We Do Not Become Angels When We Die & We Don't Send Cardinals To Earch


My husband and I are Catholic but very, very few of our relatives are. We live in another state than all our relatives and only communicate by Facebook. Every few years or so we might make a trip to see family. So we don’t have much contact.

On Facebook they all seem to think loved ones become angels when we die and those who are in Heaven communicate with us by sending red Cardinals, either the living bird in their yard or just a picture on FB. It’s irritating and I have just been scrolling past those posts for years. But is there something I can gently point out every once in a while to reveal it’s not true?


Yikes. When I saw your title, I thought you meant the ecclesiastical Cardinals (which would explain some of them) being sent to Earth.

If your family members and friends aren’t Catholic, their own church traditions or ideas might include dead people becoming angels (I mean, I remember seeing “The Littlest Angel” on TV when I was a little girl, and it was this little boy–Johnnie Whittaker from Family Affair-- who went climbing a hill on his 8th birthday, reached for a ‘dove’ and the next minute was standing on a cloud wearing little wings so obviously the script writers had some idea that dead people turn into angels). I don’t think they would pay much attention to Catholic teachings. Catholic Christian teaching NEVER TAUGHT THAT PEOPLE BECAME ANGELS. They never taught that Cardinals appear when a person dies, or that the rays you see from the sun behind clouds are the ‘ladders’ showing that a dying person is going up to heaven, etc. etc. but you’ll find all kinds of people who believe these things, because their parents told them, or their kindly aunt Matilda, or one of their teachers said something like it back in the 7th grade, or they read on article on FB and really liked it because it reminded them of something they heard once. . .you name it.

You MIGHT have some luck posting excerpts of tracts here at FB which do give authentic Catholic teaching about the Four Last Things (because your family cannot help but notice that there is no mention of Uncle Herman becoming angel Herman,or stories about cardinals appearing after death). But they’ll probably just skim through YOUR posts, or step up their own posts because they’ll think YOU’re the one who gets the teachings wrong. So you might be better off if instead of arguing that Uncle Herman is not an angel now, you send his family a nice picture of the candles you had lit in his memory, and a Mass card offering Masses for his soul, as well as any kind memory you have of him (if any), and let that kind of ‘silent witness’ speak for you.

No, there is no “gentle” way to point out that the one very striking example of nature’s beauty that always serves as a fond reminder of their deceased loved one has no connection whatsoever to that person. Why? Well, while you are trying to be factually correct in some fashion, you’ll also come off as a total Grinch. Besides, I’m not so sure you be certain you are 100% correct. There may be a bit of truth in what they see in those cardinals.

I’d encourage you to see their belief in terms of simple faith. Remember what one of the older sisters at Carmel told St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “I should think, child, you have not much to tell your superiors.” “Why do you think that, dear Mother?”… “Because your soul is very simple; but when you are perfect you will become more simple still. The nearer one approaches God, the simpler one becomes.” St. Thérèse–this “Little Flower” is a Doctor of the Church, mind you!–took the sight of snow on her clothing day as a particular favor sent to her from Our Lord Himself:

*Do you remember my telling you, dear Mother, how fond I am of snow? While I was still quite small, its whiteness entranced me. Why had I such a fancy for snow? Perhaps it was because, being a little winter flower, my eyes first saw the earth clad in its beautiful white mantle. So, on my clothing day, I wished to see it decked, like myself, in spotless white. The weather was so mild that it might have been spring, and I no longer dared hope for snow. The morning of the feast brought no change and I gave up my childish desire, as impossible to be realised…
After the ceremony in the Chapel I re-entered the Convent and the Bishop intoned the Te Deum. One of the Priests observed to him that this hymn of thanksgiving was only sung at professions, but, once begun, it was continued to the end. Was it not right that this feast should be complete, since in it all other joyful days were reunited?
The instant I set foot in the enclosure again my eyes fell on the statue of the Child Jesus smiling on me amid the flowers and lights; then, turning towards the quadrangle, I saw that, in spite of the mildness of the weather, it was covered with snow. What a delicate attention on the part of Jesus! Gratifying the least wish of His little Spouse, He even sent her this. Where is the creature so mighty that he can make one flake of it fall to please his beloved?
Everyone was amazed, and since then many people, hearing of my desire, have described this event as “the little miracle” of my clothing day, and thought it strange I should be so fond of snow. So much the better, it shows still more the wonderful condescension of the Spouse of Virgins—of Him Who loves lilies white as the snow. * from Story of a Soul, Chapter VII

Why would Our Lord not grant such a thing to your relatives to ease their grief? Who are you, to crush the comfort that comes from such a childlike faith? No, rather than to say it does not come from your relatives’ deceased loved ones, tell them it is evidence that those relatives are willing to intercede for those left behind so that God will send cardinals as evidence of their intercession, and encourage them to ask their relatives to include them in their prayers for all the needs they have from God. Encourage your relatives to also pray for those who have died, as we are all one Church, the living and those who died in Christ alike. Surely anyone who believes in a Heaven is willing to accept that all its good things come from our loving Father Himself. He did encourage us to ask for all things, and that we get into the habit of interceding for each other!

There might be an opening at some point to say that dying and rising in Christ is *better *than being an angel, since Christ didn’t die and rise again as an angel but as a human being. Sliding them over to the communion of the saints and reminding them to pray for their loved one and to ask their loved one to pray for them would be a good thing.

While we cannot ask for the intercession of just anyone within the liturgy, we can ask anyone, even someone who might be among the Holy Souls in Purgatory instead of already among the saints, to pray for us. If you use this belief in an afterlife already planted in your relatives to move them towards a more active connection with the entire Church, both those living and those who have died before us, that’s a step in the right direction along a path they seem inclined to travel.

In other words, be careful not to crush their faith but to elevate it to an understanding that recognizes even greater gifts from Heaven than they already imagine. I think that is both more charitable and more true, both at the same time.

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I very much agree with EasterJoy. After all God sent a rainbow to Noah, so who is to say, since God is our loving father, that he would not allow our deceased loved ones to send signs that would make us think or hope to confirm they reached Heaven by some sort of sign, be it a cardinal, or firefly if that was special to both of you, or a rainbow, snow, the smell of roses, etc. God is full of surprises. We are Catholics, not Puritans and very open to understanding Gods love, compassion and Mercy on our deceased and those of us left behind grieving and in need of comfort.

I totally agree with EasterJoy. Let them post if it brings them closer to believing, and let God lead them to the truth through the Holy Spirit.

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Hi Jenn, Jesus taught that we will be ‘like’ angels in heaven… That’s not saying that we are angels but rather ‘like’ angels in heaven… Lord willing, we will be the perfected ‘we’ in heaven and so if we’re not an angel now, we won’t be later in heaven…:gopray2::getholy:.

Mark 12:25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be ‘like’ the angels in heaven.

The word ‘like’ there is key… We will be spiritual persons made up of spiritual body and souls, but we won’t be angels but like angels… The Holy Angels are heavenly creatures created to be an angel who are part of Gods army. In heaven however, we will finally be able to see the angels. :)You might want to say something like that to bring their attention to the differences?

Some people also refer to a scripture which says that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for a little while… (Hebrews 2:9) and some interpret that as meaning Jesus is an angel. Well human beings are lower than the hierarchy of the angels, and the top ‘perfect’ human was Jesus when He was made man for a little while.

Cardinals have several symbolic meanings including being divine messengers in certain faith traditions. The name Cardinal for a bird was derived from Catholic Cardinals, who take on the role interestingly as divine messengers. :slight_smile:

Remember that the scriptures also say Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Angels can take on human form on earth and there’s stories in the bible about this happening Like Saints Michael, Rafael and Gabriel. What I see in this is that often beliefs can take on a life of their own…I read a book about angels, and it wasn’t about heavenly creatures, it was about humans who helped others…Maybe thats why they consider people they know in heaven as angels, because they don’t know as much about the faith but they know what being an angel is about…:shrug::shrug:. :angel1: Peace…K

I wouldn’t see anything wrong with saying, “I’d rather think they ask God to send a cardinal to comfort you and God hears their request, so that the cardinal comes, as they always do, as a gift from the hand of God Himself.” That scoots things a bit more toward seeing the deceased relatives not as having some divine power of their own, but as being intercessors with a particular interest in those they cared for during earthly life.

I mean to encourage reciprocation. Whatever condition the dead relatives are in, they will not be offended if prayers are offered for them and not just requests for intercession given to them. I know that when I’m dead, I don’t want my relatives to forget to pray for me! If they remember to pray with me and for me every time they see my favorite bird, I’d be all for that! I’d be asking the Lord to please send flocks of those things!!

They may be offended at the thought that their perfect dead mother is in need of prayers. To that, I’d say, “Well, I know I won’t be anyone Heaven will be ready to host for eternity by the time I die, so whatever you do, pray for me when I’m dead!!” If you put it that way, prayers for the dead seem quite sensible until your dead relative is up for canonization.

Isn’t it odd that some of the most anti-Catholic, ex-Catholic, not believing Catholics, spiritual-but-not-religious types are the ones that chase these odd ball ‘spirituality’ superstitions?