Are they faster than a speeding bullet?
When we envision how angels act in this world, we often think of them how modern movies and TV shows depict them. We think they generally look like humans and while we walk down a sidewalk, they are right at our side walking with us. If we walk faster, our angel is obliged to walk faster with us.
However, the truth is much more mysterious than that.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that, “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” (CCC 330).
In other words, angels do not possess a physical, material, body. This means that they are not restricted by the movement of their bodies as we are. The concept of a pure spirit that is not bound by space (or time) is difficult for our minds to process.
St. Thomas Aquinas pondered the various attributes of angels in his Summa Theologiae and came to the conclusion that even though they are not bound by space, they can move locally from one place to another. However, the difference is that “an angel can be in one place in one instant, and in another place in the next instant, without any time intervening.”
Philosopher Peter Kreeft reflected on this passage of Aquinas and tried to relay a similar concept in his book Angels and Demons.
Because of their lack of bodies, angels do not occupy space like we do and move within our world without taking up space. The closest analogy to how angels move is like “electrons” or in “quantum leaps.” Angels “move instantaneously from one place to another without passing through any space or time in between.”
In a mysterious way angels are able to move simply by an act of the will. If they want to move to a certain place on earth, they are instantly there.
Angels are marvelous creatures of God’s design that we will never fully understand here on earth. It highlights the beauty and variety of God’s creation, while also giving us a foretaste of what Heaven might be like for us when we are no longer bound by the laws of this world.