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The Archangels for Beginners

Oh, the fun that could’ve been had with the title to this post! Should I have called it Archangels for Dummies? Or maybe, Mike, Gabe, and Raf: Three Cool Dudes to Know? Perhaps Raphael & Friends: Not Just Ninja Turtles?

OK, that’s a little silly, even for me.

Nevertheless, here we are on the feast day celebrating the archangels with what can best be described as a very brief introduction to who and what the archangels are. If you came in search of high theological ideas or catechetical astuteness, look elsewhere. We are going to be covering the basics here, today, friends.  See, I can hardly understand humans sometimes, so the inner workings of angels and things of Heaven are a little outside my grasp.

Let’s learn together, shall we? (Spoiler alert: I’m going to lean heavily on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible for this one.)

Is there a difference between angels and archangels?

Before we answer that question, maybe a better question would be, “Who/what are angels?” For that, let’s turn to St. Augustine.  He says:

“‘Angel is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’” (CCC 329).

So, basically, angels are spirits. These spirits have intelligence and will and are immortal, personal creatures. They are the servants and messengers of God (CCC 329-330).

If angels are the messengers of God, it would stand to reason that archangels are messengers of a higher office. A higher standing, if you will. The most important jobs are given to them.

An Archangel By Any Other Name…

The Catholic Church recognizes three archangels by name and has bestowed the title of Saint to them, as well.  They are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

Rabbinical (relating to rabbis and their writings) and apocryphal literature (spurious writings not included in Sacred Scripture) contains the names of several other archangels. However, just as those books are not included in the Catholic Canon, neither are the names of those archangels.

Let’s take a closer look at Heaven’s main messengers.

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Michael

St. Michael seems to be the main man when it comes to archangels.  He’s got four very important jobs:

  1. Fight Satan.
  2. Champion and defend Christians and the Church.
  3. Bring the faithful to Heaven when they die.
  4. Call people from their life on Earth to judgment in Heaven at the end of days.

Michael is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. In the book of Daniel, he is named twice.

First, Michael comes to Daniel in a vision that leaves Daniel weak and without an appetite for three weeks (chapter 10). Then again, he is mentioned as a “great prince” and a “guardian of your people” during a vision Daniel has of the resurrection (chapter 12).

In the New Testament, we find Michael fighting the devil as protection over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9). And in Revelation, Michael is once again at battle against the devil in the form of a dragon as he and his army of angels protected the woman and her infant son (Revelation 12:7-9).

The name Michael means: Who is like God?

St. Michael is the patron of soldiers, police, and doctors.

Gabriel

If Michael is a soldier, then Gabriel is a good, old-fashioned mailman. But this mailman brings only the biggest and best of messages. Namely, just about anything concerning the Messiah.

The first of these revelations comes in the Old Testament to, you guessed it, our guy Daniel (Daniel 9:21-27) when Gabriel shares with him a timeline of sorts as to when the Messiah will come.

He appears in the New Testament first to Zechariah to reveal that Elizabeth will give birth to a son despite her old age. Then, he takes away Zechariah’s ability to speak because of his disbelief (Luke 1:10-20).

Of course, Gabriel’s ultimate message is best known to us as The Annunciation. Gabriel appears to our Blessed Mother and announces to her that she is to bear the Son of God in some of my most favorite verses in the Bible. (Luke 1:26-38)

One source I read said that it seems only natural that Gabriel was given special charge over the Holy Family. It was offered that Gabriel was the angel who visited St. Joseph in his dreams and may have been the angel who came to comfort Jesus during his Agony in the Garden.

The name Gabriel means: Man of God.

St. Gabriel is the patron of messengers, telecommunications workers, and postal workers.

Raphael

Michael the Soldier. Gabriel the Mailman. Raphael the Doctor.

The Archangel Raphael is only mentioned by name in the book of Tobit. In this book, Tobit and Sarah both pray for death as they feel it is the only thing that can save them from their sufferings. Tobit sends his son Tobiah on a journey and tells him to find a trustworthy traveling companion to help him on his journey. Raphael appears to Tobiah disguised as an Israelite.  He helps Tobiah on his journey, teaches him ways to make medicines, and eventually heals both Sarah and Tobit of their ailments.

In Chapter 12 of the Book of Tobit, Raphael reveals to the people who he actually is and says to them, “Do not fear; peace be with you! Bless God now and forever. As for me, when I was with you, I was not acting out of any favor on my part, but by God’s will. So bless God every day; give praise with song.” (Tobit 12:17-18)

Tradition holds that Raphael was present during the New Testament, as well. Perhaps he could be found at the pool called Bethsaida where the sick would go for healing (John 5:2-4). And perhaps he is still at work today, delivering miraculous healing to the faithful.

The name Raphael means: God heals or Divine healer.

St. Raphael is the patron of travelers, the blind, bodily ills, happy meetings, nurses, physicians and medical workers.

Happy Feast of the Archangels!

In honor of these Heavenly Messengers, perhaps we can take a moment to pray for all of those under their patronage. Maybe read the Book of Tobit today (it’s not too long, I promise!) or the first chapter of the Book of Luke. Of course, the prayer to St. Michael is always a good choice.

However you choose to celebrate the Archangels today, I hope you’ve learned something new. I know I have!

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Beth Williby is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a mom of four pretty amazing humans and has been married to her college sweetheart for twenty years. She does her best praying through singing and feeding the people she loves. Having grown up in the Midwest, she now calls Northeast Florida home. You can find out more about her here.

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