Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Angelic Trio Still Vital In Our Lives Today

Published September 27, 2007

On greeting cards, angels often have fuzzy wings, dimpled faces and gently glowing halos. But this same industry also depicts devils as cute little fellows with pitchforks.

Something clearly is amiss.

In truth, angels in Scripture are far from cuddly. They often are quoted as reassuring people with the words, “Do not be afraid,” which implies their appearance is somewhat formidable.

Other angels disguise themselves as human beings, which is why St. Paul reminded us to be very kind to strangers, since we might be entertaining celestial beings without knowing it.

On Sept. 29, the church celebrates three well-known archangels, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael and St. Michael, who play an enormous role in our faith.

One archangel whose appearance frightened people was Gabriel, whose name means “strength of God.” In the New Testament, he carried God’s news to an elderly man, Zachariah, about his wife, Elizabeth, conceiving a baby. That baby, of course, grew up to be called John the Baptist.

That same angel showed up a few months later to bring news of a miraculous pregnancy to Elizabeth’s cousin, a girl named Mary. At first she was frightened by Gabriel’s appearance, and then, moments later, graciously acquiesced to God’s plan.

The archangel Raphael, whose name means “He who heals,” didn’t frighten anyone, since he showed up in disguise. According to the Old Testament story in the Book of Tobit, a young man, Tobiah, was in big trouble, since his father had been struck blind and could no longer work.

To make matters worse, Tobiah was betrothed to a woman who had an awful track record. It seems seven bridegrooms before him had perished right after marrying her.

The father asked Tobiah to make a journey to collect a debt for him, and the young man agreed. And then, out of the blue, a stranger showed up and offered to accompany the son on the trip.

The stranger proved indispensable when they were crossing a river and were attacked by a huge fish. He showed Tobiah how to defend himself, and later instructed him to use parts of the fish to cure the old man’s blindness—and also to cast a demon out of his fiancée.

When the stranger later revealed his identity to Tobiah and his father, he said, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” (Tobit 12:15).

Even if you are not traveling a long distance as Tobiah did, it still makes sense to venerate St. Raphael, because, in truth, we are all on a journey in life.

And there is a beautiful prayer to this archangel, which Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor said every day.

It depicts life as a journey to heaven, which is our true home. In the prayer, one beseeches Raphael, the angel of “happy meetings,” to guide us toward “those who are waiting for us” in heaven. We also lay our petitions at the feet of “Him on whose unveiled Face” this angel gazes.

In the pre-Vatican II church, there was a prayer to another archangel, which was said after every Mass. He is St. Michael, whose name means “Who is like God?” and he appears in Daniel (10:13), Jude (1:9) and in the Book of Revelation (12:7-9), where he is described fighting Lucifer and other demons.

St. Michael is often depicted rather dramatically, wearing a helmet and shield, standing in a warlike posture with his spear piercing the breast of Satan.

Today, St. Michael is becoming very popular with men and women serving in the armed forces. Even non-Catholics—who generally don’t venerate saints—are wearing his medals and relying on his protection.

Even if we are not heading to Iraq, we still face battles daily. Satan is busily skulking about, tempting us with an array of sins.

We have to fight the temptation to buy too much stuff, drink or eat excessively, swear, be too harsh with a child, cheat an employer, drive unsafely or get involved in illicit relationships.

The prayer to St. Michael is simple, but powerful:

Holy Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, Prince of the heavenly host, by Divine Power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Being devoted to angels in a world that often demotes them to cartoon-like figures may seem like fighting an uphill battle. But our Catholic faith assures us that angels play a vital role in Scripture—and in our lives today.

On Sept. 29, may you enjoy a blessed feast day of the archangels! May angels accompany you on your journey to Heaven, your true home. And may they protect you always from Satan’s snares!


The complete prayer to St. Raphael can be found at this Web site: Readers may contact Lorraine at Artwork featured in the print edition is by Jef Murray. His paintings may be seen on his Web site: