Whilemost religions celebrate angels, those celestial beings most often pictured with wings, they don't all agree on their purpose in the lives of the faithful. Our clergy attempt to make the origin and purpose of angels a little clearer.

Msgr. Jeffrey J. Madley, pastor, Basilica Church of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Southampton:

One of the earliest recollections I have of religion is being taught the Guardian Angel Prayer when I was in the first grade. It was the first religious thing I really understood.

"Angel of God, My Guardian Dear, to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide. "

Angels are God's messengers. They do what God wants and needs done. Some are tough, as in the Old Testament (Genesis 19: 1-22, Joshua 5: 13-15, 2 Samuel 24: 15-17). Others are helpful, as the one who told the Virgin Mary that she would be the father of Jesus (Matthew 1:21). I also believe there are people in our lives who may be angels who are there to help us or bail us out of problems.

There also is the idea that Satan is a fallen angel who was the leader of all angels (Luke 10:18). He is said to have preferred to rule in hell rather than follow orders in heaven. For Catholics, whether they're the big, powerful angels of the Old Testament or the helpful, caring angels of the New Testament, they're there as messengers and to bring God into our lives.

There are those who believe we become angels when we die, as in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." That wouldn't be a bad promotion. But, human beings are different from angels. Humans don't turn into angels.

The Rev. Mike Smith, Shinnecock Presbyterian Church, Shinnecock Reservation, Southampton:

Historically, angels have been considered messengers of God (Daniel 10:12). They are the intermediary between the human creature and the Almighty (Psalm 103:19-22, Psalm 91:11, Colossians 1:16-17)

We've all heard of the guardian angel (Hebrews 1:14, Matthew 18:10) who is said to watch over each of us as we make our journey through this earthly realm.

Angels can speak directly to us. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy and single-minded that we don't even take the time to listen.

Sister Dorothy Steinfeld, retreat coordinator for Brahma Kumaris' Global Harmony House, Great Neck:

Like most religious traditions, we see angels as helpers and messengers of God. They help alleviate the pain and suffering of humanity. We see them as real beings, not concepts. All angels were previously human beings. Once one attains that perfect state, the one that is closest and most like God, then that person leaves this earthly body and attains a body of light and becomes an angel.

In this time of special need in the world, which is in pain and chaos, God invokes souls as helpers. As angels, we do tasks for God. One of those tasks is to help guide other ascending souls to the soul world. And, at the end of this world, all of us will become angels.

Rabbi Alan Lavin, Farmingdale-Wantagh Jewish Center, Wantagh:

Angels are mentioned in many places in the Torah and the Bible, particularly the early sections, such as the Book of Genesis (chapters 18, 19) and Exodus (3:1-2, 23:20-23). Angels are traditionally understood to be agents of God (2 Saumuel 24: 15-17, Daniel 6:22, Acts 7:38).

The angels give an example of how we humans should behave. There are artistic representations of angels, but no one really know what one looks like. You can think of an angel as God's avatar. An angel is a higher level of spirituality than is mankind (Psalm 8: 4-5).

There is a story that teaches that when Moses was on Mount Sinai getting the Ten Commandments from God, the angels became upset. They asked, "Why aren't you giving the Torah to us? Why are you giving The Commandments to Moses and the Israelites?"

God replied: "Do you eat and drink?" Do you reproduce?" "Do you fight among yourselves?"

The angels replied no to all these.

God then explained that he was giving the Commandments to mankind because they needed them, that mankind could be at their worst, or raise themselves up to do and be better. By studying and observing the law, the Torah, we can raise ourselves to this greater nature.

Are there angels in this world? I'd say yes. In the Bible, you see things that angels do while disguised as humans.

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