st.Raphael the Archangel
(One of the principal angels in Judeo-Christian angelologies, accorded the rank of archangel)
Patronage: the blind; happy meetings; nurses; physicians; travelers
Name meaning: “The shining one who heals,” “God heals,” or “the medicine of God” in Hebrew
Raphael’s name originates from the Hebrew “rapha,” which means healer or doctor. He is entrusted with the physical well-being of the earth and its human inhabitants, and is said to be the friendliest of the angels. Raphael has numerous titles and duties. He is counted among the seven angels who stand before God as mentioned in Revelation. He is the angel of the evening winds, guardian of the Tree of Life, and the angel of prayer, peace, joy, light and love. Raphael is credited with being the angel who stirs the waters of the healing pool by the sheep gate in Bethesda. According to lore, when the angel comes down from heaven and stirs the waters, all those who bathe there are healed.
John 5:22 refers to this pool in the story of Jesus and the paralyzed man. The man had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus found him lying by the pool, he asked the man if he wanted to be healed. The man replied he had no one to lift him into the waters when they were troubled. Jesus told him to rise up and walk, and the man was immediately healed. The apocryphal Book of Enoch terms Raphael one of the “watchers” and a guide to the underworld. In Enoch, he heals the earth when it is defiled by the sins of the fallen angels. Raphael is not mentioned by name in the Protestant Bible, but he does play a prominent role in the book of Tobit, part of the Catholic canon, which establishes the healing ministry of angels and their role as emissaries of God.
In it, Raphael teaches the arts of both healing and exorcism. He acts as a guide and companion on a journey, thus making him the angel of travelers and safety. The book of Tobit was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, probably in the second century B.C. The story concerns a pious man named Tobit and his son, Tobias. It takes place in the late eighth century B.C. in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, where the people of northern Israel have been taken captive. The storyteller is Tobit himself, who is instructed by Raphael to write an account of the events that happen to him, his son and others. Tobit was a model of piety, giving money, food and clothing to the poor.
He defied Sennacherib the king by burying his fellow Israeli dead, whose bodies were left in the open by their captors. One evening, the 50 year old man was defiled by handling a corpse and so did not return home, but slept by the wall of a courtyard. He left his face uncovered. Sparrow droppings fell into his eyes, rendering him blind. He sought help of various physicians, to no avail. His wife was forced to work to earn money. After eight years in despair, Tobit begged God to let him die. In preparation for death, he called in his only son, Tobias, and told him to journey to Media, where he had left some money in trust with another man. He instructed Tobias to find a man to accompany him on the journey, and he would pay the man’s wages.
In Media, a young woman named Sarah was possessed by the demon Asmodeus, “the destroyer.” Sarah had been given to seven men in wedlock, but the demon had killed them all on their wedding night, before the marriages could be consummated. Sarah’s parents feared they would never marry off their only daughter. God heard the prayers of both Tobit and Sarah’s parents, and dispatched Raphael to heal Tobit’s blindness and exorcize the demons from Sarah. Raphael appeared to Tobit in the form of a man and introduced himself as Azarius, the son of one of Tobit’s relatives. Tobit hired him.
Along the way, Raphael taught Tobias healing lore. He instructed him to use the heart and liver of a fish for exorcizing demons, and the gall of a fish for curing blindness. He also instructed Tobias to wed Sarah and drive Asmodeus away with smoke from the burning fish parts and incense. Tobias did so, and the demon fled to “the remotest parts of Egypt” (the traditional home of magic and witchcraft), where Raphael bound him up. Upon Tobias’s return home, he cured his father’s blindness. Raphael declined a generous payment and revealed his true self to the men. “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter in the presence of the glory of the Holy One,” he said. He told Tobit that he had been ever present with him, and had taken his prayers for healing to God.
He urged the men to praise and thank God, and to lead righteous lives. Tobit and Tobias were alarmed to be in the presence of an archangel, and fell to the ground in fear. But Raphael assured them no harm would befall them. “For I did not come as a favor on my part, but by the will of our God,” he said. “Therefore praise him forever. All these days I merely appeared to you and did not eat or drink, but you were seeing a vision. And now give thanks to God, for I am ascending to him who sent me. Write in a book everything that has happened.” Raphael vanished. Tobit wrote the story. Catholic devotional lore contains numerous stories about the deeds of Raphael. The Roman widow Cyriaca (also called Dominica), who was martyred in the fourth century, was addressed by Raphael during her tortures.
The archangel, identifying himself by name, said he had heard her prayers and congratulated her on her courage. Because of her suffering, she would glorify the Lord. Sister Mary Francis of the Third Order of St. Francis, who lived during the late 18th century, was frequently ill and was told on one occasion by the archangel that he would heal her and he did. She and others were witness to a smell of sweet perfume, which she attributed to the presence of Raphael. The archangel also is credited with healing other afflictions, including epilepsy, and of providing protection during journeys.