Angels are messengers from God. They appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named.
September 29 marks the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Michael appeared in Daniel’s vision as “the great prince” who defends Israel against its enemies. In the Book of Revelation, he leads God’s armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion. It originates in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.
Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel’s visions, announcing Michael’s role in God’s plan. His well-known appearance is an encounter with the blessed Virgin Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.
Raphael’s activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit’s son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah’s marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit’s blindness, and the restoration of the family fortune.
The memorials of Gabriel and Raphael were added to the Roman calendar in 1921. The 1970 revision of the calendar joined their individual feasts to Michael’s.
For prayer and reflection
“[The Angels] great multitude of very bright living lamps; they are the vast army of heavenly spirits, shining in the blessed life and living in great beauty and adornment, because when they were created by God they did not grasp at proud exaltation but strongly persisted in divine love.” — Saint Hildegard of Bingen
Each of the archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God’s protection, communication, and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly.
O God, who dispose in marvelous order
ministries both angelic and human,
that our life on earth may be defended
by those who watch over us
as they minister perpetually to you in heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
– (from The Roman Missal)