As a Catholic convert, there was a ton of things I did not know about the Catholic faith, like, you know, everything! Seriously though, I was one of those people who honestly thought that when people died and went to Heaven they became angels. So you can imagine my surprise, shock and even horror to find out that my Nana was NOT an angel and that that reality was a good thing! Wait, WHAT?!
The beauty of our faith is that things make sense. Once we question something (why is she not an angel if she is in Heaven?) then we are open to receive an explanation or an answer. And if you ask me, that is what our world is so hungry for right now - answers! I am just worried that our younger generations will stop asking the questions...but more on that later.
My question: why is she not an angel if she is in Heaven? Well, the answer is quite simple and easy to understand. Because God created other beings outside of us humans. God created angels and there are different kinds of angels; they have order and responsibilities, but they are all spirit. We, human persons, are spirit AND body. Unlike the angels, human beings are the only creatures God has created that are especially "in His image." (Genesis 1:27) Why? Because God did something very special - He took on human flesh. So special in fact, that when some of the angels heard about this (think Lucifer), they rebelled, not being able to understand how God would 'stoop so low' to become human.
Another way it was explained to me was in the form of a question, "What happened to your dog Duncan when he died? Did he turn into a cat? Horse? How about a lion? Why not? " Nope, because he was created a DOG. We don't change our nature when we die, we are still human, we don't turn into angels and spread wings. That is just as crazy as thinking our dogs turn into cats or horses or lions when they die.
Now some of you may be a little shocked or even mad at this new reality, but don't be. It is a grace, a blessing, an honor to be the creatures that God chose to be made especially like HIM, an honor that not even the angels can claim! I promise you, once you allow this truth to sink into your heart and soul, to truly realize how precious and special you are in God's heart, it will not only make sense and but even seem silly now to think that we turn into angels.
May God bless you and keep you and may your Guardian Angel watch over and protect you! †
Holy Scripture: Colossians 1:16, Luke 20:35-36, Matthew 22:30, Revelation 14:6, 1 Peter 3:21-22, 1 Peter 1:12, Revelation 5:11-12, Psalm 91:11, Matthew 16:27, Matthew 18:10, Exodus 23: 20-21, etc.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (what does our faith teach?):
(The existence of angels - a truth of faith) 328 The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.
(Who are they?) 329 St. Augustine says: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit', from what they do, 'angel.'" (188) With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" they are the "mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word". (189)
(What are they?) 330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness. (190)