Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels.

A sermon of Pope St Gregory the Great:
‘The word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature’.

Tobias, and the three Archangels

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.
Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”
Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High.He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.
So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He 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. Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.
(from todays Office of Readings)

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23 Responses to Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels.

  1. Frere Rabit says:

    I would just like to put in a word for the supply angels who cover for guardian angels when they take a break. My guardian angel Eric was suffering from exhaustion after overworking during my various recent adventures, and one day he just stopped still, flopped down at the side of the road and said, “I just want to be a cat.” After that he said nothing and refused to budge.

    He was sent for R&R while I was still in France. The supply angel has done a very good job so far and I am entirely impressed with the service. Which archangel should I thank for supervising these arrangements?


  2. kathleen says:

    Poor Eric! Will he be giving the supply angel the shove once he’s recovered?
    Anyway, better thank all seven archangels for their “service” Frere Rabit, in case the others feel left out! 😉

    Yes, there are SEVEN according to tradition, although we don’t know much about the other four.
    From wiki:
    The earliest reference to a system of seven archangels as a group appears to be in Enoch I (the Book of Enoch) which is not part of the Jewish Canon, where they are named as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Lucifer and Remiel. While this book today is non-canonical in most Christian Churches, it was explicitly quoted in the New Testament (Letter of Jude 1:14-15) and by many of the early Church Fathers. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church to this day regards it to be canonical.

    And then in the early and mediaeval church:

    The earliest Christian mention is by Pope Saint Gregory I who lists them as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel (or Anael), Simiel (or Samael), Oriphiel and Zachariel. A later reference to seven archangels would appear in an 8th or 9th century talisman attributed to Auriolus, a “servant of God” in north-western Spain. He issues a prayer to “all you patriarchs Michael, Gabriel, Cecitiel, Oriel, Raphael, Ananiel, Marmoniel, who hold the clouds in your hands”.

    Good to know we have so many powerful defenders and guardians watching over the Church!


  3. kathleen says:

    I was once told by a kind old Spanish nun about the great devotion the people of her home city, Cordoba (Spain), have for the little known Archangel, Saint Raphael.

    Saint Raphael’s first apparition was to a monk in 1278, whilst the plague raged all over Andalusia, promising to protect the people of this city from the epidemic for the strong Faith they had shown under the moslem invaders. Cordoba had been recovered by Christian forces as part of the Reconquista (conquest) in 1236, and became a centre of activity against the remaining Islamic population.

    More than three centuries later, and through Saint Raphael’s apparitions and revelations to the priest Father Roelas (approved by the local Church) great devotion to this holy protector commenced in ernest and has continued up till today. This is shown in the numerous works of art and architecture dedicated to Saint Raphael all over this beautiful city and the processions and celebrations on his feast day.

    (The most famous monument in the city though is the former Mosque, the 3rd largest mosque in the world, known by its Spanish name, Mezquita. After the conquest, the Christians built a cathedral in the middle of this large complex, where before the moslem invasion, a church had once stood.)


  4. Brother Burrito says:

    Looking again at the picture, several thinks occur to me:
    1) Tobias appears to be carrying a Haddock.
    2) You never see bearded Angels, do you; in fact they have rather girlish faces, but ‘manly’ wings and feet.
    3) What on earth is Toto, Dorothy’s dog, doing there?
    4) Can anyone else confirm that Raphael is the Archangel in the middle? I knew nothing about him before. He is the patron of all healers, and I must adopt his patronage, at once.
    5) One of my nicknames at school, (used to very cruel effect by a teacher I had unintentionally, but very rudely, shown up as an ignoramus in his first physics lesson) was ‘Toby’. I must read Tobit again. Thanks, Mr Fletcher!


  5. Gertrude says:

    You may all be interested in this – which should tell you all you never knew about angels!

    In ascending order:


    The Choir of Angels is divided into three triads with specific concerns: The 1st triad:
    Angels, Archangels, and Principalities: concern themselves with the minute ordering of the universe and specific causes, including the welfare of people. Each human being, each church, and each country has a Guardian Angel. The Feast of the Guardian Angels is October 2.
    The 2nd triad:
    Powers, Virtues and Dominations: known as the “angels of creation” because they concern themselves with the ordering of the universe and a plurality of causes.
    The 3rd triad:
    Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim: concern themselves with contemplating the glory of God. It is the 6-winged Seraphim who sing the Sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts” (Isaias 6:3).

    Angels (the word means “Messengers”) are spirits (there was and is debate as to whether they are pure spirit like God or whether they are possess “subtle matter” and are corporeal in a different way from us), created before man, who were given one choice at the beginning of Creation: the Kingdom of God — or the Absence of God, which is the Kingdom of Satan, the first Angel who rebelled.

    There are 7 Archangels (Tobias 12:15). We know the names of 3 of them from Scripture:

    Michael (Daniel, Epistle of St. Jude, Apocalypse of St. John), whose name means “Who is like God” and whose Feast is September 29;
    Gabriel (Daniel and Luke), whose name means “Strength of God” and whose Feast is March 24; and
    Raphael (Tobias), whose name means “Medicine of God” and whose Feast is October 24.
    The apocryphal Book of Enoch lists the other 4 as:

    Sariel; and


  6. Brother Burrito says:

    I didn’t realize that Archangels are so low in the list! All the better to deal with us, I suppose.

    Isn’t it wonderful to think that we will hopefully one day meet these spiritual creatures, and truly understand what they do.

    There is an awful lot of cod angelology around these days. My sister believes she has a ‘parking angel’, for instance!

    And yet, so I understand, the reason Satan rebelled, was because he got wind that Man was to be elevated above the Seraphim, and his pride made him say ‘Nil serviam!’ Any truth in that?


  7. kathleen says:

    Now that’s a really interesting question Burrito.

    However I had a slightly different idea on the reason for Satan’s rebellion. I thought it was God’s revelation that Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, was the creature who was to be elevated above all the angels, and would be Queen of Heaven. Satan’s great pride could not accept this, but not because man was to be made “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned with glory and honour.”

    But yes, Satan’s “non serviam” cast him and his followers into Hell forever.

    Can anyone enlighten us on this matter?


  8. toadspittle says:

    Naughty old Kathleen!

    In your list of angels you forgot one.


    And the account of them, and their intricate layers of status, makes them sound rather drearily like a kind of celestial Civil Service. Maybe, as one is promoted, he/she/it gets bigger wings?

    Teresa: Why?


  9. Gertrude says:

    Actually Burro – a dear friend of mine doesn’t exactly have a parking angel, but relies on Our Lady the Navigator to find her a parking place. She thinks the Holy Father should add this to the Litany of Our Lady!


  10. Benedict Carter says:

    Gertude beat me to it! I wanted to list the angelic orders. Still, it’s been a tough day already, now finished as Rutzinger has appeared in the other place to spread his puritan-like disapproval over L’affaire de Haddoque.

    Anyway, I am back and thanks for all messages of encouragement – particularly the lovely email from Gertrude.


  11. kathleen says:

    Who on earth is “Hells” 😕 He’s not an angel I’ve ever heard of.
    And btw, I’m not exactly “old”…… not compared to you anyway 😉
    “Naughty”? Yes, sometimes I am! 😳

    Well, no one has answered BB’s and my enquiry about that rebellion in Heaven at the dawn of creation……. yet!

    Finally, lovely readings for the feast of the Guardian Angels today. Especially the last line: “Let us use this feast to remind ourselves that each of us has an angel of our very own looking after us; and also to pray to God for our own Guardian Angel. What a bore and a burden to them some of us are. May we one day be a cause of rejoicing for them also”.


  12. Gertrude says:

    I’m not sure about that Teresa. There is nothing in the CCC that bears this out since man was created in God’s image alone. The CCC states “Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls ‘a murderer from the beginning’, who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God”.
    The devil made his choices – to disobey Almighty God – and the rest, as they say – is history!
    On this day, the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels it is a time for thanksgiving – that we have them!


  13. kathleen says:

    But Gertrude, is it known what that choice was? Why did Satan say “non serviam”? I had always thought it was as I stated above; that through pride he refused to agree to a human creature, the Blessed Virgin Mary, crowned Queen above him. Is that the official explanation of the Church for his (and his followers’) disobedience and subsequent banishment from Heaven?
    I have heard some say that this is only conjecture.


  14. Gertrude says:

    The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel made by God, and along with demons created naturally good but becoming evil by their own doing. The fall consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and His reign. (CCC392).
    The choice therefore was to accept the sovereignty of Almighty God and this at the beginning of creation. Satan and the demons in rejecting this were cast aside. As this was before the Incarnation I would suppose the story of Our Blessed Lady being crowned Queen of Heaven (which she is) and being placed in a more exalted state than satan, is just that – a story, as this would presume the fall came after the Assumption – which it did not! Hope this explains it!!Btw. the ‘non serviam’ was satan’s response to the sovereignty of Almighty God. He refused point blank in a manner of speaking!


  15. kathleen says:

    Yes, the “non serviam” of Satan would have been long before man was born, but as there is no such thing as time in the next world, one can presume that the future (at least in part) of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven might have been revealed to the angels.

    Anyway, thank you Gertrude. Your explanation of that choice Satan and the demons made to refuse the sovereignty of Almighty God clears up this question.


  16. toadspittle says:

    Kathleen, I do appologise. ‘Old’ is being used here as a term of affection, (as is naughty).

    And I cannot deny my great age. I am older than the rocks amongst which I sit, and have died many more times than the vampire.

    Indeed, as an old jazz musician remarked, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

    What on earth did Ben Carter write? And why does he have a thumbnail picture of the late Telly Savalas?
    I think we should be told…

    All very “Damianesque,” it seems to Toad…


  17. Mary Agnes says:

    Kindly pray for all my intentions.Especially for my healing of blood
    sugar,weakness of my body,knee pain,constipation and other physical
    sickness which I have .Pray to solve all my financial problems and to
    get my share of my father’s property.Also for a very good job.For
    protection from my enemies.For guidance in my relation with Baby,Moidu
    and TNK and Ajith.For my deliverance from bondages and afflictions,powers of darkness,evil spirits and curses.

    Thank you,

    Mary Agnes India


  18. Michael O:) says:

    I’m a little confused about this picture. 1. Who are the archangels? 2. Why are their wings black if they are good? Good angels don’t have black wings they are white. Unless they are in danger or fallen. And an angels wings are only red of they are angry or of a sexual nature.


  19. Roger says:

    There are so many unanswered questions here its sad.
    The first thing is to understand that the Faith has two pillars.
    1/ The Bible
    2/ Sacred Tradition
    Some things are not mentioned in the Bible but are found in sacred Tradition.
    Kathleen mentions the Ancient books called non-canonical But these are actual quoted from in the Bible. In other words referenced from the canonical books.
    I would point out very strongly that the Angel of Portugal appeared to the three Fatima Seers. The Angel of Spain appeared to the Garbandal seers.
    Each country (recognised by God) has its own Angel.


  20. g. maizel says:

    Michael O; It is only a painting.One person’s idea of the depiction of these angels. Until we are priviledged to see one ourselves we can not say which wings they should have.Perhaps it is their personal preference,who knows? I am not a Christian but I know angels helped me through a difficult illness. Not only that they told me a year ahead that something was going to happen but said,Fear Not, We will be with you when you need us the most. And they were.


  21. johnhenrycn says:

    Fascinating comments above. Hadn’t seen this post until Kathleen mentioned it today. I’m intrigued that FR calls his guardian angel ‘Eric’. Perhaps he’s pulling our leg. Some Catholics believe it’s wrong and demeaning to assign a name to our guardian angels, but I recall that Mother Angelica (of EWTN) was in favour of doing so (her’s is ‘Fidelis’), and with her as an example, I call mine ‘Galen’ (a semi-palindrome for ‘angel’), derived from the Greek word Galenos meaning calm. I suppose it would have been nice if Galen had revealed his name to me (some people say their guardian angels have done so), but alas, he did not.


  22. kathleen says:

    I think Mother Angelica might have been wrong to do that JH. I have great admiration for Mother Angelica mind you, don’t misunderstand me (and she personally has experienced amazing angelic intervention in her life) but I think she was unaware that this naming of her Guardian Angel is a New Age invention, and the Church formally discourages it.

    According to the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 216 (under the heading about Devotion to the Holy Angels):
    “The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture.” (H/T to Taylor Marshall)


  23. johnhenrycn says:

    I accept the correctness of your point, Kathleen, but I can hardly go back to where I was before following Mother Angelica’s advice. Oh well, I shall ask my guardian angel’s forgiveness for my presumption.


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