What does it mean when God sends a cardinal? There is a saying that goes, “When cardinals appear, angels are near.” This is because these beautiful red birds have strong spiritual associations for many people, and many believe they are messengers from angels.
God and angels manifest divine energy through animals. Birds, along with butterflies, are especially associated with this kind of divine energy because they fly. In essence, they exist as intermediaries between the physical and the metaphysical worlds, or Earth and the Heavens.
Cardinals in Christianity and the Bible
Cardinals are native to North America, as I wrote about in my more detailed post on cardinal meaning. So, they are not referenced in the Bible, which was written by people who lived in and around the Middle East. However, cardinals have come to have deep spiritual meanings for Christians and, notably, Catholics.
In fact, cardinal birds are named after principle Roman Catholic priests who are called cardinals (and who also wear red.) The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin word cardinalis, which means “serving as a hinge.” The root of the word cardinalis is cardo, which means “hinge.”1
These Catholic priests are compared to hinges because they are seen as serving a connective role between parishioners and God.
The reason that cardinal priests wear red is that it the color symbolizes their selfless loyalty to the pope and the church: They must to be willing to spill their own blood for Christ and the church.2
The Blood of Christ
The cardinal bird’s red plumage has also been associated with the blood of Christ. Thus, in the Christian faith, the cardinal is a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity.
The Holy Spirit
Also in the Christian faith, cardinals are seen as symbols of the Holy Spirit. This is because their feathers are flame colored. Thus, they are associated with the way the Holy Spirit can ignite people’s passion to change their lives and do good work in the world.
When God Sends a Cardinal: Other Faiths
While cardinal symbolism has strong associations in Christianity, these beautiful birds have important spiritual associations for people from a wide range of faiths. For example, the Pueblo Native Americans consider the cardinal one of their spiritual and directional guardians.3 In addition, many other people believe that cardinals carry messages from angels.
Messages from Loved Ones Who Have Passed
The saying about cardinals appearing when angels are near would not have become so well-known without a large number of believers. In fact, on a personal note, I’ll tell you my own story.
One of my cousins texted me excitedly a couple of days after our aunt had passed. My cousin lives in a city and was looking out her window when she saw a cardinal sitting on a branch outside. She had never seen cardinals in the city before that moment, let alone right outside her window. With certainty, she said she knew it was our aunt messaging to tell us that everything was ok and that she was at peace. Our aunt loved cardinals.
In my more detailed post on cardinal symbolism and meanings, I referenced a video on YouTube in which two sisters, Deborah Booth Patterson and Jeanne Booth Wright, share the story of how their mother who had passed came through to them via a cardinal. I’ll share it again here:
Summary: A Bird Beloved by God
In my spiritual faith, all life is connected to a divine source. Yet, we all have free will, and that includes animals. Just as some people are more readily receptive to having this divine source work through them, I think certain animals are as well. For me, cardinals are at the top of that list!