Our Catholic faith teaches us that angels have a general and yet an important part to play in our salvation history, especially personally guiding us. Moreover, the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are given to us by God for very specific purposes and they are the only angels named in sacred Scripture.
And so today, the Church honors the archangels, invokes their intercession and relies on their assistance in the spiritual warfare we daily face.
In Hebrew, "Michael" means "Who is like God?" Saint Michael is mentioned four times in Scripture: Daniel 10 and 12, in Jude and in Revelation. Scripture reveals to us that Saint Michael is known as the "Prince of the Heavenly Host," hence, the leader of all angels. It is to the Prince of the Heavenly that we owe a debt of gratitude for casting down to Hell Lucifer and the evil spirits; he is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil.
Sacred Tradition teaches that there are four offices connected to Saint Michael:
- to fight against Satan, his minions and the power of evil
- to rescue and protect the faithful from evil, especially at the hour of death
- to lead the people of God to full communion with God Himself
- to call our souls to judgment before God.
We know the archangel from his announcement of the dawn of salvation to Mary: "I am Gabriel, who stand before God" (Luke 1:19). What is crucial to remember about Gabriel are his two announcements in the New Testament: the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zachary and of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh in Mary. Saint Gabriel, whose name means "God's strength," is also mentioned four times in Scripture.
Again, sacred Tradition tells us that it is Saint Gabriel who appeared to Saint Joseph and to the shepherds. At the beginning of the Passion it was Gabriel who "strengthens" Jesus in the his agony of the garden.
"I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" (Tobit 12:15)
Saint Raphael, whose name means "God has healed" because of his healing of Tobias' blindness in the Book of Tobit. This book in the Old Testament is the only book in which Raphael is mentioned. He is the archangel of healing and acts of mercy. Tradition tells us that Saint Raphael is the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.
As point of trivia, the Catholic hospital in New Haven, CT is named for Saint Raphael, likely the only one in the USA.
Those familiar with what is called the "old Mass" will remember praying the Prayer to Saint Michael at the conclusion of Mass. In 1899, after a vision of evil, Pope Leo XIII wanted to protect the Church and instructed that his prayer be prayed by all, especially the priest. I can't recommend the prayer enough to you when making your thanksgiving following Mass or the Divine Office. Plus, I would recommend that you pray the Prayer to Saint Michael prior to going to bed.
Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, pray for us.