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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

angels vs. saints, adoration vs. prayer before the tabernacle, & a word about this column

What is the difference between angels and saints?

     Let me say what angels and saints each are as the way to show how they are different.

     Angels are creatures of God that are both invisible and are pure spirits; that is, they have no physical bodies. They are immortal by their nature and created by God with intelligence and will. According to St. Augustine (who is referenced in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 329), the word “angel” speaks about their function or “office” which is to be messengers of God.

     Meanwhile, the word “saint” properly refers to one who is “holy.” Saints are those who live in union with God – both in heaven and on earth. This, of course, includes the great archangels such as Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, along with our guardian angels, and many more. All of us are saints insofar as we have received baptism and are living in right response to our baptism – no matter what our particular calling in life may be. That we consider those who have died and are recognized to already be in heaven as saints is a proper way to acknowledge that their lives are lived fully with and in God – aware that they are “saints” both through the lives they lived while on earth and now live heaven.

     Thus, to be a saint is to live in union with God. While God’s intent was for all angels and all human beings to live such a life, unfortunately many of each have (or do) said “no” to such an invitation. For those angels who accepted service of God and for those among human beings who put their faith in Jesus Christ and remain faithful to Him to the end, such are the saints.

Is it better or holier to pray at Adoration than to pray before the tabernacle?  Aren’t they both Jesus?

     In another question of what is different, the fruits and efficacy of Eucharistic Exposition (that is, when the consecrated host is displayed in the monstrance) and times of simply praying before the tabernacle where the Eucharist is reserved are objectively the same – as your question implies: Jesus’ Eucharistic presence is the same in both. What is significantly important to understand, however, is that Eucharistic Adoration with the monstrance “lifts the veil,” so to speak, as we are able to directly gaze upon His Eucharistic presence in our midst. For many people, this direct gaze upon the consecrated hosts leads to a more personal encounter with Jesus than they may otherwise experience with the reserved sacrament in the tabernacle. Likewise, since the practice of Eucharistic Adoration in the monstrance includes the requirement of at least one person remaining in the immediate presence of the sacrament (though it is more preferable in the Church’s ritual guidelines and policies that at least two people always be present), the practice of adoration in the monstrance has a greater impact simply by the sheer necessity of someone always being present. On the other hand, while the ability to come and go from the reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle certainly allows for the same type of presence, the truth is that it can be more difficult to sustain a continued time of prayer of many people when the Eucharist is reserved in the tabernacle than when praying at Eucharist Adoration in the monstrance.

A word about this column from Fr. Joel: 

     Recently I have reflected anew upon the purpose of this question box as a means to teach and offer explanation of truths of the Catholic Faith in a way that is suitable and useful to people of different ages, backgrounds, and the like. Given this purpose, I simply want to encourage you to ask questions in a way that keeps this goal in mind.  Recently I have willingly discarded several submitted questions that I read as personal concerns ahead of being for the good of many. If you have personal concerns, I encourage you to come directly to me with such concerns – that I might both answer your real questions in a timely way while maintaining the established purpose of this column as a way of teaching the Catholic Faith to a wider audience.  Thank you for your understanding.  

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