After disappearing from most theological and philosophical think tanks of the modern era, the questions related to angelology have recently made a comeback in the West through postmodern spiritual movements like the New Age.
This growing interest towards angels in contemporary societies, however, is giving rise to dangerous distortions of the Christian metaphysical conception of the world.
Alerted by the numerous perversions of this important element of the Christian faith, Father Serge-Thomas Bonino, secretary of the International Theological Commission and dean of the faculty of philosophy of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, applied himself to provide solid theological foundations to the belief in the existence of angels through his book Angels and Demons: A Catholic Introduction.
Padre Pio tirelessly reaffirmed the importance of prayer to one's own guardian angel, and for his part Father Bonino is convinced that the angelic figure gives human creatures a foretaste of the beauty and greatness of God. According to him, the estrangement of many Christians from their celestial companions, combined with the current climate of spiritual confusion, highlights the urgent need to speak about these intermediary spirits between the human and divine realms as an avenue for evangelization.
At the approach of the feast of the holy archangels, Sept. 29, and that of the guardian angels, Oct. 2, the Register sought his valuable insights into this too-often-neglected spiritual subject.
You often denounce a "hijacking" of angelology by New Age movements, while Christians themselves have been gradually turning away from it. How do you explain such a phenomenon?
First of all, it is important to say that angels are not central to Christianity; the central question is the mystery of God and that of Christ. Their existence is nevertheless a fact that the Scripture and the Tradition of the Church have always maintained, deepened and supported. Thus, this is not an optional truth, although it is not an essential one.
I think that, over the past centuries, in Christianity, there has been in some way a desire to demythologize the Christian faith in a way that has not always been relevant and smart. To put it in a more popular way, we sometimes threw the baby out with the bathwater.
For sure, in ancient times, the figure of angels was connected to a certain cosmology which is no longer ours. But the existence of angels and their actions in the life of the Church, as well as in human beings' lives, has always been a very present element in the Scripture, and the Church has always taught this truth. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there is a very important part dedicated to the invisible world that we also mention in the Creed ("all things visible and invisible").
Then I am afraid that angels as they are presented in New Age spiritualities have very little to do with Christian angels. They are not really spiritual beings, but kinds of ghosts or "doubles." They are a figment of imagination. So the belief in angels must always be evangelized. It means that one must think about the world and especially about angels according to the great mysteries of Christianity, not according to one's own imagination or projections.