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Today is one of my favorite feast days, that of the Holy Archangels!

While there are undoubtedly a multitude of archangels in God’s court, there are only three that we know for certain by name: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel.  Their identities have been passed down by holy scripture and tradition.  God has given us these three to turn to in confidence, and they each have a unique role and mission.  Michael is the mighty general and standard-bearer of the heavenly host; in fact, he is called the “Prince of the Heavenly Host.”  Raphael is known as a healer, a close companion, a guardian and guide.  Gabriel is the messenger of God’s word and God’s will.

There has been a tendency in modern times to “soften” or to “humanize” the holy angels in general–as, indeed, there has been a modern tendency to soften and humanize so many things.  Some of it is harmless sentimentalism–the dewy, innocent, and gentle aesthetic of the last couple of centuries.  Some of it is rooted in more sinister things–the atheist’s casting of all spiritual things as mere fluffy fairy tale made in man’s own image, and on the other hand, the occultist’s desire to be superior and dominate all things, including spiritual things.

Granted, it is not just a modern thing to portray angels as beautiful, somewhat androgynous, human-like creatures with wings and halos.  But I think we’ve lost our sense of what that representation originally intended to convey.  That angels are beautiful signifies their holiness, their goodness, their purity, their perfection, their closeness to God who is truth, beauty, and goodness.  Likewise the halos, brimming with ethereal light and power.  That they are androgynous signifies that they are not corporeal and not human.  The wings further emphasize this, signifying that angels are not bound by space, time, or anything physical. That they are human-like signifies that they are persons, individuals with intellect and free will–not objects or lower types of creatures such as animals or plants.

Consider a traditional religious icon.  Notice first that there is nothing white or fluffy or soft or comfy.  These are noble, dignified figures, robed in splendor like princes and carrying staffs which show authority and power.  They are very human-like, youthful, and beautiful, but they are imposing figures, nonetheless, evoking some degree of reverence.  At the same time, they are not the true center of this image, of course–Christ is.  St. Michael and St. Gabriel look at Christ, while St. Raphael looks at us as if to say, “You must follow our example.  Make Christ your center.  Look to Him, adore Him, love Him, and serve Him.”

That is part of the mission of each of these special angels: to help us and show us the way.  And we are meant to turn to them respectfully and trustingly.  We don’t need them to be soft or too human–we need them to be the strong, tireless, incredible beings that they are.  We need them to be mighty enough to stand against Satan and all of the evil angels who are out for our destruction.  We also don’t need them to be “nice” to us.  They have something far greater than niceness–they have perfect charity.  They love God perfectly and completely, and because of that they also love everything and everybody that God loves–and that includes God’s children above all!

So, just because they are greater than us by nature in many ways, we need never fear to call to them.  God revealed their names to us for a reason–so that we can call upon them and talk to them in a personal way.  I do so pretty often.  Whenever I feel in danger, whenever I feel pulled toward evil, or whenever I behold danger and evil in the world around me, I call upon St. Michael to protect and guard me and the world.  I pray Pope Leo XIII’s prayer to St. Michael after every Mass, and whenever else I need to.  Whenever I feel lonely, lost, tired, doubtful, depressed, or in any way ill or in pain, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, I call upon St. Raphael to strengthen and guide me.  Whenever I am uncertain about what God is calling me to do or who God is calling me to be, either in my whole lifetime or in very specific circumstances, I call upon St. Gabriel and ask for help in hearing, following, and obeying God’s voice.

In every case, I have always found the holy archangels to be very effective and dependable in their aid and in their understanding of what I need.  I often look back later and realize that, in fact, they were providing exactly the help I needed before I called upon them.  But it is good to call upon them and to build a relationship with them anyway.  Give it a try, if you don’t do it already.  I think you will find your life wonderfully enriched.

A blessed Feast of the Holy Archangels to you!

This question, among other things, is raised in the comments at this post.

It is a good question in that it has forced me to articulate ideas that I normally don’t feel a need to articulate because I tend to take them for granted.

As always, you are welcome and encouraged to join in the conversation.  :)

The wonderful feast days keep coming!  Today we honor our most special companions and helpers, the guardian angels!

Red angel glassThere’s a special child-like quality to believing in, knowing, and praying to our holy guardians.  Child-like, but not childish.  Acknowledging our guardian angels reminds us that in God’s eyes we are children, and He loves us enough to give us mighty angels to help us safely home to Him.  Among all the wonderful gifts He has given us, the guardian angels are one of the best!

So, let us not imagine ourselves to be above thanking and praying to our guardian angels.  Let us embrace the simple, beautiful prayers that have been passed down to us:

Dear Angel, in his goodness God gave you to me to guide, protect and enlighten me, and to being me back to the right way when I go astray. Encourage me when I am disheartened, and instruct me when I err in my judgment. Help me to become more Christlike, and so some day to be accepted into the company of Angels and Saints in heaven. Amen.

Or:

Guardian Angel from heaven so bright,
Watching beside me to lead me aright,
Fold your wings ’round me,
and guard me with love,
Softly sing songs to me
of heaven above.
Amen.

Or the one my dad taught me when I was a child, which I still pray:

Angel of God,
my Guardian dear,
to whom His love
commits me here,
ever this day
be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.
Amen.

Let us strive to be ever closer and more devoted to our holy guardians!

(photo by Lawrence, OP)

Angel of God,
my Guardian dear,
to whom His love
commits me here,
ever this day
be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.
Amen.


Today is one of my favorite feast days–that the holy archangels who appear in scripture: St. Michael, the great warrior, St. Gabriel, the great messenger, and St. Raphael, the great guide, guardian, and healer.

St. Michael stained glass

In the older liturgical calendar, this day commemorates the dedication of the Basilica of St. Michael.  I found a beautiful hymn dedicated to the Prince of the Heavenly Host in my 1962 missal:

Oh Thou, the Father’s glorious Might,
Jesus true life of every heart,
Thee do we praise amid angels bright
whose hope and light alone Thou art.

A thousand thousand hosts, for Thee,
of glorious warriors, battle wage;
but Michael waves Thy standard free,
Salvation’s cross and victory’s gage.

The dragon fierce with stubborn crown
he hurls to lowest depths of Hell;
the rebel crew, their prince overthrown,
he thrusts from Heaven’s high citadel.

The prince of pride may we too fight,
and follow this, our captain true,
that so the crown with glory dight
by Jesus given, may be our due.

St. Gabriel glass

St. Gabriel is best known as the angel who came to Mary in the Annunciation.  He also appeared to the prophet Daniel and to Zechariah.  His feast day in the older calendar is 24 March.  Understandably, he is the Patron Saint of all kinds of communications workers and also diplomats. (photo by Lawrence OP)

St. Raphael glass

St. Raphael is best known from his role in The Book of Tobit, who guides and guards Tobias, leads him to his future wife, Sarah, banishes the demon Asmodeus who had been terrorizing Sarah and killing her previous husbands, and cures Tobit of his blindness.  All in a day’s work for this mighty angel!  His feast day in the older calendar is coming up on 24 October.  He is a Patron Saint of many different things… and an unofficial Patron Saint of single Catholics looking for spouses. (photo by Lawrence OP)

Related Post:

An angelic feast! (last year’s post for this feast day)

Today, we celebrate one of the most important days in the history of the universe: an angel visited a young woman, personally delivering a message from God; the young woman listened and said “Yes” to God’s will; and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Lord of Life and Love, assumed a human nature.

Is it not amazing to take all of that in?

It would be amazing enough if an angel were to appear to us to personally deliver God’s will!  So, in celebrating the Annunciation, let us remember our guardian angels who work and help us in mysterious, invisible ways.  These spiritual creatures, more powerful than we can imagine, are bound by God’s will and God’s love to their human charges with exclusive dedication.  They too said “Yes” to God, and agreed to use their great power in order to protect us, help us, guide us.  And most of us probably do not pay them a single thought on most days.

If we don’t pay them any mind–or worse, if we brush them off as fairy tails or as harmless, fluffy, pet-like creatures–then we not only endanger ourselves, but we cut off a great source of wisdom and knowledge about what God’s will is.  On the other hand, if we cultivate a relationship with our personal angelic guardians, if we listen for their voices and feel for their movements, we will naturally cling closely to them and gain a better understanding of God’s will and what it means to serve God humbly, without any of the pride of Lucifer, who said, “Non serviam”–“I shall not serve.”

In celebrating the Annunciation, let us pray to be in closer relationship with our guardian angels.  Let us pray with all the faith, love, and devotion of children:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
to light, to guard, to rule and guide.
Amen.

Our guardian angels won’t deliver such astonishing messages as St. Gabriel delivered to Mary.  But we might be surprised, nonetheless, if we open ourselves to receiving our own personal “annunciations.”  And on the chance that we receive a request from God that seems impossibly difficult and maybe even a little crazy… what will we respond?

In celebrating the Annunciation, let us pray to say “Yes” to God just like Mary.  And let us thank and praise God for always giving us the freedom to say “yes” or “no.”  He did not force His will upon Mary, and He does not force His will upon us.  This is another thing we tend to forget or to take for granted.  For many, freedom means the choice to say “no” to God.  No, no, no, like a child in his “terrible twos.”  Always no to God.  That’s the liberty Lucifer took.  But the greater freedom is to say “yes” to God, as the loyal angels did, as the Virgin Mary did, and as many great people throughout history have.  Saying “yes” to God often means saying “no” to ourselves, our desires, our comforts, our appetites, and things that may truly seem best for us.  It often demands radical trust and courage.  It is by far the noblest form of freedom.

For all the goodness and love Mary displayed on the day the angel appeared to her, the world’s supreme goodness and love–He who is Goodness and Love themselves!–came into the world that day.  He came from eternity into time and space.  He took to His perfect spirit human flesh with all of its frailties, appetites, and complaints.  He who is Life Itself took on the curses of pain and death.  And He did it because He loves us.

In celebrating the Annunciation, let us thank and praise Christ the Lord, true God and true man, for His ultimate gift of Self.  Let us thank Him for His love and goodness to us.  Let us ask His forgiveness for all the times we have turned away from Him or taken Him for granted.  Let us celebrate His constant mercy and patience–the way He is always there for us when we turn back to Him.  If you are Catholic, perhaps this would be a perfect day to turn to the Sacrament of Confession, if it is available to you.  Nothing brings home the love of Christ the way Confession does.  Holy Communion may be the source and summit, but Confession enables us to be fully receptive to Holy Communion, and to all the other Sacraments as well.  To be close to God, we have to be in a state of grace, free of mortal sin–Confession brings us into that state.  No matter how many times we fall from it, Confession always restores us.  The Lord cleanses us in the Blood He shed on the Cross.  The Cross that was His destiny from the moment he was conceived as a child.

It is rather appropriate, isn’t it, that the Annunciation falls in Lent.

Sts. Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel Today is the feast day of the three holy archangels whom we know by name: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael.  The Church’s recognition of these angels as saints emphasizes their importance to us and their close relationship with us.  The love that these magnificent, powerful, and benevolent spirits have for mankind is only surpassed by their love of God.  They know and do His will perfectly–and that includes loving and helping His human children!

St. Michael is portrayed as a mighty angelic prince and general.  In the Book of Daniel, he is described as the special guardian of God’s people.  He is probably best known, however, from his appearance in the Book of Revelation:

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. (Rev. 12:7-9)

St. Gabriel also appears in the Book of Daniel, to explain visions and give understanding to the prophet.  But his most famous appearances are in the first chapter of Luke, first to Zechariah and then to the Virgin Mary, to announce the births of St. John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus, respectively.  We repeat St. Gabriel’s salutation to Mary each time we pray, “Hail, Mary, full of grace!  The Lord is with thee.”

St. Raphael appears in only one book, the Book of Tobit, but plays a larger and more intimate role with his human charges.  Disguised as a man, he joins the young man, Tobiah, on a seemingly mundane errand.  As it happens, however, this journey works miracles and changes lives forever.  If you haven’t read the Book of Tobit, I highly, highly recommend it!  It’s one of my favorite books in the Bible.  Thanks to his role in this book, St. Raphael is known as a companion, a healer, and the Patron Saint of Happy Meetings.

These great angelic Saints are always available to us, to protect us, to give us understanding, and to walk with us through life.  We should turn to them often.  Feast days like today are a good reminder of that!

(Icon image found here)

ALSO: For more, lots more, on our angelic friends in Heaven, I recommend visiting Happy Catholic–Julie celebrated today’s feast in grand fashion with Joan Wester Anderson, author of Angels and Wonders: True Stories of Heaven on Earth.

Loneliness is a part of all our lives from time to time, regardless of our state in life.  Being a single person, I find it to be more of a constant than I would like.  So, I have sought, and found, some wonderful ways of combatting loneliness by prayer and by the help of some of our beloved friends in Heaven!

The first is this beautiful jewel of a prayer to that beautiful jewel of a Saint, Raphael the Archangel.  St. Raphael has a rather vast patronage, but thanks to his role in The Book of Tobit, he is best known as Patron Saint of Happy Meetings, and is considered a special patron by single people looking for spouses.  He can help lead us into all kinds of relationships, however, with all kinds of people: friends, relatives, coworkers, religious communities, etc.  If it is a relationship we seek, St. Raphael is there to help!

O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us!  Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for!  May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your light and transfigured by your Joy.  Angel Guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze.  Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of Earth, we feel the need of calling to you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the Province of Joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country.  Remember the weak, you who are strong–you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene, and bright with the resplendent glory of God.  Amen.

The Church has also given us St. Rita of Cascia as Patron Saint Against Loneliness.  I haven’t found a specific prayer to her against loneliness, but I do often call upon her prayers and assistance.  St. Rita is well-known as a “Saint of the Impossible,” among other things.  She certainly lived through her share of tragedy, loss, and seemingly desperate circumstances–but she never lost her faith and her trust.  She is a wonderful role-model for us all.

Last, but certainly not least, there are our guardian angels, who are our constant companions every moment of every day and, indeed, for all eternity!  Each one of them is unique, and each one is assigned by God exclusively to one human being–this should make us feel very special and very loved!  I think we often forget our guardian angels, especially as we grow up.  We may even think of them as childhood fantasies, like imaginary friends.  Or, we may think of them in warm, fuzzy New Age terms.  But the Church, following Jewish tradition, teaches that they are very real and very powerful, far surpassing human beings in their nature.  They are neither imaginary friends nor warm, fuzzy New Age creatures.  But in their strict obedience to God, they do love, care for, guide, and protect their human charges with great devotion.  And we can, and should, think of them as very special and very dear friends.  As such, we should strive to form real, personal relationships with them.  When I am feeling lonely, it always helps to remember that I have a very remarkable companion who is all my own and who is unlike any other person on Earth or in Heaven!

All of this, of course, is thanks to our great Lord–He is so good, so generous, and so wise!  He provides for our every need and supports our every weakness.  Ultimately, He is responsible for healing our loneliness.  Angels and Saints and other human beings are His agents.  He knows that we need them, even though He is always there for us.  Sometimes, I’m tempted to feel guilty for feeling lonely when I know God is there for me.  But then I remember the story of Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Adam lived in the presence of God, and yet he still needed somebody like himself–a fellow creature, a fellow human being.  God created us with that need.  He provided for Adam, and He continues to provide for us.  He never abandons us, not to loneliness or to anything else.  So we needn’t ever despair!

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(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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