Book Plunge: The Angels and Their Mission

What do I think of Father Jean Danielou’s book published by Thomas More Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book is subtitled with “According to the Fathers of the Church.” Thus, while Scripture is used from time to time, Danielou is largely sharing what the fathers have to say. Also, these are normally the early church fathers, though sometimes the post-nicene ones are cited. Rarely is Aquinas mentioned, which is surprising seeing as he’s the angelic doctor, but I suppose he was considered too late to be a father.

I understand authors don’t always get to choose the titles of their books, but I was left thinking that “The Mission of the Angels” might have been a better title since not much is said about Angelology in this. Instead, much of this relates to what angels do in the service of God. That’s fine, but those wanting angelology will need to check other resources.

That being said, this is in many ways very thorough starting with what angels did before the birth of Christ and then with what angels did during the Earthly incarnation and then what they do following. How do they act in the lives of believers and unbelievers? Do we have a guardian angel? What do they do when people die?

In this, one surprising area was left out and that was the incarnation itself. What did they do during the ministry of Jesus? I couldn’t help but think of how N.T. Wright has talked about the making of the creed and having it say “Born of the Virgin Mary” (Which I do affirm), crucified under Pontius Pilate.” He says he can picture Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John sitting in the background saying, “We spent a lot of time on that stuff in the middle and we think that it’s rather important.”

The book is also definitely written from a Catholic perspective, but that doesn’t mean you have to be Catholic to get a lot out of it. A Protestant like myself could disagree with some aspects such as the idea of angels and the sacraments with the role that baptism and the eucharist play in the RCC, but we should not be dismissive of angels. If anything, angelology is a subject that Christians need to spend a lot more time thinking on, especially since we have so much misinformation, such as the idea that people become angels when they die.

One other section it might have been good to have had something on is demons. Yes. I know when we talk about angels, we normally think about the good ones who are meant to serve the Lord, but we also need to have a doctrine of demons. Again, we have a lot of misinformation here as we tend to either see them everywhere or else we deny their existing altogether. They are happy with both positions.

However, if you want to see a Catholic understanding of the work that angels do, this is a good resource. It is a doctrine that Protestants need to work on a lot more as well. Paul says we will judge angels one day. It might serve us to know a little bit more about them before we get to that job.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)