Sts Michael, Gabriel and Raphael the Archangels
Today the Church celebrates the importance and significance of each of the three Archangels named in the Bible, i.e., Sts Michael, Gabriel and Raphael each with a different mission: Michael protects, Gabriel announces and Raphael guides.
The name Michael in Hebrew signifies “who is like God” the battle cry of the good Angels who drove Satan from Heaven. In Holy Scripture he is shown to have been the guardian and comforter of the Chosen Race who prepared their return from captivity in Persia and insured the victory of the Maccabees. The early Christians entrusted to St Michael the care of their sick: all who bathed in his medicinal spring near Colossae, invoking him and the Holy Trinity, were healed; and near Constantinople the sick used to spend the night in his church in the hope of a cure. Catholic tradition assigns to this “great prince” these four offices: to fight against Satan, to rescue the souls of the faithful from his grasp, especially at death, to be the special Patron of Holy Church, and to bring men’s souls to judgement. St Michael’s was one of the “Voices” which instructed St Joan of Arc. The 29 September is probably the date on which the ancient Roman Basilica to “St Michael and All Angels” at Gargano in Italy was dedicated in the 6th century, but that building disappeared over a thousand years ago. In England “Michaelmas Day” is one of the regular days on which quarterly rents and accounts are settled. St Michael is the Patron Saint of grocers, and the guardian of all mountain places. He is also held to be the special Guardian Angel of the Pope and, according to St Eutropius, of the Blessed Sacrament.
The name Gabriel means “The Power of God” or “Hero of God” in Hebrew. He is one of the seven Angels who “Stand before God”, and he seems to be in a particular way the messenger of glad or consoling tidings. Thus, we read in the Book of Daniel (ch 8) that it was St Gabriel who explained the vision of the ram and foretold the fall of the Persian empire at the hands of Alexander the Great. The very next chapter records his prophecy concerning the coming of Christ after “70 weeks” of years. In the New Testament we are told of how he appeared to Zachary in the Temple and announced to him the coming birth of his son, St John the Baptist. But above all he is known as the “Angel of the Annunciation”—it was he who informed Mary that she had been chosen to become the Mother of the Incarnate Word. In Jewish tradition, Gabriel was taken to be the Angel of judgement as at Sodom and against the army of Sennacherib, and it was he who was supposed to mark the foreheads of the elect. Christian tradition also attributes to St Gabriel the message given to the shepherds at Bethlehem and to St Joseph in connection with the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, and believes that it was he who “strengthened” our Lord in the Garden of Olives on the night of His Betrayal. Notably, Mohammed, in the Qu’ran, considered St Gabriel the head of all Angels, and claimed that he had received his revelations from him. In 1951, Pope Pius XII proclaimed him the patron of all communication arts, particularly television.
Raphael’s Hebrew name signifies “God has healed.” According to his own testimony to Tobias, even he is one of the seven Angels who always stand before the throne of the Almighty. In the Old Testament it is recorded how he cured the blindness of Tobit and acted as guide during his son’s trip to Media. St Raphael is in consequence revered as the Patron Saint of travellers, of the young and the innocent. The day’s Gospel also identifies him with the Angel who used to come down at certain intervals to stir the water in the Probatica pool, which caused the cure of the first invalid who descended into the moving waters. The Eastern Church has honoured St Raphael since the year 1000, but his cult was added to the universal calendar of the Church by Pope Benedict XV in 1921.