Saint of the Week: Archangels Sts. Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel (September 29)
The name Michael means “one who is like God”. His will is focused, immovable, and entirely driven toward accomplishing goodness; he is the protector of souls, and wields his powerful sword against the poisonous and vindictive aspirations of Satan, who is known as a liar from the beginning.
All three monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – have devotions to St. Michael.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great once preached, “Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power.”
During a visit to the Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel, John Paul II said, “The battle against the devil . . . is the principal task of Saint Michael the archangel.”
Scripture relates such a truth: “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him” (Rev 12:7-9).
Following Scripture, Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices:
1. To fight against Satan.
2. To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
3. To be the champion of God’s people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.
4. To call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.
Gabriel means “God is my strength”. He was sent from God to Nazareth, “to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, . . . and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you’” (Lk 1:27-28).
Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote: “He [Gabriel] came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle” (excerpt from Hom. 34, 8-9).
Gabriel is mentioned only twice in the New Testament, but it is not unreasonable to suppose with Christian tradition that it is he who appeared to St. Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Our Lord in the garden. Gabriel is generally termed only an archangel, but the expression used by St. Raphael, “I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tobit 12:15) and St. Gabriel’s own words, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God” (Luke 1:19), have led some to think that these angels must belong to the highest rank; but this is generally explained as referring to their rank as the highest of God’s messengers, and not as placing them among the Seraphim and Cherubim.
Raphael means “God is my health”. He is one of seven angels “who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord” (Tob 12:15). The meaning of Raphael’s name reflects his role in the book of Tobit. Here, he first appears disguised in human form as the travelling companion of the young Tobias. Raphael calls himself “Azarias the son of the great Ananias”. The story of the adventurous journey demonstrates the protective influence of the angel, including the binding “in the desert of upper Egypt” of the demon who had previously slain seven husbands of Sara, daughter of Raguel (Tobit 5-11). After the return and the healing of the blindness of the elderly Tobit, Azarias makes himself known as “the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tobit 12:15. Cf. Revelation 8:2).
Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, pray for us!