September 29 is the Feast of St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael, three of the traditional seven archangels; just four days later, on October 2, we celebrate the Feast of the guardian angels. It’s a good week to talk to your kids about these spiritual messengers of God! Here are seven ideas for celebrating.
1. Teach your kids about angels
Just for fun, try doing a Google Image search for “angel” and see what you get. The results are a long, long way from the Jewish and Christian tradition about angels. For one thing, as spiritual messengers of God, angels are never portrayed as cute and cuddly (or sexy, for that matter) in the Bible. More often, they strike fear in the hearts of those who catch a glimpse of them. For another thing, although certain angels in the Bible are described as having wings (and other animal parts), such imagery is symbolic; angels, as purely spiritual creatures, don’t have bodies. And finally, with all due respect to Michael Landon and cartoonists everywhere, people do not become angels when they die.
To learn more about angels, try these sources:
- Read about angels in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#325-354) and pull out a few facts to share with your kids.
- Check out the excellent article, “Teaching Children about the Angels” at CatholicMom.com.
- Another option for older teens: Listen to Dr. Mark Miravalle’s lecture, “Angels Explained,” at Lighthouse Catholic Media. You can hear a ten-minute excerpt at the Lighthouse website, or purchase an MP3 download of the full talk.
- All about Angels at Catholic Culture offers a comprehensive overview of a theology of angels.
- Check out this homily on angels from Pope Francis.
2. Teach your kids about Satan
It might seem strange to talk about Satan as part of a celebration of angels—until you remember that Satan is a fallen angel.
As with your discussion of angels in general, it might be good to clarify for your kids what Satan is and isn’t. Satan (and the other demons) are real, but they are not “the opposite of God” or “God’s evil twin.” They are nothing more than purely spiritual creatures who have rejected God. While we ought to take Satan seriously, kids shouldn’t be afraid of him, because God is ultimately triumphant over him.
Here’s where to learn more:
- Read “The Fall of the Angels” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#391-#395).
- Check out The Devil, the Fallen Angel at Catholic Educators Resource Center.
- For teens: Satan is Real at Lighthouse Catholic Youth.
3. Read about angels in the Bible
The Bible is full of great stories about angels. Here are a few to read to your kids:
- An angel rescues Peter from prison (see Acts 12:5-10).
- Isaiah’s vision of the seraphim (Isaiah 6:1-7).
- With older children, read the Book of Tobit, in which the angel Raphael disguises himself in order to help Tobias succeed in his mission.
- Daniel is rescued from lions by angels (Daniel 6:10-23).
- Hagar and Ishmael are rescued in the desert by an angel (Genesis 21:14-19).
- The angel Gabriel is sent to Mary (Luke 1:26-38).
- Angels appear to the shepherds (Luke 2:9-15).
The Bible contains more than 300 references to angels. To find more angels in the Bible, try searching for “angel” at Bible Gateway.
4. Pray to the angels
5. Make an angel craft
If you have young kids, there are many, many simple craft possibilities out there:
- Make sugar cookies in the shape of an angel.
- Make a “handprint angel” using paper, finger paint, and by positioning your hands creatively.
- Make angel puppets out of socks or paper bags.
You’ll find these crafts and many other angel-related ideas over at Catholic Icing. Here’s a bonus craft idea:
- Make “stained glass angels” for your window. Buy colored tissue paper (the kind you use for presents) and some white paper (cardstock works even better), Cut out the shape of an angel from the white paper; you can print out an angel on it first, if you like, to guide you. Use a sharp scissors to carefully cut holes in the paper angel. Cover the holes with colored tissue paper, held in place with tape or glue. Put up on a window and you’ll have a beautiful “stained glass angel” to watch over you for a week.
6. Make an angel food feast
Angel food cake and angel hair pasta are obvious choices for these feast days, but a more involved option would be to make St. Michael’s Bannock (also known as St. Michael’s Cake), an Irish recipe that can be found at Catholic Culture.
And if you really want to go all out to “feast with the angels,” head over to Catholic Cuisine, which has a nice roundup of feast-day ideas. Our favorite? Devil’s food cake…pierced with “swords,” in imitation of St. Michael’s attack on the devil.
7. Be like an angel
As noted above, people and angels are totally different creatures, but that doesn’t mean that your kids can’t be like the angels, in the sense of being messengers of God’s love. Try this fun activity:
- Make some simple cards (from paper or cardstock) and have your kids draw pictures of angels on them. You can get as crazy as you want decorating the cards: star stickers, tinfoil, paper lace, or (shudder) glitter can be added to the cards to make them look beautiful.
- Write a message from God inside the cards. You could write something simple (“God loves you!”) or something from the Bible. Write “Celebrating the Feast of the Archangels” somewhere on the card.
- Insert a treat or a tiny present inside the card (a piece of wrapped candy or a coin).
- And here’s the best part: Sneak around your house (or neighborhood, or church, or supermarket) and leave the card someplace where someone will find it as a surprise—a reminder that angels may not be visible to us (most of the time), but their works are all around us.