The feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael: Archangels and Powerful Spiritual Allies Sent by Love and for Love.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
29 September 2012
We are reminded on this Feast Day of the wonderful gift of the Archangels, including our guardian angles, whose unfailing assistance is directed toward one end: serving God’s loving plan of salvation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us, “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition” (328).
The whole of salvation history is the story of God reaching out to his people but for one purpose: the reception of divine love. As we read in the Rite of Baptism of Children, “The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit” (62). That new, everlasting life is life in Christ, the light of men (Jn 1:4), who came to give life in abundance (Jn 10:10).
God the Father has given us his Son on the cross as the supreme example of sacrificial love; he has gathered us together as his holy people into the Church, the city of truth; and he has poured out his Spirit upon us as the first fruits of glory. That should be enough. Yet it is not enough for God.
“He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways” (Ps 91:11).
Today we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael: Archangels. Sent from the hands of God, these powerful messengers bring promises of love and of hope. When the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, she was “greatly troubled” by his greeting. The angel Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Lk 1:30).
Gabriel’s words are for each and every one of us; they should resonate in the depths of our hearts: “Do not be afraid!” For God has gone to every end in order to communicate his life to us, draw us to himself, protect and nourish us into spiritual maturity, that we may live forever in the embrace of his superabundant, burning love as members of the divine family.
Given the numerous present dangers, the division and strife, the blatant perpetration of intrinsic moral evils which surround us, and the decline of American culture, we can be tempted to fall into despair. Yet there is no need to fear! Now is a time for that boldness, courage and hope that springs forth from God’s fiery love. Let us remember: we are not alone. In order to guide and protect us on our often perilous journey, God has given each of us a guardian angel, a spiritual being whose power of intellect and will far exceeds that of any man, for the sake of seeing us to our predestined end of perfect happiness.
The Catechism explains: “From infancy to death human life is surrounded by [the guardian angels’] watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (336).
“These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence;” wrote St. Bernard, “respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you. But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need.”
Who Are The Archangels?
St. Augustine wrote: “‘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’: from what they are, ‘spirit,’ from what they do, ‘angel.’”
The name Michael means “Who is like God.” The Archangel Michael’s will is focused, immovable, and entirely driven toward accomplishing goodness; he is the protector of souls, and wields his powerful sword of truth and love against the poisonous and vindictive aspirations of the Father of Lies.
Blessed John Paul II said during a visit to the Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel, “The battle against the devil . . . is the principal task of Saint Michael the archangel.”
Scripture affirms the same: “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him” (Rev 12:7-9).
Gabriel means “God is my strength.” He was sent from God to Nazareth, “to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, . . . and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you’” (Lk 1:27-28). Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote: “[Gabriel] came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle” (excerpt from Hom. 34, 8-9).
Raphael means “God is my health.” He is one of seven angels “who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord” (Tob 12:15). The meaning of Raphael’s name reflects the fact that he touched Tobit’s eyes and brought sight from blindness.
More On The Angels
“As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness” (CCC, 330; Dan 10:9-12).
God created the angels, like man, with an intellect and will, yet these shared attributes cannot be exactly compared, for they differ greatly in strength and power. For instance, we might draw a comparison of the intellect and will of a child with those of an adult: the former is not nearly as strong as the latter. So it is with man and the angels.
The angels’ intellect, one of vast and far-reaching intelligence, is far superior to man’s. Unlike man, whose intellect is but dim and fragmented in comparison, the angels have no need to labor for years on end, plowing through dozens or hundreds of books in order to gain merely a partial understanding of a handful of soon-forgotten subjects. They do not struggle over a lifetime, gathering and storing perceptions and insights into meaningful wholes which we call knowledge. On the contrary, God infused the angels’ intellect, one of exacting precision and penetrating vision, with angelic knowledge at the very moment of their creation. Consequently, the angels have no need to engage in a process of learning, but rather they simply know. They know about humanity, science, music, culture and the arts; they know about not only the world but the farthest reaches of the universe as well.
As for their will, the good angels do not struggle with doubt, fickleness, and the tendency to fall into sin. They are not weakly moved one moment to accomplish a task which is easily abandoned the next. On the contrary, an angel’s will is an unwavering and immovable force, unceasingly directed toward the Ultimate Good, powerfully focused upon the divine Other who is Life Itself: God. For that reason, it is of great advantage to implore our guardian angel’s aid through intercessory prayer. If we ask our angel to pray for our entrance into everlasting life, he will not cease doing so; he will not give up on us; he will not one day ambivalently wonder if we are worth the effort.
Cultivate a Relationship of Love With Your Guardian Angel
The angels belong to Christ, they are his, created through him and for him, who “belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?’” (CCC 331).
Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples. Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself. (CCC 332)
In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels. (CCC 334).
In the present, due to our darkened intellect and limited vision, we cannot entirely understand nor see the full extent of our angel guardians’ help. However, we can be sure their expert, dedicated assistance has been given on numerous occasions. How often have they intervened, saving us from injury or death? How often do they come to our aid in time of terrifying peril and desperate need?
What we do know by the light of faith, is that these glorious, powerful and unfailingly trustworthy spiritual friends of ours, united as we are in Christ, share a profoundly intimate bond of love with us—one which cannot be broken, since we this moment share in God’s own supernatural life. They as spirit; we as body and spirit. Yet we both nevertheless stand as brethren, sustained in the love of God, living in and through and with Christ, whose common purpose is but one: to love and serve God. In our case, we often find this most honorable and fulfilling calling, one which is defined by and founded on true love and freedom, difficult as we struggle along as pilgrims who have not yet reached our final end. Our guardian angels, however, have attained the goal of the Beatific Vision and see God face-to-face. Consequently, they are not plagued by weakness, fear, uncertainty and temptation, but rather are overflowing with the strength of God’s glory.
Charged by God to supply our aid, the guardian angels are eager to help us as our spiritual allies in the earthly battle. They do not begrudgingly engage in this effort, merely as half-hearted servants, but rather pour themselves into it with the full force of their angelic intellect and will, directing their formidable powers toward our success in attaining the everlasting life of heaven. This precious aid is as close and available as our relationship with our guardian angels—all we need do is ask for it. This moment they say to us: “Do not be afraid!” Let us love our angels, for they most certainly love us.
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Photo Credit: Mstyslav Chernov
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.