How can an Angel be a Saint?
I am an 82-year old woman and have always wondered how Michael the angel can be called a saint when only humans can become saints? Before I die, I’d like to know the answer. Yvonne Samy
The word saint comes from the Latin word sanctus, meaning holy. You will remember that in the Latin Mass the priest recited: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus. Now we say: Holy, holy, holy.
Sanctus also refers to a holy one, starting with God himself who declares in Isaiah 43:3: For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel and with Christ, whom the unclean spirit called the Holy One of God (Mk 1:24).
God’s holiness is his infinitely transcendent and self-sufficient life as our creator, redeemer and sanctifier. In contrast, human creatures are finite. We are not holy, and cannot be holy unless we can share God’s life in some way. This happens when we are baptised and given supernatural grace, a real sharing in the life of the all-holy God. St Paul explains that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing so that we should be holy and blameless before him (Eph 1:3).
Your question deals firstly with members of the Church who lived such holy lives on earth that we now venerate them in heaven, living in the presence of Christ their saviour. The word saint is generally reserved for them.
Secondly, you wonder how angels can be called saints when they are not human, were never baptised and thus are not members of the Church. Besides that, they cannot be canonised by the Church because they are not subject to Church rules.
We know from Scripture that angels are God’s messengers, doing his will in their relation to us on earth. They are holy because of their closeness to God whom they faithfully serve. The angel told Zechariah: I am Gabriel who stand in the presence of God (Lk 1:19).
Angels do more than stand before God. They stand in the presence of Christ whom God has exalted in his human form, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).
You see, then, that both we and the angels worship and praise Christ as our Lord. We are united in Christ, so that the angels are also holy ones, saints, and can offer their prayers on our behalf.
The Church honours, in particular, the three angelic saints named in Scripture: Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.