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The archangels are lovers and fighters
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
Remember TV's "Touched by an Angel"? For a time it was a hugely popular hit, and not without its charms.
But the show was full of confused
ideas about God’s attendants. (Hint: Real angels don’t sip double lattes while
strategizing ways to help someone out of a jam.)
In a 1986 general-audience
address, Pope John Paul II spoke about three real angels while reflecting on
the whole heavenly host. He used them to illustrate Hebrews 1:14: “Are they not
all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to
The three the Holy Father called
by name are the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. He pointed out how
they reflect, in a particular way, the truth of the letter’s rhetorical
question. These three must be especially powerful, as they’re the only three
angels named in the Bible. Surely, the Holy Father inferred, they have special
There’s no better day to consider
what their missions might be than Sept. 29, feast of the Archangels. (The feast
of the Guardian Angels follows less than a week later, on Oct. 2.)
John Paul II pointed out that the
name Gabri-El means “power of God,” and he’s “a
figure bound especially to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.”
Do we remember Gabriel’s role in
the Annunciation when we recall his words to the Blessed Virgin when praying
the “Hail Mary?”
In his classic book All About the Angels (Tan, 1945),
Dominican Father Paul Sullivan tells us to say the Hail Mary, the Angelus and
the first Joyful Mystery in union with St. Gabriel. When we do, he says, we
give “delight and gladness” to Mary and also give “boundless pleasure” to St.
It’s no wonder that this powerful
archangel — God’s ambassador — is also the patron of communications workers,
radio and TV. In our day we might ask his assistance in cleaning up the morals
of our media and airwaves.
As a communicator in the Old
Testament, Gabriel brings important information to the prophet Daniel, calling
Michael “the great prince” (Daniel 12:1).
The latter’s name Mica-El means,
“Who is like God?” We picture him in warrior’s clothing wielding sword or spear
and doing what St. John
tells of in Revelation 12: As head of the heavenly army, he drove Satan and the
fallen angels out of heaven. As far as we know, he’s still in charge of routing
the evil spirits.
To ask his intercession for this,
at St. Kilian Church in New Bedford, Mass.,
Institute of the Incarnate Word Father Samuel Leonard has reintroduced the
Prayer to St. Michael at the end of all Masses, as once promoted by a pope.
“Pope Leo XIII had a vision, some
kind of mystical experience after Mass one morning,” reminds Father Leonard.
“He heard God and Satan talking. Satan asked permission to test the Church for
100 years.” Leo promptly promulgated the prayer to St. Michael to be said after
all Masses. And so it was, through more than half the 20th century.
“We know the last 100 years have
been horrendous,” says Father Leonard. He prints the prayer in the parish
bulletin so everyone can also pray it daily at home.
Across the country, at St. Mary’s
Church in Pendleton, Ore., Father Bailey Clemens has also
reinstituted the Prayer to St. Michael.
“We should bring it back to really
emphasize to people today the loss of the sense of evil,” he explains. “This
prayer after Mass really brings the awareness to people of that reality of the
evil one and the sense of evil that exists in the world, and that it’s a battle
going on. It’s really important to pray to St. Michael for that help.”
In fact, back in 1994, during the
International Year of the Family, John Paul recalled Leo XIII’s
vision and asked for all Catholics to pray it daily “to obtain help in the
battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”
We can pray to St. Michael as the
patron of policemen, soldiers, artists, emergency medical technicians,
paramedics, the dying, a holy death and for help
“One of the most sublime acts of
faith is to humbly ask the Lord in prayer,” says Father Leonard. “Look in
Daniel 10:12. Gabriel says to Daniel, ‘From the moment you decided to humble
yourself before God and seek wisdom, your prayer was heard.’ Raphael says the
same thing to Tobit: ‘I was sent because you
Raphael, whose name Rafa-El means “God heals,” tells Tobit
that, in answer to prayers, part of his mission was to heal both him and Sarah,
his future daughter-in-law.
John Paul II called the story of Tobit “so significant for what it says about entrusting to
the angels the little children of God, who are always in need of custody, care
Why Archangel Raphael is also the
patron of travelers, joy, the blind, healing, physicians and nurses, and happy
meetings becomes apparent in the Book of Tobit.
“That’s where St. Raphael entered
my life,” says Judy Strandberg of Englewood, Fla.
Her devotion began back in Pittsburgh.
There, she thought she had found that special man in her life, but instead they
Despondent, she went to Mass. “The reading was for
me to hear that day,” she recalls. “It hit me profoundly. Sarah had similar
feelings. I went home and finished reading the whole book of Tobit.”
Strandberg began praying for St. Raphael’s
help and meditating on the story.
“When Sarah actually meets Tobit’s son, Tobiah, whom she
ends up marrying, Raphael tells Tobit she was set
aside for him before the world existed,” Judy recounts.
That knowledge inspired her to put
her similar concern into the Lord’s hands — and to pray for St. Raphael’s
“I had a lot of feelings that he
was working on my behalf,” Strandberg says. One day,
as she talked with a longtime friend named Rick who was living in Florida, he said that he
could hear the bells from St. Raphael’s Church from his house. Rick was
They were married in 2001 (at St.
Raphael’s Church in Englewood,
Fla.) after a long-distance
courtship. They chose a reading from Tobit for their
wedding — the prayer of Tobiah and Sarah. And Judy’s
devotion came to play a big role, she says, in Rick’s becoming Catholic.
“I never dreamed I would move to Florida,” says Strandberg. Nor that she would be asked to work in the
office of St. Raphael Catholic Church there.
“I feel privileged to be working
for a church under his patronage,” she says, marveling about all the blessings
she’s received. “St. Raphael has played an integral part in my life.”
As can all three archangels in
ours. They’re armed for spiritual battle and no more than a prayer away.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.