book because of its teachable message. It also is delightful for children who simple enjoy looking at pictures in books. The polar bears, penguins and other woodland creatures are sweet and friendly. My own little boy named the penguins Joseph and Luke, after him and his brother, who happens to adore penguins. In addition, we took time out of our reading to talk about the angel bears that appear here and there within the book. Sometimes the angles are following Papa Bear and Little Cub, and sometimes all you can see is part of an angel wing in the corner of a page. These illustrations of the angels show the reader that angels are with us always, even though we cannot see them. Needless to say, there are a lot of little details to explore on every page.
It is worth noting that there is one part of God Gave Us Angels that is not in line with Catholic teaching. One of the questions Little Cub asks his dad is if we pray to angles, and Papa replays that we only pray to God. As previously mentioned, our Catholic tradition gives us special feast days to honor the angels as well as prayers asking them to help, protect and defend us. No, we may not pray to them in the same way that we pray to God. But they are very much a part of our prayer life. Just like we ask Our Blessed Mother and the saints to pray and intercede for us, on our behalf, we ask the angels to do the same.
With that said, God Gave Us Angels still makes a wonderful addition to any faith-based book basket. It is definitely a book to read during the special angelic feast days of our Liturgical Calendar. And it also would be a great gift for the upcoming Christmas season, as the characters are decked out in colorful scarves and fluffy snow is present on nearly every page.
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Copyright 2014, Sarah Damm